• Jerry Phillips

I can really read people, and other lies we tell ourselves!

I’m not sure any of us expected it. When Black & Decker launched the DeWalt brand of power tools in 1992, the demand was staggering. So much so, it tested all our processes and systems. One of the most critical was our ability to hire and develop qualified candidates for selling power tools. We recruited off college campuses, and brought the new hires in for training in Towson, MD. In the early years of the launch, we hired several hundred salespeople. We had terrific processes around hiring and we made some terrific hires, that not only contributed to the outstanding growth for DeWalt, but also in leading at other companies later in their careers.

However, I personally made four hiring decisions that turned out to be mistakes. The four lasted less than six months in the roles. In the scope of number of people, we were hiring, they did not have a huge impact, but I agonized over the failures. What had I done wrong? Where had I broken the process?

Just yesterday I read “Talking to Strangers” by Malcom Gladwell. He made some interesting points that translate well to interviewing. The book is a review of how we are programmed to believe people are telling the truth, and how we interpret non-verbal cues. When people lie, or their non-verbal expressions do not match their intentions, it creates issues. He cited several well-known incidences that supported his theory. I could relate.

In most of our client engagements we talk about having the right people in the right roles, based on their skills, values and aptitude. The majority of the people doing interviews are very confident in their abilities to spot talent and to understand how a candidate will fit. Recently I had a COO tell me that he has 40% turnover in his programmers, and he plans for it so it’s not a big deal. My belief is that if you have 40% turnover, you are not good at interviewing and your entire process for recruiting is suspect.

We challenge our clients to have a clear understanding of what skills, and values they are looking for in a candidate, and we also challenge them to use behavioral interviewing. By behavioral interviewing, we mean asking questions that require the candidate to share specific examples of the skills and values. It’s critical to the hiring “A” players, and not candidates who can talk the game, but can’t show results.

Truly understanding how someone fits the job and fits your company is difficult. Taking the time to prepare, and to use behavioral interviewing in your process improves your odds dramatically. Hiring mistakes are costly.

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