“Take away my people, but leave my factories, and soon grass will grow on the factory floors. Take away my factories, but leave my people, and soon we will have a new and better factory.”
— Andrew Carnegie
We suffer a deficit in IT and cybersecurity professionals. The projections are in the millions of vacant positions. That means the competition for good staff is tough. It also means the temptation for desperate hires are great.
But a bad hire can devastate your company.
So what are the guardrails you need in place to ensure that you are hiring a quality person who will move your company forward?
Let’s look at four: Character, Commitment, Cultural Fit and Competence.
One professional football coach, prior to each draft, would put these initials next to the names of potential players: DNDC – Do Not Draft, Character. Coach understood that character detrimental to the team was not easily corrected or coached.
But how do you explore character and avoid legal entanglements?
Behavioral assessments are based on the belief that past actions are the best predictor of future actions. The key is to identify the character essentials you are looking for, translate them into behaviors, and then ask about past experiences with each.
For example, let’s say you are looking for the following essential character traits:
- Disciplined. Compatible. Positive. Compassionate.
- Those traits have certain behaviors, such as:
- Being on time. Resolving Conflict. Handling criticism well. Partnering in a company’s community service.
Those behaviors translate into important, demonstrable and perfectly legal questions:
- When was a time that you had to go to extra lengths to make sure you finished a project on time?
- Tell me about a person you had a difference of opinion with and how it was resolved in a manner satisfactory to you both.
- When did you receive a criticism, and how did you turn it into a learning opportunity for yourself?
- What did you do in the last community service project you volunteered for?
Resumes can be deceptive. Both a long time at a company, or frequent changes in work, can demonstrate strength or weakness. Longevity may signal insecurity as much as tenacity. Short stays may point to lack of commitment or promotion or life circumstances.
I prefer a different formula to determine a candidate’s commitment:
Shared Conviction + Rich Participation = Bedrock Commitment
Shared conviction exists when an employee agrees that why a company does what it does matters. Rich participation exists when an employee buys into how a company does what it does matters. “Rich” indicates that they invest in the values that are important to you, and find new ways that best express those values.
How do you know if they possess shared conviction and will bring rich participation?
Let’s say that you own a chain of fitness clubs and your big Why is “to promote health to persons of all body types so that they feel good about themselves and put a smile on the doctor’s face.” How you accomplish your mission is through customized training at affordable prices in well-kept facilities filled with accepting persons. The four qualities found in that last sentence each have strategies and processes behind them.
Here are some sample questions I would ask a prospective IT person working in my company:
“When was a time you recognized that someone was making an effort to improve their health? How did you encourage them? What did you feel inside yourself as you watched them work at it?
“When was a time you adapted to a company’s process? Along the way, as you discovered how a process could be improved or done differently, how did you communicate that?
The key is to ensure that the person you are hiring isn’t just filling a spot. Instead, they are investing who they are into what you do.
Culture transcends character and commitment. You can hire a person of great character who is fully committed, but if they are straight-laced and paired with a team of practical jokers, the lack of chemistry will blow up morale and productivity.
Personalities can learn how to work together, but culture is more than personality. Culture is the way things are done that personality must bend itself to. Culture can be disciplined, loose, competitive, confrontational, non-confrontational, professional, artistic and so forth.
Know the culture of the team your hire will be working with. Assign behaviors to it. Ask questions about how the candidate has demonstrated those behaviors. One example: The culture is confrontational, and it’s confrontational because one mistake can cost the team valuable time and money. A behavior is the need to be able to defend an idea or position. The question: “Tell me about a time you put forth an idea that was challenged. How did you defend it, and how did you fight off any discouragement because you were challenged?”
I saved this for last, because you have any number of ways that you test for competencies, whether it’s their understanding of technologies, designing technical architecture, systems integration or project management.
The insight you need is the complement of a candidate’s competencies with the team (s)he will be working with.
Though a wrong hire can devastate a company, the right hire may accelerate what you are all about.
Which of these have proven most important in your hiring? Help us to learn from you in the comments below.