I try to learn from my colleagues and reports, especially when they use unconventional approaches to hire great staff. These lessons have stayed with me for years.
I have watched many of my staff members recruit for a wide range of positions and have not been bashful in asking why they did things the way they did them. Examples provide the best lessons, especially for small and mid-sized company managers whom may not have extensive experience in hiring.
Some twenty plus years ago I worked at a small division of a large company with a guy (Mike) that worked his way up from a technical position to running a customer service, shipping, help desk and support operation. I was fortunate to have him reporting to me and I learned a lot from him. We were recruiting for customer/technical support personnel. We had loads of resumes from advertising the positions in the local paper.
When Mike finished reviewing the resumes for the positions, I received independent piles from Mike and the HR department for whom to consider for interviews. I called Mike and asked him to explain his selections as they were so removed from HR’s. Mike explained that he was interested in more than the paper (resume), he was interested in the people. He called some of the candidates and gauged their responses to his call and did a bit of pre-screening. He asked them to explain briefly how they would solve typical problems and asked about their worst customer service experience – then he asked them how they handled it.
When he brought in the candidates for an official interview he sat them down in the tech area and had them do mock calls with him (he was in another room). He listed to their answers and more importantly their attitudes. Mike also had a “plant” in the room, one of the six other agents was a supervisor that watched the candidate to see their facial and body responses to the various scenario customers (an easy problem, a very difficult problem that needed to be escalated, an irate customer, and a few call backs). To make the candidates feel more comfortable he asked them what products they supported in their prior positions and asked them about the products they were familiar with as well and general support questions.
Brilliant, in a few short minutes he learned the candidate’s attitude, temperament, technical skill level and experience. Wow, the past three managers in his position never bothered to do any such screening.
I took this lesson to numerous sales, customer and technical support departments over the years. I asked the sales managers to schedule phone interviews, before and in person interviews, for salespeople and have the candidates “sell” what they sold from their past positions or any product they desired. I asked them to make 3-4 calls in different scenarios just like Mike did. Why, because it’s human nature to react to facial expressions. During the interviews may of the interviewers are queuing the Interviewees by the responses their faces have to answers. These people would have to use the phone for at least half of their jobs, and they had better be able to handle it in real life, irrespective of what their resume said.
It was very rare that we ever hired “the best person on paper”, but we did find the “best available for the job” within our abilities and we had great teams.