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Hiring Well Improves the Bottom Line

Key skills are essential for business leaders as the economy picks up.

Hiring Well Improves the Bottom Line
ROBERT HOLLAND: CEO and chairman of Vistage Michigan in Ann Arbor, a top leadership organization.

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 One of the most important skills required of any CEO or manager is the process of identifying, interviewing, acquiring, training, and managing a company’s human capital. Paramount to business success, hiring is an expensive process — so the fewer the mistakes, the better.


As our economy starts to grow, it’s time for business leaders to dust off their hiring skills. At Vistage Michigan in Ann Arbor, a top chief executive leadership organization, we have found that four core hiring factors apply across all types of organizations, whether manufacturing, service, distribution, or nonprofit. They are:


Talent. It doesn’t pay to stretch. Be sure to interview candidates who match the talent level required. Is it a chief engineer’s position or an entry-level one, an accounting supervisor or a senior bookkeeper, a sales position or a sales management position?


During the interview process, look for candidates to reveal how talented they are in several modes of expression. It starts the moment someone walks through the door. Notice how they carry themselves. When they speak, are they articulate, do they use proper verb tenses, do they use complex sentences or simple ones?


Once you know the candidate is “in the ball park,” you might feign an interruption and request a spontaneous written assignment: Why does this person think they are a great fit for the job? Or you might pose a straightforward question about a potential problem related to their job classification. With computers and the Internet so handy in any typical interview room, this can be a quick research and writing assignment. Specific answers aren’t as important as the candidate’s thought process, how they handle the challenge, and how they verbalize their solution.


It’s also valuable to assess a candidate’s impromptu abilities. A great way to discover this is to bring the prospective hire before the intended work group. They can be asked to tell the group what they have learned about the company that day, how they believe they are a good fit for the position, and what steps they would take to accomplish their intended job objectives. Because almost anyone in a higher-level position — a chief engineer, a vice president, or an account executive — will have to interact with the public, a person’s ability to quickly adapt to his or her surroundings is a valuable talent to possess.


Experience. This should be a separate interview, conducted by a different person in the company. Experience is what is required to get the new job done. I suggest that interviewers discuss one or two areas critical to the specific job the individual is seeking. Then, search for an understanding of how the candidate believes he or she will fit within their prospective performance team.

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