14 January 2006

Hiring the right person

What’s the formula for hiring the right person?

If you’ve carried the responsibility of putting a team together, or even adding a single person to your team, this question must have dogged you along the way. Try as you might, you can never be sure if you’ve hired the right person for the job. Time is the only measure of your success.

Hiring the right person for your organisation isn’t always easy. Sometimes you get lucky and the right person walks right in. Otherwise, it can be a laborious process.

During my years in the corporate world, and while working with small businesses, I've interviewed a lot of people for jobs. Selected some, rejected ten times as many. Rejected, not because I derive a perverted pleasure from spoiling others’ job opportunities, but because selecting the right person for the job is an important responsibility and I take it seriously.

To make it easy on myself, I’ve simplified the selection routine. I’ve laid it out for you here to give you a framework to work on, should you take on the role of hiring people for your organisation.

From what is stated, as well as what is not necessarily stated but apparent, in the CV and through answers to questions during interviews, I broadly examine three aspects of the person’s background and nature. These are performance, personality and potential for growth.

Performance clearly indicates the transferable skills. Skills, the person possesses which he or she can immediately use in the new job. I also look for the person's understanding of the job responsibilities, command over his or her skills, application of skills, and achievement levels in past or recent jobs. Most of this is proof-based (i.e. verifiable) and, hence, easy to determine.

An examination of personality normally throws light on the person's mental framework: attitudes, behaviour patterns, nature. Is he or she extroverted or introverted? Logical or intuitive? Organised or slovenly? Does he or she like working with people? Does a constantly-changing environment encourage or threaten him or her? Can the person work under pressure? Overcome adversity without breaking down? Would he or she prefer a thinking/planning role vis-a-vis frontline action?

Potential for growth is not easy to determine. The idea is to gauge how the person will fit in and grow in the organisation. How can the person deliver and value-add to his or her job role and the organisation? What skills does the person possess which may not be relevant now but can be useful later? Does the person have a passion, a hobby, a special interest besides building a career in the corporate world? What are his or her dreams and ambitions? What are the person’s views of the organisation, the industry, the marketplace, society at large? Mind you, most of this is projective and can be totally off the mark.

It isn't easy to get a perfect fit for a job. It isn’t easy to find out everything about a person in a couple of interviews, group discussions or written tests. Some organisations use psychometric tests for evaluation during recruitment, but even these are only indicative. The idea is to assess the person in entirety, keeping in mind the job specifications, organisational directives (yes, some companies can set down real fussy rules!) and the organisation culture.

Even then, only time will tell how good your assessment is.

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