Successfully hiring key people takes real work

One of my favorite presentations is titled “You’re Not the Person I Hired” (which I must attribute to recruiter and Vistage speaker Barry Deutsch).

The phenomenon happens far too often, and for several reasons. It’s never good for this to happen, but when hiring “key” people it’s especially costly for a young company. Essentially, it takes real work to hire A players to perform at or above your expectations.

It takes the right kind of preparation, the right kind of search for qualified candidates and the right kind of interviewing and vetting process.

Start with a ‘results-oriented’ job description

The mistakes start when a job description is written as “it’s always been done.” These job descriptions always have three parts: a job title and a description of where the position fits in the company; a list/description of specific responsibilities; and a list of desired experiences, capabilities, education and personal characteristics.

Usually absent is the most important part, the specific results the hired person will need to deliver to the company after being hired.

For example, if a VP of sales needs to deliver $5 million of orders for a new product in the first 12 months of his or her employment, then that needs to be stated. And any job description should come with three to five such specific results and/or goals.

Why is a list of results crucial? Because without one, you don’t know how to interview and vet candidates for the position.

Interviewees are experts at obfuscation

Interviewing is the key process of finding and thoroughly understanding the specific evidence in one’s past that demonstrates a real chance to produce the results you want. Without clearly stated results, you can’t have a meaningful, fact-based conversation about why the candidate is equipped to deliver them for you.

A good interviewer needs to dig and dig and dig to get underneath the typical superficiality to really understand what and the how the candidate did to produce similar results.

Do you want an A player, B player or C player?

In addition to interviewing, you must convince the A player that your opportunity is the one he should take, whereas a C player needs a job and will do everything in his power to convince you he’s your best choice. An A player needs to see all the signs you represent a better home. If you’re not ready to attract an A player, you need to get ready first before even trying to hire one.

Beware of opportunism, strive for alternatives

I too often see CEOs hire the first person to come onto their radar screen. Finding multiple A player candidates takes real work … which is why I often recommend using a good search firm for really key hires, despite the apparent expense. Good search firms represent really valuable “arms and legs” in finding and attracting and pre-vetting multiple apparent players into a conversation.

Lonnie Martin is Chair for Vistage International/Sacramento.