Every election cycle is packed with lessons. This year, the Presidential election process, from the primaries all the way through to this early general election season, seems to have far more than usual.
One of these lessons is the danger of contradictions.
Take, for example, Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again.” To achieve this, he wants to build a wall and exclude people from entering the U.S. based on their religious—or maybe their regional—background. That’s a contradictory message, especially in a country that achieved greatness through inclusion and diversity.
The conflicting messages don’t stop there. Hillary Clinton calls for transparency. However, she’s not always transparent: witness her use of a private email server.
Contradictions erode trust, prompting people to question the motives of those who make contradictory statements or engage in contradictory actions. It’s little wonder that both candidates for President have some of the lowest favorability ratings in the history of Presidential politics.
CONTRADICTIONS IN HIRING
When contradictions exist in your hiring process, they erode the trust of top talent. The contradictions may be subtle, but their effects are always the same—they undermine your ability to attract and retain quality employees.
What are these contradictions, and what can you do about them? Here are three common examples:
Keeping a job open until the right person shows up.
Talented people pay attention. They notice which organizations consistently have unfilled jobs, and they’re understandably suspicious when a job stays open for a long time. Top talent takes pride in their work history. The last thing they want to do is make a mistake that will haunt their resume for years to come.
Talented individuals watch you closely during your hiring process. How long it takes you to hire says a lot about how you think. When you require candidates to go through three or more rounds of interviews, they get suspicious. Instead of seeing you as a confident leader who’s unafraid to make bold, proactive, timely decisions, they see someone who’s cautious, timid, and gun-shy. Talented candidates want to work for confident people—because they’re confident, themselves.
Line up top talent and then wait for the right jobs to open up. This shows wisdom and foresight. When you recruit proactively, the very fact you don’t have openings works in your favor. There are lots of companies that are always hiring. Their constant turnover creates perpetually open seats.
Talented people don’t want to work for companies with high turnover rates—and if they can deduce that from simply looking at job postings, they scroll on by in search of greener pastures. They look jobs with stable companies, and they’re willing to wait for them.
Pre-emptive recruiting makes your company desirable. It gives job-seekers the impression it’s a great place to work, and a position on your team is one worth waiting for.
Being slow to hire and quick to fire.
When you hire slowly, you operate out of fear: the fear making of a bad choice. Every company makes their share of poor hiring choices over the years, but overcompensating by slowing down your process neither solves the problem nor mitigates the consequences of the occasional bad hire. Speed and accuracy are not mutually exclusive.
When you slow your hiring process down to a snail’s pace, what you’re really doing is avoiding making a decision out of fear. You can tell yourself you’re being responsible, deliberate, and vetting your candidates from every angle, but what’s going on—and I say this after years of watching it happen over and over—is that you’re falling into the trap of analysis-paralysis. You’re wasting time and money by extending the interview process ad nauseam. Talented candidates sniff this out fairly quickly, then move on.
And your open jobs remain open.
Be fast to hire and quick to counsel. Start by lining up people before you need them. When a job opens, reach out to the person next in line. You already know them, so there’s no feeling out period and no lingering questions: you know you’re making a sound hiring choice because you did your due diligence ahead of time.
Conducting conventional interviews in an unconventional world.
Conventional interviews don’t work. Why? Job candidates are always on their best behavior. They tell you all the right things and shares only the best parts of their background. Rather than painting a complete picture, a conventional interview narrows the lens, providing you with a mere snapshot of a person. This is why we’re often disappointed when the person we interviewed is not the one who shows up on Monday morning.
The problem with conventional interviews doesn’t stop there. During the interview, you’re selling the candidate on your company and culture. But no matter how many rounds you have in your process, conventional interviews don’t provide an accurate reflection of what it’s like to work at your company day-in and day-out.
Effective interviews are practical, not conceptual. Companies operate in the real world of balance sheets, deadlines, and deliverables. Interviewing should be a reality check—a pragmatic and efficient experience that allows you and the candidate to make an informed decision. A decision based on facts directly related to the job, not on theory, abstractions, or cute questions that may or may not be relevant to the task at hand. Which is, of course, finding the right person for your company.
You can get the facts you need by taking a rational approach to interviews. Be like a scientist: gather evidence; evaluate the evidence; make a decision based on the evidence you gather—not on what you project onto them or how they spin a particular aspect of their resume or work experience. Look for proof that the candidate can do quality work. Ask for real examples from previous work projects. If examples aren’t available, have them do sample work related to the job for which they’re interviewing.
Back to that pesky election analogy: in the end, it might turn out that neither presidential candidate has what it takes to “Make America Great Again.” But the U.S. is already great in many ways, so the whole “Again” part of that slogan may be irrelevant, anyway. That said, savvy leaders—whether in business or politics—always find ways to leverage strengths, solve current problems, and make improvements in a business or in a country. They make things great. It remains to be seen if either candidate can do that for the U.S.
When it comes to your business, though, you have what it takes to get to the mountaintop. And when it comes to employee selection, you absolutely can “Make Hiring Great Again.” All it takes is getting rid of the contradictions in your process and applying effective remedies. If your process is already effective, you can always find ways to improve it by rooting out what doesn’t make sense—the contradictions—then implementing what does make sense: the logical alternatives.