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Lynch on Hiring, Part I: How To Interview and Hire A-Players

As I have written previously, when hiring for any role in your company, it is vital that you follow a proven process. That’s where the Topgrading methodology made a huge difference for me. I learned to follow a disciplined hiring methodology to significantly increase my chances of hiring A-Players for every role.

I define an A-Player as a person who consistently achieves the agreed standard for RESULTS in their role, and who consistently demonstrates BEHAVIORS aligned to the Core Values.

In essence, there are 2 dimensions to an employee’s performance. RESULTS + BEHAVIORS. Both requirements must be met consistently to be considered an A-Player.

You take hiring shortcuts at your peril. Hiring is too important to get wrong!

Happy businessman shaking hands with a female interviewer in office

The Five Step Process

Here is the 5 step process I recommend:

Step 1

You create Role Scorecards to describe every functional role in your organization and use these as the basis for job advertisements.

Step 2

You ask each applicant to fill out a Career History Form. I personally never look at resumes. I use this step to filter out the tire kickers and get each applicant to tell me exactly what I want to know. When all applicants fill out this form, I can “compare like with like".

Once you have whittled the applicants down a list of strong candidates, there are 3 types of interviews that need to be conducted using the key interviewing principles outlined below.

Step 3

Phone Screening Interview (1 hour)

Step 4

Face to Face Tandem Interview (at least one highly structured 3 hour interview)

Step 5

Reference Check Interviews (with the people you specify)

2 Key Interviewing Principles:

1. Check and verify

You want the real truth, so let candidates know that you will seek verification for all claims they make. You ask for tangible evidence of their individual performance in past roles. You ask for their permission and assistance to contact previous bosses, colleagues, employees.

Very important. You choose the references you want to speak with. Don’t rely on the references provided by the candidate on their resume. A-Players have nothing to hide and will have no problems with this. If there were any “issues” with past bosses these don’t necessarily disqualify a candidate, but you want these details to come out as soon as possible so they can be discussed openly and you can make your own assessment as to how much weight you place on it.

2. Past performance is the best predictor of future performance.

Especially during the Phone Screen and Face to Face Interviews you construct questions to probe for specific examples of where they exhibited the desired behavioral competencies (as listed on the Role Scorecard) in their past jobs e.g.:

Describe a time in your previous role when you.....(e.g. dealt with a customer who was upset)?

What was the situation?  

Who was involved?  

What exactly did they do? What did they say?

What exactly did “YOU” do?  (not what “we” or “the team” did)

What was the outcome?

What lessons did you learn from this?

I am most interested in:

What actions they (as an individual) took in these past situations

What tangible (and verifiable) results they achieved

What mistakes they made and what they learned from them

What their bosses, colleagues, employees would say about them

I am NOT interested in:

What “we” or “the team” did

What they might do in some hypothetical situation

A-Player candidates will not be put off by any of this. Not only can they provide tangible evidence of past results, they will also furnish you with the names of bosses, colleagues, employees to verify their stories. They have nothing to hide and can back up everything they say.

Final Thought. Are you worthy?

Why should an A-Player want to work for you and your company? Are you worthy of them? Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself:

Can you honestly provide the tools, training, systems, mentoring, and support they will need to perform to an A-Player level in the role they are applying for?

Do you provide a fun and challenging environment that allows them to thrive and grow?

Are you an A-Player manager yourself? Can you prove it?

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Topics: growth hiring

Stephen Lynch

Author of the award winning business book Business Execution for RESULTS & President of RESULTS.com, Lynch is an internationally known Strategy Consultant and a contributing writer for The Economist magazine.

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