Make or Break: Eight Tips to Recruiting Right

Would you ever buy a car without giving it a test drive? Would you choose a spouse because he/she was the first one to show some interest?

No?  Then why would you ever recruit a new staff member that way?

Your team is your success. Your team is your failure.  And the most important thing you do as a manager is find your new members.

Hiring them is a long-term decision. Personnel are almost always how the mission gets done. They are also the organization’s largest expense.

And they not only make or break the effectiveness of your organization, but also impact its culture, the cohesion of the team, and general morale.

That means recruiting for technical skills is just a piece of the puzzle. You also need to be sure the person will fit into your organizational culture.

And they need to be good at those other, subjective but equally vital skills – communication, organization, conflict resolution.

If you’ve made a hiring decision out of your first batch of candidates, through an expedited process, and because you were freaking out and just needed to move on, I promise you that you are not alone.

I’ve done it…been so overwhelmed with my own duties and so anxious to get everyone else focusing on their own positions that I’ve made that hire.

You know which one. The one where you have a gut feeling that it’s just not quite right, but there are no other real candidates and, well, you’re probably just looking for perfection and overreacting.

Only you’re not overreacting. And now you’ve got a problem and it needs to be fixed.

But we’ll get to that.

First, a few specifics on getting recruitment right:

#1: Passion doesn’t necessarily equal fit

When I was new at hiring, what the candidates shared about their relationship with and passion for the mission mattered a whole lot. What I soon learned is that passion is important, but communication skills, team playing, organization and an ability to meet deadlines – not to mention being able to do the job well – is every bit as important. If not more.

#2: Don’t oversell

If you’ve got a really experienced candidate but they’re hedging about the money, the title, or the job description…and you find yourself selling them hard on why it will all work out, stop. You’re giving them too much power. And chances are their concerns will drive them out soon enough anyway.

#3: Don’t rush

I hired four development directors during my time as an executive director. All but the last one was hired within weeks because I was scared about my revenue. All three of those were the wrong choice and I suffered for it.

The last guy took me nine months to find, and I had to swallow hard as I posted, reposted, and reposted again. But he’s still there and he’s fabulous. (if my successor is reading this, you’re welcome).

#4: Read the cover letter carefully

The resume matters. The cover letter sometimes matters more. Read it to see why they want to work for your organization, how they put their thoughts together, and if they can write. For me, anyone who didn’t take the time to double check the spelling of Deirdre didn’t make it to the next round.

#5: Weed out by phone

How often have you known within the first five minutes that the candidate doesn’t have a snowball’s chance, but had to go through the shenanigans of letting it go on for a while? Feel them out on the phone first, and tell them the salary while you’re at it. No need to waste anybody’s time.

 #6: Questions matter

Don’t pull together questions five minutes before the interview. Think through what really matters and create open-ended questions to get at it.

Ask other organizations what they use to pinpoint technical skills, organization, communication and cultural competency and customize for your needs.

#7: Check references – then check real ones

Their references will tell you what you want to hear. Other will tell you what you need to hear. Call people who worked with them and for them and get them to give you the real scoop.

#8: Know when you’ve screwed up

You could do everything right, and mistakes will still happen. A wonderful HR professional once told me that every hire is about a 50-50 crapshoot, and frankly that’s about my record.

So when you have that sinking realization, usually pretty quickly in, that you may have made a hiring mistake, decide if there’s any kind of hope to get them there. If not, figure out how to part ways with compassion.

Don’t let a hiring mistake moment become a three year stretch of pain.

Oh and by the way…

If you’re on a board, you’re far from off the hook. You make the granddaddy hire of them all – the executive director/CEO. Your decision matters more than anything else. Take these tips and go further, learn more, create a plan, and find help if you don’t have the time to do it right.

Now, go do good…and do it well.





One response to “Make or Break: Eight Tips to Recruiting Right”

  1. Todd Little Avatar

    These are painful truths, thank you for reminding us why recruiting requires a strategy.