Here we go again; the economy is recovering and competition is heating up for your crucial technical staff. As you interview candidates there will be temptation to hire someone who may not seem “quite right”. In normal times you wouldn’t hire such a person…but darn it, you’re getting desperate to fill that slot, should you just move ahead anyway?
The answer is NO, or at least not unless you can really get at that “not right” feeling you have, and figure out what’s spooking you about your candidate.
Having interviewed thousands of candidates over the years and having made my share of mistakes, here are some techniques from “the trenches” of recruiting that in the long run may save you from some costly mistakes!
Technique #1: Have your most skilled interviewers look at a candidate’s character
Ever regretted hiring someone because they had a personal habit or problem that interfered with work? The time to catch this is before they’re hired and a clever character interviewer can usually find items like this without violating any Federal or State interviewing rules!
Have your technical screeners do their thing, but have a separate person screen for just character attributes like; work ethic, desire to work long hours, what your candidate does “outside work”, life goals, etc. You will be amazed at what you learn and what you learn may be a knock out punch in some cases. In our company, our most skilled interviewers just focus on character.
Technique #2: If a candidate has worked a different job for every year of their career… move on to the next candidate!
I call these kinds of candidates “annuals”, they move to different employers constantly.
Temptation can really rough you up on one of these, especially when the job market is tight. You’ll probably tell yourself that incessant mobility is the new norm these days. My advice: resist, resist, and pass over these candidates.
All the plausible explanations in the world are likely to come back and haunt you… at the one-year mark!
Technique #3: Ask about reference-able employment even if you don’t reference check!
I ask every prospective candidate to take me through his or her record of employment. At the end of that presentation I ask whether their bosses at each of these companies would say my candidate was an outstanding employee.
Remember the nuances matter on a character question like this. Watch their eyes as they answer! Sure, there will be reasons that some past bosses might not be references but most should. You will probably learn more with this technique than in any call to references listed on their resume (but you still might want to call).
Technique #4: Focus on weakness not strength!
Ask a candidate to name their greatest strength. Usually, they will say something that they think is clever such as: I work too hard, or I relentlessly attack problems. Surprisingly many candidates have to really think about this question, they haven’t considered it ahead of time. I know, kind of odd.
But then ask them what you really want to know, what is their greatest weakness or if it makes the situation more comfortable: what do they need to work on? If you get a pat answer to this question be relentless until you’re sure you’re getting the truth. You might even ask: what are the two things they need to work on?
Some of those weaknesses may just not work for you in the long run!
Technique #5: Don’t hire at all, outsource!
Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t say that one way to resist recruiting temptation is to simply not hire at all, but rather outsource the function to another company. Here are a couple of benefits of using an IT or Engineering outsourcing company:
- Highly specialized, pre-trained resources that can quickly be dialed-in to your environment or application with little or no effort on your part
- Redundant labor deliverers with coverage potential up to 24×7 (no more having to cover for an employee when they are sick or on vacation)
- The ability to specify a “no excuses” service level agreement to get exactly what you want and when (pretty tough to do this with an employee)
Just using these 5 simple techniques could cause you to avoid a lot of down-stream pain: hiring a candidate about whom you just have a squirrely feeling — or outsourcing your vital technical work to experts. Avoid the consequences of yielding to hiring temptation!