Hiring is easy, until you start to think about people

When clients call on me for help with hiring, I teach a standard process. We agree on a clear job description with explicit responsibilities, skills, education and statement of company values. Using that, we make a list of criteria, gather candidates, find the top picks and begin interviews. Each interviewer “scores” each candidate in terms of the match with agreed criteria and then we meet to pick the finalists. All standard stuff. The tricky part comes when the hiring team meets to discuss scoring results and process other considerations.

How well have we embodied our stated company values when making a selection?  While I can’t give you answers – each organization needs to find answers based on their unique circumstances – here are some questions that have sparked lively discussions.

If it is a company policy to post all openings internally and promote from within – a great practice to help retain valuable employees – what message is sent if we pick an outside candidate – even if that person is a better match for what we want?

Do candidates whose roles have been eliminated deserve special consideration for new roles, even though they may lack needed skills or experience? Does demonstrating loyalty outweigh the benefit of getting needed skills immediately?

If you do decide to select the internal candidate or someone who has been displaced from another role, is there someone in the organization who could mentor an existing employee to help him or her gain needed skills? Or, is there an appropriate training program? Consider what could help the person gain needed skills and how to track progress.

If we are evaluating one or more internal candidates, how much weight do we give to past performance in a different role, especially if there were mitigating circumstances? Perhaps they worked for a manager who didn’t give needed feedback and mentoring. Do we eliminate candidates whose past performance suffered from lack of clear direction or being a bad match for their old role? Would we consider a candidate who hasn’t met past expectations knowing we would need to deal with other employees’ likely concerns? What does that action communicate to those who had to pick up the slack in the past?

If there are multiple internal candidates, do we consider other employees’ opinions as to which person they’d prefer? And, especially if we are making what we believe may be an unpopular choice, how do we communicate what went in to the hiring decision, and maintain needed confidentiality?

Just hiring a person whose selection some may disagree with and hoping for the best is not advisable – it might set up both the new hire and the company for trouble. Meeting one-on-one with anyone who might object to allow them to give voice to their concerns will often diffuse tension. Re-iterating the company’s commitment to its employees may help. Also, making clear what the requirements of the role in terms of skills, education and experience may clarify why one person got the nod as opposed to another.  While it is inappropriate to discuss the candidates and their skills relative to the requirements, it is fine to be clear about what the company was seeking in a candidate, especially if all openings are internally posted.

While I can’t say what is the best course for your company, what I can do is suggest that whatever the decision, you put in place measures to track any concerns that might have been raised. It’s not enough to say ‘okay, here’s the decision and that’s that.’ Put plans in place to make sure the person chosen learns needed skills along with ways to monitor their progress. Also, monitor the impact on employee morale. A thoughtful plan – and appropriate action – can help you to avoid tension and distractions down the road.

Since 1991, Laurie Breitner has assisted organizations with operational improvement, organizational development and strategic planning. Learn more at http://www.lauriebreitner.com

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