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How to Avoid Hiring Duds

February 24, 2014
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231714

So, you thought they’d be a superstar.  Your new hire was enthusiastic and smart during the interview, a go-getter with a firm handshake. But then . . . they fizzled.  They reached their peak too early and sunk right into mediocrity. Just another "dud."  

I would bet that we’re all familiar with this scenario. In fact, most executives I work with think they’re really good at interviewing and hiring talent while in reality, it’s a rarity. Most executives talk so much during an interview that they find out very little about the person sitting in front of them.

When they bring on a dud, far too many executives spend inordinate amounts of time trying to salvage these “C” players. Unfortunately, there is very little ROI in doing that.  Instead, when it has become clear that a mistake has been made, admit it, execute a respectful separation and move on. Since very few are coachable it’s best to hone your hiring strategy so that you stop getting stuck with them in the first place. There are several critical aspects of hiring that will bring your success rate close to 90 percent (seriously). 

It’s not easy but here’s how you can do it.

Related: 5 Attributes to Look for in High-Performing Employees

Look for core values. The single most important element to hiring the right person is to interview for "core values" first, experience and skills second. This order is not a typical HR strategy, as most companies hire for experience and skills but they then fire people for not aligning with the chemistry, culture and core values of the company.

When I interview executive candidates for clients, I look to discover things like loyalty, respect, quality of work and integrity. If the candidate doesn’t get past that step the interview is over. You can't make up for a core values mismatch with experience and skills: They either ingrained or not, they can't be taught.

Focus on 'Topgrading.' The second most important hiring element should be Topgrading, a tactic made famous by Brad Smart.  This means, identifying whether the individual is an “A,” “B” or “C” player. Great executives know they shouldn’t even be conducting interviews with “B” and “C” players -- they should have been screened out via telephone before being invited to interview. Instead, hold out and wait for the “A”.  A warm body is NOT better than a no-body.

Related: What Makes Job Seekers Lie on Their Resumes?

The recession has made the task of finding the right talent even tougher. There have been so many people unemployed and looking for jobs (and maybe just looking for paychecks) that many applicants have become professional interviewees. They’ve gone on so many interviews that they have become really good at giving all the “right,” yet superficial, answers. It’s all too easy to be fooled by “C” players who look, talk and shake hands like “As.” Interviewing for core values will separate the mid-level applicants from the real deals. To do this, ask behavioral questions instead of resume rehearsals that get to the heart of the applicants decision-making ability.

Also, find out if the applicant is currently employed. I find that people who leave a job to join another company show much greater promise than people who may just be looking for a way to pay the bills.

Devote adequate time. Executives must ask themselves regularly whether they are spending enough time on people-related issues: recruiting, interviewing, developing and retaining talent. Several Fortune 100 CEOs have stated that they typically spend between 65 and 70 percent of their time on these people issues. And why not? Have you ever seen a business that truly could operate without people?

Related: 4 Hiring Mistakes Most Entrepreneurs Make