How to Hire the Right Talent for Your Team – 4 Tips

Hiring good talent is hard. It’s more of an art than a science. You usually have to do it on top of a full time job. Just asking behavioral questions do not work. And there is usually little time to evaluate each candidate.

When done right however, hiring the right talent for your team is one of the most critical skills for a manager. The right talent can ramp up quickly and save you time. He or she can also increase team performance and morale. The right talent will in turn hire high quality people. On the other hand, if you hire the wrong talent, work can become a nightmare not just for you but also for your team. This is why no matter how busy you are, you must invest time and energy in hiring.

You can be smart in this process and I am here to help. Here are 4 tips on how to hire the right talent for your team.

Tip 1: Be clear on what talent you want.  Don’t rush into posting a position. Take time to think about what kind of person you want to hire. What soft and hard skills do they need to have? What kind of attitude are you looking for? Can you imagine how work would be like if you hired the right person?

Here are some example qualities I was looking for in my recent hire in addition to all the hard skills needed for the job

  • Extreme owner – Someone who love to solve problem and own work from start to finish. This person can define vision and the roadmap to get there and also knows when to ask for help.
  • Positive outlook and thrive in ambiguity – our work in innovation is highly ambiguous and can be a roller coaster ride. Sometimes things we pursue work out but usually after many unexpected twist and turns. Other times it may not work at all and we need to keep going.
  • Passionate and good natured – I didn’t want any arrogant axxholes on my team. It was critical for me to hire professionals who really cared about solving a large problem for the customer and our business. I wanted learners on my team – humble and open to feedback. I wanted to learn from those I hire and I wanted them to learn from me.
  • Grace under pressure – our work can be highly stressful and many times we are stopped by factors outside our control. The right talent is not only smart and capable but also need to stay calm and creative in unexpected situations

Tip 2: Do a job simulation – Behavioral questions such as “tell me a time when…”do NOT work. A candidate can eloquently tell you about how she defined the vision and roadmap of something or dealt with a difficult stakeholder or made a decision based on incomplete data. However, you have no idea whether the candidate really did it themselves or was simply a good story teller. There are better ways to gauge their skills and fit – do a job simulation. There are two ways to do this

  1. Give them a case to solve on the fly – this is how consulting firms find good talent. Mckinsey is famous for giving both brain teaser cases and extensive cases to gauge a candidate’s problem solving skills, communication skills, business acumen, and whether the person can perform under pressure. I used to love giving these in my consulting days. I would just share the context of a recent client problem and see how they would go about solving it. It was a great way to assess how they thought through the problem and structured the solution.
  2. Give them homework for an interview – this involves writing up a case with context and questions and giving each candidate the same amount of days (e.g., 3 calendar days) to put together a 20 min presentation for the interview. This takes more time for the interviewer and the candidate to prepare. It’s however one of the most effective way to figure out who may be the best fit for the job.

Tip 3: Go with your gut and look for intangibles – passion, resilience, energy and attitude.  You cannot ask any questions to gauge this. I gauge some of this based on the way they deliver the presentation as well as handle unexpected questions. I also gauge based on what questions they ask me during the interview.

Ask others to be part of the interview panel. You probably know a few people that are pretty good at assessing talent. Get their help to round out your point of view. You will never have all the information no matter how many interviews you do. At the end of the day, trust your gut on who may be the right fit for your team.

Tip 4: Informally check references if possible – this is not the same as checking references provided directly by the candidate. Those are usually useless. This is referring to learning about the candidate informally through someone you trust and have worked with them. This needs to be done carefully. For me, I would only reach out to people I respect and I am also explicit in asking them how well they know the candidate as well as how long ago. This helps me decide how much to take their input. I have found them the most useful when I am on the fence about a candidate. At the end of the day, this shouldn’t be the main reason you choose or not choose someone. The interview process should give you most of the information. This is more icing on the cake to help you make an informed decision.

At the end of the day, even after you follow these tips, you will still only be about 70% sure of your choice. That’s natural. Hiring the right talent is hard work and an imperfect exercise. You need to have faith in yourself and in your hire for them to really blossom on your team. Happy hiring!

Your comment: Did these tips help? Do you have additional tips to share? I look forward to your comments and questions

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