When building an organization, Lisa Stern says it’s important to bring the right people on board to succeed.
Stern, founder and CEO of Big Communications Inc., which posted 2007 revenue of about $17 million, uses the interview process to find out if someone will fit into the health care communications agency’s culture.
“The right people for us are not always that they have 50 years of experience in the technical skills that we need them to have,” she says. “Much of the time, it’s more about their innate makeup and the values that they have as part of their DNA that make them a good fit with us.”
Smart Business spoke with Stern about how asking the right questions during the interview process can help you find the right people to develop a solid organization.
Q. How do you know a potential employee is the right fit for your company?
It’s important to ask the right questions. I think behavioral-based questions really help to get an understanding of how a person would act in a certain situation. It’s really about asking questions to really (seek) out who they are at their core.
When you have clearly defined for yourself what those things are that you are looking for, it’s harder for a candidate to hide. As an example, we look for people that are detailed. So, one thing that I might ask them, depending on what position they are going to be in, is how you plan your day, how you organize your day. That’s a benign question. I don’t say to someone, ‘Are you detailed?’ I ask them about something specific that they can say, ‘Well, I find that I’ve got a great memory and that I always know what it is that I need to get done.’
To me, that is not a detailed person, it’s not a process person, and all I’ve asked them is how you organize your day. I may interview somebody that has been in a position before and I’ll say, ‘Tell me about a system at your current job or some other job that you really thought could have been better, that you really thought could have been made more efficient. If you were king or queen, what would you have done?’
If they don’t have any ideas, then I know they aren’t a systems person. I know they aren’t going to be thinking about process and how could we be more efficient.
If they’ve got a lot of ideas, that’s just inherent you can’t fake that. If you are making up ideas that you could have had, then you are still thinking about process. But if you can’t think of anything you can’t fake that in my mind.
Q. How do you know what you want out of your organization?
If you are starting a company from scratch and you are saying, ‘Here’s what we’re going to establish is going to be our culture,’ that’s different than if you’re already in the middle of the organization and you’re like, ‘Oh, I better think about this cultural thing because it sounds like it’s kind of important.’ So, how do I analyze what we have here, and then make it better?
Q. How do you define your culture?
When we had about 20 people, we really liked our company, we liked our culture, we liked the feeling; we had no definition for it at the time.
But we kind of liked the ‘big’ feeling, and so we said to ourselves, ‘What is it that makes it so great here?’ We broke it down into people and what qualities those people had that, if we just had 100 of these three people, we could just change the world.
So, what are those adjectives that define those people? Then, pare it back even further to say, ‘What are the top five or six or seven?’ I think we’re at eight that really define who we are and who we want to be and who we want to continue to be because we liked where we were.
Then, our next step was to look at the leadership team and say, ‘OK, do we have these things, because if we don’t, it’s going to be very hard to live by them.’ So, if I’m not detailed, that can’t really be one of our cultural values because how am I going to lead by example? How am I going to teach people how to be detailed, how are we going to do that if we are not inherently ourself which is not to say that every person in the organization on a scale of 1 to 10 needs to be a 10 in all of the cultural values because you aren’t going to find that.
HOW TO REACH: Big Communications Inc., (248) 246-5200 or www.bigcommunications.com