Many businesses, from small startups to multinational giants, struggle to match the right person with the right position. Getting it wrong can have disastrous effects on company culture and in most cases, has a negative impact on your bottom-line. While all hires are important, the higher up the chain you go, the more important it is to get it right.
And when you get it wrong, it can be disastrous – especially when the bad hire was the guy your board appointed to the top job. Hiring a CEO who is not cut out for the job can destroy a business. The recently departed Groupon CEO Andrew Mason is a perfect example. By Mason’s own admission, he wasn’t up to scratch. He even highlighted his failings at the helm in a bizarre memo to Groupon employees.
But while a bad hire can be disastrous, in today’s increasingly competitive business environment, it can be equally destructive to hire mediocre staff. If you want to stay competitive you need to aim higher. You need to secure “superheroes”.
So how do you find superheroes? How do you land them? And importantly, how do you keep them? In my experience, if you follow a few simple rules, it’s not as hard as you might think.
When undertaking any sort of marketing activity, whether it’s designing brochures or updating your website, consider how a potential candidate would perceive the image you’re presenting. Are you saying the right things, is your message on-target, does your website have a fantastic careers section, do you take pride in your company culture? All of these elements (and more) go a long way towards luring superheroes, whether they’re actively or passively job hunting.
Know what you want
Our business coach gave us a great piece of advice early on: If you hired exactly the right person, what would that person look like? That doesn’t mean what shoes would they wear, rather what skills would they have, which companies would appear on their resume and what would their attitude be like? Remember, before you can hit your target you have to know what you’re aiming for.
Create a success profile
List ten tasks that you’d like the successful applicant to complete in the first 30, 60, 90, 120 days of starting the job. This serves three purposes: it gives you a set of metrics to measure your newest team member’s success, helps you write your job ad, and guides your questions during the interview process.
It’s an opportunity, not an ad
One of the simplest things you can do to attract superheroes is to create an exciting, unique job ad. Be as creative as possible and focus on the opportunities this role has to offer. Hopefully this applies to your business, but highlighting your positive and energetic company culture will go some way to attracting the right kind of people for the job.
Success starts at home
Before you can hire superheroes, you need to treat your current staff well. When your staff are happy, not only are they more productive, they also help to spread a positive image of your company via good word-of-mouth. News of job opportunities travels fast along the grapevine, so you need to make sure the grapevine is saying all the right things.
In our business, we use a very systematic interview process. First, we address all of the points in our success profile (described previously). Second, we ask the applicant to sell themselves and their achievements to us. We also make sure we sell ourselves to the applicant.
Finally, we ask the candidate to perform a real world test – an engineer may have to write some code, a designer might need to redesign a web page and a support person may have to answer some real world support cases. We’re looking for people who can demonstrate real value from day one and a real world test helps filter those you can’t.
The overarching goal of any interview should be to pinpoint the applicant’s achievements and discern their ability to achieve within your company. Questions to consider include: does this person have a proven track record in an area your company is looking to improve? Do their past achievements relate directly to the role they’re applying for? And how did they go about making their successes a reality?
Superheroes have their pick of employment opportunities and while salary is an important factor, it’s not only about the money. Superheroes are attracted to the opportunity. Put simply: People want to work at great companies, be around good people, have real growth opportunities and work with interesting products. You need to ensure you convey these aspects of your company clearly to the person you are interviewing.
At our company, we spend at least half of the first interview selling in our company to make sure we “hook” the superheroes. The goal should always be to maximise interest in the position so you pick your shortlist from the broadest pool of talent… you don’t want the A-Players walking away before you get the chance to invite them back.
Spend time with the team
If possible, ensure potential hires spend time with the teams they’ll be working with. For example, if an engineer is going to join our team, we make sure other engineers are involved in the interview process. After all, it’s your current team that will be spending most of the time with your latest recruit.
When you find that perfect person, aim to have them sign on the dotted line within two weeks of interviewing them. If you’ve identified that person as a superhero, it’s highly likely that their skills will be in demand by your competitors. To give you an idea of the kinds of opportunities available to people who fall into the category of superheroes, our CFO turned down 11 other job offers to join our company.
Once you’ve secured superheroes, you must work hard to keep them. Ensure each of your staff are happy in their role, pay them fairly or higher than the market if you can afford to, and above all treat people the way you would want to be treated. It may sound straightforward, but I’m constantly surprised by how many companies work harder to obtain superheroes than they do to keep them.