Making a good hire

by Jini Stolk

I’ve recently been part of a hiring process for an organization I’m involved with. Looking at current job listings I see that many of you are in the same boat: starting the year hoping to find the perfect person to complete your staff team.

According to management guru the late Peter Drucker, no other decisions are so long-lasting in their consequences or so difficult to unmake as hiring – and he says the central question is “what are the strengths of each candidate and are these the right strengths for the assignment?” In other words, how capable is the candidate of fulfilling the specific requirements of the job.

I did a bit of background reading before we started interviewing. First I reread Ask the right questions, hire the right people in which consultant Sam Geist nails how to differentiate a great candidate from an average one, and provides 10 essential questions to ask during interviews.

I also looked through Work in Culture‘s publication on Recruiting the Right People ; the publication on Job Descriptions is helpful too. PACT‘s Human Resources in the Canadian Theatre (HRCT) provides sample job descriptions and compensation guidelines. It can be ordered here.

We didn’t try this, but another organization I work with swears by group interviews. Yes, that’s right: all the candidates for a job (usually not a leadership position) are brought into one room for a series of group and individual exercises that help uncover people’s personalities and working methods; leadership potential; collegiality; and team building and collaboration skills. According to everyone, it works and it’s also fun.

Candidates are asked to get to know and introduce the person next to them, and to organize themselves on a grid according to simple questions such as “I like to jump right into projects and get going” vs. “I like to think and talk and plan before I start a new project”. They get together in groups to offer solutions to real workplace problems; and are asked to make a brief presentation about how to improve one aspect of the organization.

It’s a process worth trying, but keep in mind that a second, one-on-one interview always follows for the 3 or 4 best candidates.

And, going back to the wisdom of Peter Drucker: the most important thing before starting a hiring process is understanding exactly what your job entails. That changes over time and has to reflect what has to be done now in order to move forward in future.

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