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Don’t Depend on Your Gut! Hire Great People-II

Author: Jerry Olson - Oct 2014

Many hiring managers depend heavily on their gut feelings in the hiring process. When asked, “what are you looking for in a top candidate?” they may respond, “Just bring in some candidates and I’ll know it when I see it.”

In the selection process, you should cringe every time you hear, “I’m a good judge of people.” Likely what is unsaid is that the speaker is unsure of what core values, skills, characteristics, and experiences are required for a good fit in the culture and to do the job well. Far too often depending on your “gut feel” results in disappointment.

You are tempted to respond, “If I truly am a good judge of people, shouldn’t I depend on gut feeling?” Evaluate the results of your last 10 hires. Have eight or more of them surpassed your expectations? If you’ve been disappointed more often than not, likely you are hiring people you like, people with whom you build a quick rapport, and people like you rather than people who can do the job well. Hiring people you like appears to be a good tactic. However, if they become your friend but can’t do the job well you’ve got a problem. How do you fire your new friend?

The hiring process is not about selecting new friends (or old friends). The goal of the selection process is to hire people who do the job well. Often this means a successful hire is adding a person very much unlike you and someone that might even irritate you. A successful organization requires many different types of people with many different skills and characteristics (but with the similar core values).

Build your selection process first on a solid foundation of the core values of your organization. Develop ways in the selection process to identify the candidates’ core values. This must be more sophisticated than adding to your interview the question “Are you honest and trustworthy?” The only thing you learn from a “yes” answer to that question is that the candidate is astute enough to know the answer you want is “yes”.

The second part of the solid foundation for the selection process is to clarify the keys to success in the job. Make a short list of the top five accountabilities in the job. This is not the laundry list of tasks from the job description. Not the “nice to haves.” This is a short list of the top priorities of the job that must be done and done well. What does success look like when these few key accountabilities are delivered successfully? What skills, experiences, and characteristics are required to deliver success?

Next pare down this list of skills, characteristics and experiences to the top five. These are the Keys to Success in the job. Now find ways to determine if each candidate has these Keys to Success. What open-ended questions will give you the best information? What past experiences will demonstrate the candidate has what it takes to be successful? What tests or assessments will uncover if the candidate has the skill or characteristic required? What questions will you ask references? How might the candidate demonstrate the skill or ability?

Rather than depend on your gut, build into your hiring process the discipline that clarifies what you are looking for in a successful candidate. This will help you determine if the candidate’s values match your corporate values and if the candidate has the required skills, experiences, and characteristics to be successful.


This is the second piece in our three-part series: “Hire and Inspire Great People that Fit!”
Check back for Part III next month!


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