My Top 5 Insider Steps for Hiring The Right Candidate

Top Recruiting Tips

In over two decades of executive and professional recruiting I have learned some useful techniques for finding the right candidates.

Imagine you are tasked with hiring your next CEO or Executive Director. How do you begin to evaluate candidates past the resume and ultimately find the person who is going to do the job, be loyal, and build a loyalty culture from within? Everyone will say they can, but not everyone will.

My 5 insider steps for hiring the best:

#1. There are at least 5 essential questions you need to ask yourself and the candidate, and when I say need to ask, you need to ask. 1. Can the person do the exact job you are recruiting for and the job of the future? 2. Is the candidate motivated based on resume and in-person interviews? 3. Is this candidate manageable across the existing team you have? 4. Does this person fit your culture? 5. Can this candidate build culture from within?

#2. Have multiple interviews. I always like the process to begin with a skill-based interview that gives me an apples-to-apples comparison. Each candidate gets the same question and is walked through the same process. The benefit of this is to have everyone on the most level playing field possible, so you can assess who is prepared, who has the skill, who shows up under pressure well, and so on. Then you can compare candidates easily. From there you get to fit. Your first interviews can be in your office with their purpose to assess skill. The second interview is meant to dive deeper into the individual and to assess personality and culture fit. Usually two formal interviews are a good start with a third interview meant to relax the candidate and to really get to know them. My personal favorite is to do a casual meeting over lunch or breakfast as it allows the candidate to settle in and allows them to really show their true colors. The order should go: First interviews with your top four or five candidates. Second interview, you have winnowed down to top two candidates. The third interview is for your final candidate, off-site, over lunch just prior to offer. This exercise is very beneficial for the candidate, too. It allows them to meet the team, the managers, and it let’s them put names to faces. It also helps the candidate through the transition of their career and the change process so the employment offer does not get sidetracked due to feelings of fear, hesitancy and buyer’s remorse. Last tip, you should always have a backup candidate in your pocket in case your final candidate allows their fear to get the best of them or doesn’t work out for whatever reason.

#3. Do not always meet at your office. Meet the candidate outside the confines of the expected. When candidates are in your corporate office, or the office of your recruiting partner, people are less likely to be themselves. So, when you interview candidates, meet off-site, make it casual and non-corporate. You will find you see the candidate in a new light when they are outside of the corporate environment where their behaviour will match the surroundings they are in.

#4. Passion isn’t found on paper but it’s passion you must have. All things being equal, skills, experience, salary, I always choose the person with the most passion for the position and their past experience. These are the kinds of people who usually step up, help out, drive performance in positive ways based on their leadership, and can elevate people, teams, and culture. I have had candidates who are passionate and others who show less passion, though they might be technically adept. Passion for work, for career and the people around them are strong signals that should not be ignored. Choose passion.

#5. If they don’t ask good and important questions based on their research of your company, this is a red flag. Yes, you want them to answer your questions completely, succinctly, backed by experience and examples. However, if that candidate asks no questions, few questions, or less than important questions, or shows in other ways they haven’t taken the time to learn about you, then this is a bad sign. Do not overlook it when a candidate doesn’t ask her or his own questions as this is a sign of someone without the curiosity (or the passion) to look into your organization, ask questions, and ask themselves if you are a right fit for them. Imagine if you didn’t ask questions of that candidate? That wouldn’t make any sense and it would leave the candidate wondering. You also need to wonder when they don’t ask questions important to them in return. Hiring the right people is critical to the success of your business. Having to do the process once can be daunting enough. Doing it over and over again can feel like blunt-force trauma to you but the biggest damage is happening to the business, in costs to rehire, retrain, and reintroduce to your customers. The less time you spend finding the right person, the more time you have for growing the business you have.

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Michelle Obama’s Secret for Overcoming “Imposter Syndrome”

Imposter Syndrome

Michelle Obama has said she still feels “Impostor Syndrome” after all, adding that “it never goes away”.

