Depending on where you work, the methods and maturity of your hiring processes will vary. Perhaps you work in a place where you have a very formal process for hiring. You make candidates take cognitive and psychological exams, you ask rigorous behavioral based questions, conduct panel interviews, and call all their references. Or you may not have as formal of a process, and you as the hiring manager conduct a one-hour interview, have HR perform the standard background and drug test, and then you make an offer. Regardless of where your organization lies on the spectrum, hiring people is always a gamble. Unless you have worked with that person directly in the past, you really do not know what type of person you have just invited to join your team.
I am always fascinated at this human exchange. Whether you are the person being interviewed or the one doing the hiring, the interaction is awkward at best. Two people (or more) square up to check each other out. The first thing both parties have to do is state their value. As the candidate, you must impress the hiring manager by showcasing your past achievements and what you can add to the new organization if hired. As the hiring manager, you must showcase yourself and your organization as a place where people would want to work. Let’s not forget that when we are talking to candidates, we too have to sell ourselves in this competitive market.
We do this dance, if you will, hoping to convince each other of a perfect match. May is alligator mating season. This is when alligators are the most aggressive. The male alligator (the candidate) is looking for a mate (the hiring organization). He uses various tactics to separate himself from the other male alligators seeking to secure a mate. He will swim out in the lake — not too close to the female, just close enough for her to see him — and he will sing. He will make noises intended to draw her in. If that does not work, he will go to the bank near her and dance. Yes, alligators dance. He will showcase his talents in hopes of being chosen. Since alligators only mate one time a year during this month, his window of opportunity is short. The female alligator (the hiring organization) will judge his performance and determine which candidate can best meet the criteria for the job.
Granted alligators and humans are not the same, and I don’t want to sound offensive in the comparison. I only use it to say that often times the hiring process for both sides can feel a lot like alligator mating season. So what happens when both the leader and the candidate agree to enter into this contractual relationship? Well, as a leader, what you have done is opened up your culture to an outside influence. As the leader, you have said, I believe this person can be an asset to us. The right culture is hard to achieve. It comes from intentional hard work over a long period of time and must be sustained or it will not survive. When we add new people to our culture, we will impact that culture. The impact can be positive or negative, but it will never be neutral. So how do we get better at making sure as leaders we bring in people who add to our culture and not detract from it?
There are companies out there like Roundpegg.com that work with organizations to establish a cultural baseline and then supply tools that can be used to screen candidates. This way you know a little more before you hire them about how they will impact your culture. But an organization has to be willing to understand the culture that exists at their organization, and how well that aligns with the culture they “think” they have. What I see today is that most organizations talk about culture and believe it to be very important, but very little has changed in the hiring practices to ensure all the work we are doing around company culture is not being derailed when we add new people to the mix. We still find ourselves hiring the person who could sing and dance better than the rest and then we hope for the best.
Don’t work hard to have a culture of trust, unity, transparency or whatever your core values are, only to decide in a one-hour interview to let someone come in and impact that culture. Focus your interview on finding out who that person is. Leave the technical assessment up to your operational leads. As the leader you own the culture, so guard it. Differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack by placing more value on the fit then the experience. Sure, you have to hire a person with the knowledge for the role, but take the time to ensure the person can add to your culture and not detract from it. In the end, this will reduce turnover and reinforce the culture you embody.