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Championships Are Won at Practice—in Baseball and Business: Equip Your Managers with the Tools for Successful Hiring

You wouldn’t send your kid off to join Little League without at least buying a mitt and tossing a ball around in the backyard a few times first. You might even take in a game or two together so you could share that special baseball spirit while you explain the nuances of the game. You’d do all of this because you want your kid to have the basic knowledge and skills to succeed as a Little Leaguer, right? Such a simple but crucial concept, routinely practiced by parents everywhere. It should be practiced in business too.

Take hiring, for example. Almost any manager can be tossed into the role of the hiring manager at any given time and with no special training. But like future Little Leaguers, hiring managers need to be equipped. They need the tools and techniques to accurately evaluate candidates. Just like having hands doesn’t automatically make a kid a good ballplayer, having a gut doesn’t necessarily make you an effective recruiter. If people are your most important asset (and they are) you need to set up your hiring managers for success—with success defined as recruiting and selecting the best talent out there.

As any coach will tell you, it’s what you do before the season starts that shapes a champion. When it comes to recruiting and selection, what you need to do is train every hiring manager in assessments and behavioral interviewing, the essential tools that give them the confidence and data to make great hiring decisions.

Assessments—the Reliable Benchmark

Assessments create reliable benchmarks for evaluating the skills and cultural fit of potential candidates and the development or advancement of current employees. They identify specific characteristics and provide insight as to how well an individual matches the requirements for a particular position in your organization. Assessments help you better understand the thinking and behavioral style required for success and whether you have the right people in the right roles to do their jobs well.

It used to be that we chose candidates based strictly on their education and work experience—qualifications that should actually be placed toward the end of our list, with rare exception. We now know that our primary focus should be understanding how future employees will behave, how well they will adapt, what their values are, and what motivates them. These are qualities that are most easily understood through pre-employment assessment.

Healthy companies regularly evaluate people to ensure a good fit as the company inevitably changes. Assessments give you the data to hold transparent conversations, make decisions that are best for the company and, when necessary, develop fair and compassionate termination strategies. They provide you with the resources and engaged employees to achieve much higher success levels throughout your organization.

Behavioral Interviewing—Consistency and Collaboration

Behavioral interviewing provides hiring managers with a consistent internal script and common language to help them evaluate candidates. It gives them more control over the outcome of interviews. Well-meaning interviewers everywhere ask basically the same interview questions they find on the internet, and candidates provide the same canned “proven” answers they find in their own internet searches. The goal of both parties for a job interview is to make a positive impression, so both say what they think the other wants to hear. This leads to high rates of failed hires, costly to both organization and new employee.

To end this cycle, train your hiring managers to ask behavior-related questions. This means asking candidates to solve real problems they may face in their new job and describe how they handled a particular situation or person in a previous job. Behavioral questions give you two kinds of insight. One is the real-world action is taken to get a job done, the actual experience. The other is a deeper sense of character, based on what was important or difficult for them, how decisions were made, and similar details. Educate hiring managers about why these kinds of questions are necessary and why their favorite questions may not give them the right answers and insights.

Make sure hiring managers understand who you are as a company, where you want to go, and what you value—and can explain these business and cultural factors to candidates. Help them clearly define what kind of person and skills they should look for in this position and what “great” looks like. Put metrics and a process around it. And don’t leave the final decision to the hiring manager alone. Hiring should be a collaborative, team effort that includes leadership whenever possible.

Training your people in behavioral interview skills helps them prepare effectively and share their company experience passionately. If hiring managers feel equal insight and passion from candidates, you’re likely to get a high return on your human capital investment.

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s not enough to simply make these tools available to hiring managers, any more than it works to put a bat in the hands of kids and tell them to hit the ball. Managers need to understand the deeper information and insight assessments and behavioral interviewing provide and why that’s important to the overall success of your organization. In other words, you need to get buy-in.

Perhaps more important, hiring managers need to feel comfortable using these tools before they develop proficiency and confidence. That takes practice—made perfect when companies provide the time and training.

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