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How I Hire: Focus On Personality

An interesting article by Richard Branson posted on LinkedIn. (http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130923230007-204068115-how-i-hire-focus-on-personality) Goes to the heart of many discussions here. His feeling, if I'm interpreting correctly, seek culture first, qualifications last. Bransons said "Great grades count for nothing if they aren’t partnered with broad-ranging experience and a winning personality." He ends with a quote that is priceless: " I heard a great line by Funding Circle CEO Samir Desai at the IoD Conference in London (quoting Apple's Dan Jacobs) about making sure you hire (and fire) the right people: “It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team!”" Do you agree?

Answers

Ken Stumder
Title: Finance Director / Controller
Company: Ken Stumder, CPA
(Finance Director / Controller, Ken Stumder, CPA) |

I agree but this is just another way of promoting "fit" which is the most difficult thing to nail in a 45 minute interview. A person is basically selling themselves after all. A guy I worked for a long time ago, and whom I had a lot of respect for summed it up best, "every hire is basically a roll of the dice even after the most careful vetting process".

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Agreed!

But, the company is "selling itself" as well. Hence another comment of mine on a different thread about it not being easy to choose your employer wisely. You just won't have that much insight.

It's not so easy. Not on either side. That's why I'm becoming more fond of the concept of shorter term, non-binding engagements for both parties.

When I was a young manager, I attended more than a few "how to hire", "how to interview" and similar seminars. Like all young people, I wanted to believe there was a magic formula that, if I could the proper tool, I'd make all the right moves in hiring. And, one of the statements made at one of those seminars was that, if one out of three hires you make lasts long term, you're average.

A lot of HR types and media hounds continue to push the "learn this and you will make great hires" mantra but they are usually tooting their own horn or selling their services or books.

Experience has shown that I'm quite average. One out of three. That's a 333 batting average. Not all that bad.

There is no magic in hiring, or in finding that elusive great employer. You'll most likely spend the majority of your time in that large area under the dome of the Bell Curve. Along with everyone else.

I can always tell when I've made a great hire....about two years afterwards. Sooner than that, it's pretty much a crap shoot. ;-)

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

Culture fit IS the most difficult piece of the hiring process, Ken ... and why it pays to be a "branded" candidate. Branding answers the "fit-for-culture" question well in advance of an interview.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

CAUTION - A good friend is a Labor attorney. We had a discussion regarding "cultural fit." I was told that it is a very dangerous interviewing approach. There have been cases brought against companies. You raise subjects that may seem benign. The person does not get the job. You may find a complaint registered - "I did not get the job because I said I use my free time to do_____________________________. I am being discriminated."

This may be a situation where the theory is correct, but implementation a risk.

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

Speaks to the value of having a branded digital footprint. If you've already proven you're a fit for the culture, those questions are unnecessary - and - the candidate has a leg up over his top 2 competitors.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

Since we are talking about cultural fit..................

Is anyone aware of proven hiring tools that test a candidates ethics?

Sometimes I tempted to use a "litmus test" of leaving a $100 bill on the floor in the room with a candidate and seeing if they turn it without prodding. The justification for employees that travel to accumulate and use personal rewards points yesterday reminded me of this.

Unethical behavior, in what otherwise seem like good employees, continues to befuddle me.

A six figure, VP of Marketing that seemed so great and could be trusted on the road only to find out she was charging personal clothing items to her expense account claiming it was "for the models at the photo shoot"?

The Stanford MBA VP of operations who abandons his job by not showing up for a couple of months and then attempts to keep his corporate provided laptop and cell phone when asked to turn them. And, and only returns them when pressed with threats of criminal prosecution but he has broken both of them.

Or your new staff accounting person who comes off as clean cut and sober ends up being terminated for embezzlement and in the resulting investigation you find out they are a heroin addict and had been embezzling at their previous employer as well?

(All of those are true examples in my past employment experience.)

Sadly, behavioral issues with employees no longer comes as a surprise to me. I'd like to be able to weed out those with criminal or even just anti-social tendencies from the beginning. References have become a joke over the years, due to exaggeration of perceived legal liabilities. Name, rank and serial number just don't cut it.

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

I was screened using the RightPath survey (http://www.rightpath.com/site/). Maybe it would be beneficial to look into.

Topic Expert
Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

Those who steal are also great at lying on assessments. It's almost like they are Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's easy to talk. It's "walking the talk" that doesn't always happen.

Those are awful stories Anon User!

Anonymous
(CPA, CGMA) |

I read an article once that implied that every team needs a few martians. That is what puts the element of chance in a collaboration. If everyone is "the same" you will never get any out of the box ideas or any really new thinking. I like having the opportunity to learn something from the people I work with. A bit of diversity allows for growth.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Sounds similar to Skill/Will. You can teach skills to a willing student.

Topic Expert
Marc Faerber
Title: CFO
Company: Amarantus
(CFO, Amarantus) |

I worked for a company where the HR group would provide hiring personnel with what I feel is a simple approach. Three things, Can Do - can the candidate do the job (right experience, technical skills etc.), Will Do - will the person do the job and last Will They Fit. Ever since being introduced to Can Do, Will Do, Will Fit, I have experienced pretty good results in the hiring process. Obviously there is a lot that goes into each of those criteria and vary by each position but when all is said and done how can you answer those three criteria before hiring a specific candidate.

Brian Kennedy
Title: President
Company: peerformation.com
(President, peerformation.com) |

Sounds a lot like who gets to sit at the cool-kid lunch table in high school. Of course, you do not want to go out of your way to hire people who come across as smug, nasty, venomous, but people are people. Let them be.

Kris Lall
Title: Product Management & Marketing
Company: Attachmate
(Product Management & Marketing, Attachmate) |

The social aspect is just as important as the skill set and in many cases more so because technical/hard skills can be taught/learned. In the early days of tech, we hired liberal arts degrees and taught them skills for performing technical support work. In most cases this turned out to be the right strategy (high customer satisfaction in surveys). All potential hires, however, are on their best behavior during the interview process, and the truth is that you can't truly determine a good fit until you work with someone for a few weeks or sometimes months.

Anonymous User
Title: CFO
Company: Local Government Agency
(CFO, Local Government Agency) |

"All potential hires, however, are on their best behavior during the interview process, and the truth is that you can't truly determine a good fit until you work with someone for a few weeks or sometimes months."

So are potential employers. Plenty of them have been known to "omit" a few details about the position/work environment/company stability in the interview process.

oluwaseun quadri
Title: lekki
Company: C&I Leasing Plc
(lekki, C&I Leasing Plc) |

No interview tool or method can xray the behavioral pattern of a prospective employee.Skills and Behavior are two different things.

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