Hiring the Best Employees for Your Team

Martin Logan, CIO, Guaranteed Rate
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Recruiting top tech talent is difficult. You want to hire people who are qualified, but also a strong cultural fit. Many companies struggle to identify the right candidates and weed out the wrong ones. Interviewing yields results that are all too often little better than guessing. This is largely due to the fact that humans are biased and bad at making long-term predictions.

How does human bias relate to interviews? We might feel one way today, and another tomorrow which affects the way we may perceive a candidate from one day to the next. We suffer from many other biases, such as a reliance on first impressions, all of which affect our perception of candidates, but have little relevance as to whether or not a candidate would make a successful employee.According to Daniel Kahneman’s book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” we’re bad at long-term predictions because we are inconsistent in the way we perceive information and this affects our judgment, leading to poor decisions.

Knowing we are biased and bad at predicting, we can take some steps to improve our interviewing processes. To greatly improve the process, follow these three simple steps: prepare goal-oriented, consistent questions beforehand; take notes; and debrief with other interviewers afterwards. By implementing an algorithmic, logical process, you’ll improve your chances of hiring the best talent. Ideally, five interviewees –at the candidate’s level or above—will talk to each candidate.

  ​By implementing an algorithmic, logical process, you’ll hire the best talent and will have a highly skilled team  

Step 1: Prepare goal-focused interview questions.

Before the interview, determine specific traits you’re looking for. Candidates should not only be qualified, but must also fit the company’s culture. Example traits are having a strong bias to action, caring about doing excellent work, delivering results and being a good mentor. Next, outline questions that demonstrate the candidate’s ability. Examples are “Tell me about a time you held off in releasing your work because you felt it wasn’t of high enough quality?” or “Describe a time you helped an employee learn from a mistake they made?” These questions are all backward facing and aimed at seeing how a candidate behaved with regard to the attributes of successful employees at your company.

Step 2: Take notes during the interview, and then summarize them afterwards.

Doing this gives you time to go back and look at all of the candidate’s traits before you debrief. You will that you are initially inclined or disinclined to hire,but that you change your mind when going back and connecting all the dots from your notes. Going over the full interview notes gives you the opportunity to think broadly and get rid of that bias. A best practice is to summarize your conclusions and the best examples supporting those conclusions and to bring that to the interview debrief for others to read.

Step 3:  After the interview, bring your team together for a group debrief.

Each interviewee must share their pros and cons for the candidate. Remind participants that before reading everyone else’s summary they only have 1/5th of the total information on the candidate. All participants should be there to learn, not to defend a position on a candidate. A best practice is always to have at least one person on the interview panel that feels no pressure to hire for the position. This person referees thedebrief and has veto power over any hire. This prevents giving into pressure to fill a position and hastily hiring a candidate that is not a fit.

This interview process should be in place for all positions, even for a senior executive role. At many companies, executives get hired because of who they know. If they refuse to interview like everyone else, you’retaking a risk with your most important hires. Also note that with this interview approach it may take more time to fill a position, and that’s okay. Lastly, treat hiring as the most important thing anyone can do for the company—because it is. If you’re scheduled to be part of an interview, don’t miss it. If you have to miss it, find a replacement. When other people try to schedule meetings during your interview time slot, the interview always comes first. Even if it’s a meeting with the CEO.

At the end of the day, business leaders should be the ones preparing for interviews just as much as the candidates. Creating a logical, algorithmic interview process for your company not only makes recruiting smoother, it helps you build a team that is skilled, talented and the best in your industry.

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