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You Can’t Teach Heart

By, Bill Kaiser, Vice President

Would you expect a quality custom-built home knowing the construction team is using warped, rotted wood? The same goes for our companies. It’s next to impossible to build a high-performing culture when hiring people who don’t fit that culture.

In a blog last year, I warned against the trap of being preoccupied with the resume. I stressed the importance and necessity of selecting the right people – those who fit our culture (Step 3 – Fundamentals System™). Yes, there is a certain skill set, expertise, and experience outlined on a resume – and that certainly matters, but that information alone doesn’t paint the complete picture.

As projections of a tight labor market continue for the foreseeable future, we can’t afford to regularly miss when hiring new employees. We’re all aware of the massive expense associated with bad hires. And while we’re not going to “bat a thousand” with new hires, we can certainly increase the likelihood of success and reduce our missed swings.

Avoid two hiring mistakes

While mistakes will certainly happen, some are avoidable and others are not.  Let’s be honest, people aren’t always easy to read, and sometimes we may fail to recognize or pick up on the signs of an ill fit. We don’t get to know or see the real person. This often happens in the artificial or stale interview environment. We can do things to reduce the number of these errors, but we’re not going to eliminate them entirely.

The second type of mistake is meeting someone whom we know isn’t a good cultural fit but hiring them anyway. This is all too common and yet in our control and avoidable. These hiring decisions are often rooted in desperation. It takes a tremendous amount of leadership discipline to avoid this trap. The short-term pain of being without that technician, or salesperson, or driver is dwarfed by the long-term pain and implications of the bad, rushed hire.

Clarify the intrinsic vs. learned behaviors

Determining who is a good fit, of course, begins with having sufficient clarity about what you want your culture to be.  You’ve read numerous times in our blogs how helpful it is to define your culture via the behaviors that drive your success (Step 1 – Fundamentals System™). Once  you have those behaviors (or Fundamentals as we call them) identified, it’s helpful to divide them into two categories – those that are intrinsic and those that are learned. Intrinsic behaviors are those that are natural to us. We either have them or we don’t. I often reference a line that describes this clearly to me . . . “You can’t teach heart.” In contrast, learned behaviors are teachable.

Write good interview questions

Since intrinsic behaviors are either already present in a person or not, it’s best to interview for those traits specifically.  It’s helpful to write interview questions around the most important intrinsic Fundamentals for the position in question.  When writing your interview questions, follow three simple rules.

First, develop questions that ask the candidate to tell you stories or give examples, rather than simply asking what they think about something.  For example, “Tell me about a time when you delivered amazing service to a customer. What was the customer’s reaction? How did that make you feel?”

The second rule is to make sure you’re asking open-ended questions rather than yes/no questions. This encourages the candidate to do the majority of the talking and allows you a view into how they see the world. “Tell me about a project in your last job that you were most proud of. Why?”

And lastly, develop questions that don’t telegraph what you’re looking for. Let’s say you’re looking for a salesperson who is a great team player. Rather than asking, “Do you like to work in teams?” you might ask them to discuss a big sale they’ve been part of in the past. If the answer includes an overdose of “I’s” and “Me’s” you might have an indication of a solo artist rather than a team player.

Bringing in someone who is a lousy fit for your culture is a prescription for failure. The more rigorous we can be about selecting people who fit our culture, the more success we’ll have in building a truly high-performing organization.

If you’d like to learn more about selecting people who are a right fit for your culture, or if you’d like to learn more about intentionally driving your culture overall, simply click the button below.


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