While promoting her new best-seller, Becoming, the former first lady had some advice on how to overcome “Imposter Syndrome”, which she and other powerful, successful women, such as Oprah and the late Maya Angelou, have also spoken about. The comic Tina Fey believes that with imposter syndrome she wavers between egomania and an overwhelming feeling of “I’m a fraud! Oh God, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!” John Steinbeck, one of America’s greatest writers and a Nobel Prize winner, wrote to friends that he felt like a complete fraud as a writer.

It’s a common experience for people across age, genders and accomplishments, but what to do about it?

That feeling of not being good enough and the fear of being found out takes a huge toll on performance and esteem. It’s not just the famous and the celebrities who feel like frauds, many top corporate executives also have this chronic problem. The automatic negative thoughts that keep us doubting ourselves despite evidence to the contrary.

The good news is that real imposters never feel imposter syndrome.

It’s estimated that 70% of people report feeling some level of imposter syndrome, the feeling that they don’t deserve to be where they are in life, combined with the anxiety of being exposed as a fraud. You can take an imposter syndrome test here to find out how much of an imposter you feel you are. A score of 80 or higher shows a strong feeling of being a fraud, 61-80 shows you frequently feel like an imposter, and 41-60 indicates you moderately experience feeling like an imposter.

As the former first lady said to an all-girls school in North London: “It never goes away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me seriously. What do I know?”

She went on to say: “I share that with you because we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power, and what that power is. Here is the secret. I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at non-profits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the UN; they are not that smart.”

“In a sense, that’s not a particularly comforting thought. Shouldn’t the people in charge of things be smarter than the rest of us? On the other hand, this is the assessment of an accomplished public leader, a graduate of Princeton and of Harvard Law School, a spouse to a former US president known for his intellectualization of things, a woman for whom some 40,000 people sought tickets online to see her at a separate event in London, where she was interviewed by the acclaimed writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s possible we don’t share the same standard for smart.”

Her point: “They are not that smart” is another way of remembering that “you are smart enough.”

Everyone makes mistakes and learns as they go. And when the stakes seem higher, or you are entering new territory, those new challenges can be so overwhelming you want to curl into a ball and avoid what makes you uncomfortable. Yet it’s facing new challenges that make us stronger and more able to overcome things that scare us.

Michelle Obama recounts her feelings on becoming first lady:

“I stood at the foot of the mountain, knowing I’d need to climb my way into favor. For me, it revived an old internal call-and response, one that tracked all the way back to high school, when I’d show up at Whitney Young and found myself suddenly gripped by doubt. Confidence, I’d learned then, sometimes needs to be called from within. I’ve repeated the same words to myself many times now, through many climbs. Am I good enough? Yes, I am.

The secret? Don’t let the automatic negative thoughts about yourself into your head, and never assume you are lesser than anyone in the room. We all must climb in life, in work, and in our relationships to be the best we can be. And the reality is, you might fall, but if you are always climbing, always trying, the likelihood is that you will, at the very least, fall uphill.

Are you good enough? Yes, you are. Just keep that in mind. Say it to yourself. And just keep climbing.

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“That Spark”

There is a spark to people. We’ve all felt it. We know people who have it. Some of us are told by others we have it. Sometimes we call it charisma, presence, or character, a character you can feel. Where does it come from, and why do some people have more of it than others?

In my over 20 years of executive and professional recruiting, I have interviewed and followed up references on thousands of job candidates, exposing me to people from all backgrounds. The candidates I choose to put forward to final interview always have the skill-sets required, but they also have that other thing, character. And it’s something you can feel.

A bigger-than-life personality doesn’t mean the loudest person in the room or the most extroverted. There is such a thing as quiet power in people, too. So-called introverted personalities might display this more than extroverts, but we have all met someone who has a reserve of inner strength that comes through in what they say, how they say it, and how they make you feel being around them. These people are natural leaders, they have “that spark” that attracts others to them.

