Critical Questions To Ask Before You Hire

Hiring has never been more difficult than it is today. Still, some organizations routinely find better talent for their open positions than others. How can you as a leader take your team into that echelon? Self-reflection is a start. Look below at some of the questions you should ask before starting your hiring process.

What Does This Position Need Now?

Often when a vacancy happens there is a rush to action. HR helps to pull up the old job description and you take a cursory look before posting it to start the process of a replacement. Instead, as a first step interview those that interact with the role. Compare interview commentary to the job description. Assess the role this position plays in the greater scheme of your organization. How has it changed over the years? What skills did the employee who used to work in the position have, and which did they lack? You need to know what your ideal hire will do, and the ways in which they will excel in the position. This seems basic but many managers lack the knowledge of how their employees execute tasks on a day to day basis. They may know the general duties but may not know the processes, systems and intricacies of the role. You can’t move forward in the hiring process without answering these questions first.

In the process of exploration, you can get to the bottom of why the position is open in the first place. This is essential for any leader to understand, especially if an employee’s departure came as a shock. We live in a world where half of all American employees are on the hunt for a new job. It’s because they’re looking for the right fit, in one way or another. The best you can do as an employer is to determine who will fit in your position, and why. This holistic assessment of what the open position is, and what it can be, is the first step toward finding the right person to take it over.

If you have a hard time finding these answers, a deeper assessment is necessary. Is the position necessary anymore? Or are other people in your organization already covering its responsibilities without a problem? Audit the processes within your organization to justify either hiring a new person or eliminating the position entirely. As you go, note the areas where your ideal candidate can be a game-changer. Later, you can synthesize these into a more cohesive profile.

What Does Top Talent Look Like?

You can’t find that special individual to take the reins on your open position if you don’t know how to identify them. It’s time to create that profile of what the best candidate will offer in the position. This is where the research from the previous question will really come in handy. Remember, you want this new hire to thrive in this position. That means your profile should be tailored to the position. Take the time to solidly define what the core skill set is for the position in question and stick to it steadfastly. Ask yourself “Why does this person want this job”? You may have an ideal profile, but will that person learn or grow on the job? If not, why do they want the job in the first place? You may be setting yourself up for yet another departure.

This search is all about finding the right person for your team. You will find candidates that impress on paper, or in interviews, but do not actually fit the profile for the position. If you find yourself talking about the reasons why it is okay to deviate from the profile do not hire them! Look for explicit evidence that suggests the candidate will succeed in the position. These take the form of facts, numbers and portfolio pieces, not to mention a history leading them to this role.

Why Would Top Talent Want to Work Here?

Your organization needs to have something that can attract the best candidates. It helps to create a list of 10 reasons why someone who’s at the top of their game would find your open position enticing. How do you figure out these reasons? Ask your most talented employees. Find out why they stay with your organization, and what can make their time with it better. Also seek answers about what would drive them away. It might not be incredibly easy to get to these answers but conduct these check-ups anyway. Even if the answers aren’t straightforward, you should still be able to draw some conclusions about what makes your organization a worthwhile place to work. It will be a fascinating experience to compare your list with those of your employees.

Of course, accountability is key. Once you have your 10 reasons, make sure your managers understand them, and work to uphold them. Any shift away from these reasons could result in lower morale, which is why it’s important to make sure the people responsible for supervision are on the same page.

What About Our Manager Will Draw in Top Talent?

Speaking of management, it’s important to identify the strengths of the supervisor that the new hire will answer to. There needs to be a personality fit here for the transition to be as smooth as possible, but you also need facts and figures to tell a more complete story. Look at the metrics for this manager, then work backwards to figure out how they got there. Reach out to the manager’s team for insight about their style. Is this person affable? Do they give clear instructions? Are they quick to respond to issues? Do they have their charges’ backs? Assess the stats and the anecdotes together to discover what makes your manager successful. Then return to your hiring profile to see the potential for fit or friction.

There may be the question of whether that manager can successfully handle a high-level talent. This is a difficult thing to address, but it’s important that you get this right. Again, ensure that you don’t turn a blind eye to this manager’s weaknesses. Determine if they can be improved. Perhaps a new approach should be suggested, or restructuring is needed. In the worst-case scenario, it may be time for a change in that position too. These are all items that need serious consideration before moving along in the hiring process. If not addressed now, you may be looking at this same situation-- or worse-- down the line.

Can Our Organization Sustain Top Talent?

It isn’t enough to just hire the best person for the job. You must commit to serving your employees, so that they can serve you in return. Sometimes this may require making a big decision, like restructuring, but mostly, it means staying true to the 10 reasons you discovered above. Deliver on those ten items- every time. You wouldn’t advertise something you couldn’t back up, so don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you feel like your 10 reasons aren’t reasonable, they don’t belong on the list.

These 10 reasons don’t have to be philosophical. They need to be realistic and created by a repeatable set of actions. Having a “good company culture” sounds like the right thing to say, but what makes it that way? Answering that question, and others like it, will help you find a way forward that keeps your best employees with your organization.

Where Are We Going to Find Top Talent?

Yes, you could throw a listing up on a major job board and get inundated with hundreds of applications in the blink of an eye. But is that truly the best way to find the right person for your open position? In some cases, the answer might be yes. If that’s the truth, you need to spend time deciding which boards you’ll post on, as some cater better to certain fields than others.

What’s more likely is your ideal candidate currently works somewhere else. Do you have a strategy for enticing them? And what about former employees? Perhaps there are a few star performers you’d like to have back. Have you kept in touch with them?

Choosing the right person for your open position is a difficult proposition right now, one that will become more difficult as competition in Silicon Valley endures. That’s why it’s so important to do this self-check regularly. It helps you develop better processes for finding people who will flourish and helps to cultivate an organization people want to work for. Lay the foundation for the future by asking these questions now. Take the hiring process seriously and treat the answers you find with respect. Look at your organization’s weaknesses without shame; instead, treat them as areas for growth. And never forget that these decisions impact people’s lives.


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