Everyone I’ve met who has that spark has one thing in common, regardless of differences in backgrounds, experiences, and executive or professional job level: it’s the consistency with which they elevate the people around them, under them, and above them. They are, and always have been, individuals with impeccable integrity, and integrity cannot be faked. Integrity is an energy like all character traits, good or bad. A great book on this subject of emotional resonance is called Power vs Force which shows how power is more powerful than force, it resides within, and power comes through choosing positive resonance, with emotions like empathy resonating at a higher level than, say, fear. Research in Japan with crystal formations reacting to words and music shows that even at the most basic natural level, the universe from which we are made and are a part of, takes us higher when we choose the higher values for ourselves.

When I do reference checks on prospects, I love to hear these magic words: “I’d work for her or him again in a heartbeat, no hesitation.” Now you might argue that everyone tries to give their best reference, they might even coach that reference in advance. Granted. And you’d be right, at least in some cases. Over two decades I have learned to distinguish between the real and the fake. Despite my own intuition and experience, what’s ultimately most interesting to me is this: The candidates I feel have the most to offer an organization are also invariably the candidates my clients also love best. They feel the same energy from candidates, that special quality no one can really put their finger on. They just have it, all things being equal. It never comes down to technical skill. It comes down to being attracted to the inner qualities of that candidate, as those qualities and values can be seen in their actions. These seem to be the candidates who always move ahead.

Leadership comes from within. There is no way around that. Leadership is built over time until it becomes character, the way you are, the way others see you, and probably what makes people say things like “She’s the best manager I ever had”; “He just has a way with people”; “They just have something the others don’t”; “He really cares about his people”. These are just some of the way’s leadership is described back to me by people who have experienced these prospective candidates. They care about the success of everyone around them, because they know their success, their greatness, their strength is measured by how successful they make others. And it shows.

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Attitude Is Everything

Hire for attitude yogi barra

Yankees legend Yogi Barra passed away in 2015 after a legendary career. The great catcher and manager was an 18-time All-Star, appeared in 14 Word Series’ and won ten of those championships.

Yogi Barra is maybe best known for his “Yogi-isms”, his catchphrases and everyman wisdom that show the character of the man through humour, puns, and twists on language. Combined with his winning ways on the field, Yogi Barra’s true winning ways are in his attitudes towards life and baseball. In essence, he is always saying, what you see (and what you say) isn’t always what you get.

Yogi Barra’s sayings are all highly entertaining; when you comb through his most famous colloquialisms, they rise to the level of being profound. Sayings like “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”; “We made too many wrong mistakes”; and “Slump? I ain’t in no slump…I just ain’t hitting”, are all disarming and funny. They also underscore the character of a man well adjusted to the slings and arrows of sports and life and who makes the choice to walk the sunny side of the street. This speaks volumes about Yogi Barra.

One of his most telling sayings, to me, is “You can observe a lot just by watching.” In other words, actions matter even more than words, and attitude is everything. Observing, really seeing, means looking at actions and deeds more than the words. Often, in recruiting talent to your organization there is an urgency to fill the role. This is the danger zone for your company. The speed to hire can make you blind, or more blind than you should be, when faced with what seems to be a great candidate. This person might have played on great teams, performed extraordinarily, but are they really a team player? Did their extraordinary performance lift the entire team or just the individual? Watch and listen carefully for attitude even over performance. As Yogi said, attitude is everything: “Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.” The same goes for your next recruit. Understand as much as you can about how that next candidate thinks to act. How a candidate thinks is key to understanding how they will act and react in a real “game” situation. Ignoring the basic character traits and weighing too heavily on resume could give you greatness on paper but not on the field. And, as everyone knows, finding and replacing people is an expensive, time consuming and wearisome proposition. It will be like “déjà vu all over again”, and who has time for that in life or baseball?

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4 Expert Tips On Building A Winning, Technicolor Resume

After seeing, reviewing and interpreting thousands of resumes for my clients over 20 years of executive headhunting, I have a single piece of advice for you looking for work or a new career: It’s up to you to tell your own story in living colour, bringing it to life for a recruiter and potential employer. Otherwise you will end up on the rejection pile.

Your resume is your career story. It’s not just an abbreviation of the facts of your job history with dates. Many resumes I review assume that the reader knows you as well as you know you. Resumes also assume a recruiter or potential employer understands your past job history, your titles and roles, and your significant contribution to an organization. Sadly, many resume writers do not take the time to make their resume their unique calling card, presented in a way that engages and compels. Bulleted lists, job titles with dates, none of this is enough to get you the engagement you’re looking for from potential employers. Here are 4 quick tips to help you craft a vivid resume of truths and facts well told.

4 Tips To A Technicolor Resume And Better Results:

  1. You have dreams and goals, so why begin a resume with the flat “I’m looking for a position with a company where my skills can be best put to use”. Wow, that is generic and makes me yawn every time I see that at the beginning of a resume. If your first few words are so dull, why would I keep reading about you? You’re not a dreary person so why speak about yourself in dreary ways? Why not begin by showing your unique abilities and passions in a way that doesn’t sound generic?
  2. Don’t make everything about yourself. A potential employer wants to know what you’ve done AND how you can help them if they hire you. Speak to them when you write. How did you help past companies achieve more success with your unique skills? How do your “soft skills” enhance the “hard skills” you and everyone else will have? 
  3. Research has shown that stories stick with people 22x more than bulleted lists and other “dry” factual information. You’re a person and your entire life is a story, so why not make a narrative for a potential employer on how your exceptionality will help them be exceptional?
  4. Act like you care. I still see many executives who come in with what can only be called a “deserving attitude”. You have to remember, just because you might have had a big job in the past, doesn’t mean you deserve the next one. Show me, show the employer, that you actually care. Submitting your resume only says you want to be considered for the job. Your attitude says more about why you should get the job.

    And here’s a bonus tip: If you wouldn’t read a boring book, why would any recruiter want to read a boring resume? Make it worth reading, make it worthy of you, and make your worth stand out. You’ll find your fishing trips much more successful. 

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Are You Living Your Dream Life?

Have you ever caught yourself driving to work and wondered how you got there as you were on auto pilot?  Are you going through the motions of life yet often feel you are on the never-ending hamster wheel of “Groundhog Day”? 

Does your life look something like this……wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, grab your coffee, jump in the car, auto-drive to work, work your day…oh and eat something of high sugar content at 3 pm to keep you going until the end of the day… drive home, scramble to get dinner together, drive the kids around to activities, watch your favorite television show (mine happens to be Grey’s Anatomy), off to bed…..and do it all over again tomorrow?! Do you find yourself feeling like life is just passing you by? Are you are no longer inspired by your work? Do you feel stuck? Wonder what your purpose in life is?  Are you living your dream life?

Over the past year, I have been making a large transition in my life. Like a lot of you, I found myself living an uninspired life. Yes, a loving mother of two beautiful girls. Yes, a great circle of friends. Yes, a great job as a Partner of a national search firm. Yes, a healthy pay cheque. Yes, a healthy existence.  Many would say I was at the top of my game. My life was filled with all this beauty, yet I found myself wanting more. It is a very distinctive feeling when you know you’re meant for something different. That feeling was starting to dominate my life. I could see it, peering at me from across the street when I picked up my dry-cleaning. Looking around the corner when I got in my car. Hiding behind the milk every time I opened the fridge. 

Luckily for me, I happen to be in the field of helping people with transition in their life, in helping people find their passion and a career that inspires them. I’d helped so many people over the years yet, I found myself not living true to the advice I was giving others. I’d watched people make the move from dark to light and I wanted it for myself.   And with this thought I decided to DREAM BIG! I soon realized that I let “fear”, “uncertainty” and my desire to “control” my future become obstacles in achieving my dreams.  

I drew inspiration from the people I had helped through my career, drew confidence from gathering information, and was delivered a guiding hand in the form of a friend, a coach, and a mentor. The biggest factor to me finding the career of my dreams and my dream life, however, was making the choice to change. Asking myself, “Who should I be?” Inspiration, confidence, a guiding hand, and a choice. That is what it took to take my leap. Now I have my own firm, based on my vision and principles, and a career where my passion to help others can be my number one goal. I’m happy. 

For a few enlightening seconds, throw out what you’ve been socialized to believe is where you belong. Forget your resume and past accomplishments. Those are in the past. Finding someone with the tools and the knowledge to guide you is the first step in a journey that leads to a richer and more fulfilling career and life. Find what aids you in hitting that highest vibration in yourself. Find what allows your brain to light up.  Allow the curiosity and creativity to awaken inside you. Find that little nugget and hold it out in your hands. Hold it out with confidence and hold it with knowledge that anything is possible.  Hold it out… and ask…for help in finding your new possibility in life!

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Work Engagement Is Declining Globally, Says The Harvard Business Review. Here’s How To Bring It Back.

The Harvard Business Review drew some alarming conclusions in recent research: “Levels of engagement at work are continually low and declining in some parts of the world. Earlier this year, the Guardian reported that Amazon warehouse workers are treated ‘worse than robots’ — running to fill orders and skipping bathroom breaks as they are monitored by electronic urveillance. Evidence of rising work intensification in many countries has been backed up by the media, including stories about the effect…on women, as well as popular books that bemoan demotivating work, and that identify the huge toll stressful work has on communities internationally.”

The lack of engagement and burnout and work dissatisfaction, says HBR, is due to positions and work that are poorly designed. The authors note that “work design refers to the nature and organization of tasks, activities, and responsibilities within a job or work role.” From a human
perspective, when people are given interesting work, the autonomy to manage their own tasks, and a “meaningful degree of social contact with others, and a tolerable level of task demands, reasonable workloads, clear responsibilities, and manageable emotional pressures.”

When the work is designed well, the benefits for employees include job satisfaction, engagement, improved home-work balance, lower job stress, better well-being, and an overall sense of purpose. For companies, the benefits of work well designed means you have a better
opportunity to get the best out of people, rather than getting more out of them. HBR reports that “job autonomy [is] one of the strongest drivers of employee creativity, proactivity, and innovation. But when work is poorly designed, the opposite is true. Jobs can become intolerable and demotivating — particularly jobs in which the tasks are repetitive and tightly controlled, or jobs in which the level of demand overwhelms people.”

In a competitive business environment, you need to decide if you want your business to live or die. To live means to innovate your roles from within, using creative thinking and empathy as drivers of profit, engagement, and efficacy.

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The Golden Rule of Recruiting: ABR

Recruiting into your organization goes well beyond the people you hire within. Recruitment also applies to the entire network of influence you inherit and WANT to grow, as great connections and relationships grow business.

Unfortunately, most companies leave their company’s recruitment efforts at the door of HR. Yes, departments have their own relationships, and the right leaders nurture these. Unfortunately, it has come into the common business parlance that companies should “grind their vendors” on price. Unfortunately, this goal also stops the aim of proper recruiting into your organization dead in its tracks. When you always trade on price you are signalling to vendors (and employment candidates and staff) what’s most important to you. If you are prioritizing price over all things, you are also sacrificing the bounty of goodwill with your reputation. Likely, your reputation and your brand rests on ideas of quality, innovation and partnership. Driving everything on the road of price ensures you miss the golden opportunities of committed partners who will go the extra mile.

There is a Golden Rule in life that every three-year-old can comprehend. I propose a Golden Rule for Business, a twist on the sales mantra made famous by Alec Baldwin in the movie Glengarry Glenn Ross. Baldwin told his sales staff to Always Be Closing, ABC. I propose the recruiting mantra, ABR: Always Be Recruiting. Recruiting never ends and treating it with respect across your organization will provide individuals and networks of people who strongly advocate for you because you strongly advocate for them. You are all part of one big team.

Imagine instead that your recruiting efforts aren’t only everything you do inside to ensure you have the right internal teams. Make sure you push these team concepts into the world of business when you’re looking for individuals and companies to support your own goals. You’ll find them much more eager to do all the little thing that make the biggest differences, just by remembering this Golden Rule of Recruiting. It will make your own business more profound every day.

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