There’s a lot riding on the people you choose when building a culture, creating a meaningful legacy that outlives the current group or project. Adding just one person who isn’t aligned at the core and enrolled in your purpose can take a considerable amount of time and energy to unwind. But of course it’s going to happen. No matter how much you interview, research or test, someone’s going to slip by. The key then is to create an overwhelming majority…a high density group of remarkable, legacy driven people who take-over the culture and keep it from falling into the wrong hands. If you have enough high caliber people who care to do work that matters in a generous way, a few oddballs won’t matter so much.
Working with someone is far different than for someone.
With implies a group effort…people coming together with a common goal. Everyone shares in the load and everyone enjoys a share in the ultimate outcome.
For tells a different story…one of authority, power and non-inclusion. It’s a quid pro quo system. The boss makes a plan, the people below carry it out and get paid for their time.
People enjoy being part of something…it’s what drives humans towards communal activity. It’s the reason we join book clubs, travel together, and volunteer for a common cause. It’s the purpose behind the activity which creates the enrollment. And so the work has deeper meaning than a paycheck transaction. All meaningful cultural change has this system built in. With requires a purpose. Otherwise the work is simply a transaction.
But there’s a benefit to the For system. Freedom from accountability. It’s clean and much more simple. The worker puts forth effort and is rewarded for the effort. And if the plan fails, ultimately there’s someone else to blame. The greater the effort, the greater the reward. Work faster and solve more complicated problems and we’ll pay you more. This feels safe for a lot of people. But it’s not sustainable. People will run on the hamster wheel for awhile, faster and faster. But over time it’s tiring and unchallenging. And their work diminishes…and a replacement is found.
So there’s a trade-off between freedom from accountability and complete unity around a cause. One is completely transactional and requires cogs. The other gives people a chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves and make a difference.
Words matter…a lot. Choose wisely.
The perfect job interview, where everyone tells the truth, is a rarity. It only happens when both sides are completely secure, neither is going to “win”, and there’s no transaction at stake. At this level it’s not about a “job”. It’s about the alignment of goals and purpose and building trust. It’s less about the work, and more about the culture. Every job interview should be this way. But it’s not.
It’s not because a job is also about solving an immediate problem. Job seekers are solving the problem of paying bills, obtaining experience (so they can earn more to pay more bills) and relieving peer pressure to be successful. Companies need someone to answer the phone, serve a customer, bake cookies and solve math problems. The work is done for now, not later.
But later matters…a lot. Without later, now is irrelevant. Other than mere survival, the present is meaningless without a thought about later. Culture is later brought forward. It’s the version of the future we are working to create today. It’s what gives us and our work purpose. It creates challenge, tension and fear. But it also leads to excitement about the prospect of meaningful change. And it’s the toughest thing to talk about.
The job at hand is important. The work needs to be done. So there needs to be a discussion about that role. More importantly though is how the work is to be done…what’s the posture of everyone in the mix. And that’s defined by culture…so best talk about that first.
Famously and often said…it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well, not really. The real leverage isn’t in the casual acquaintance. It’s through the trusted connection…the I’ll vouch for her…because I trust her. Trust is earned through shared work, failure and success and being there in the moment when others aren’t watching. These experiences then lead to genuine stories...an inside look into the character and core values of a person. And it’s this insight that is so valuable in sharing confidence for someone.
If receiving a reference first determine how the person giving the referral is related to that individual. If they haven’t had direct, shared experience, please find someone that does.
And if giving a reference, only do so when you throughly understand the context of the next project and the details of the work to be performed. Otherwise it’s virtually worthless information for everyone involved. A reference discussion should benefit the person vouched for as much as the receiving party. The insight gained during that conversation might be more valuable to your co-worker or friend than the interview itself.
And finally, reference letters are shortcuts, an easy method of conveying mostly surface information to a broad audience. They’re kind of like most brand advertising…largely ineffective with no way to measure results.
Yesterday, a nice person I was interviewing asked me a remarkable question..."what's your greatest fear?"
This reminded me that much of my impression about someone, especially a job candidate, is formed by their questions...not answers.
My answer...being insignificant.
What's your greatest fear?
That’s what I focus on...every day. While there are a lot of distractions (many of them good), there’s nothing more important to me than hiring the right people. So, I always reserve time for this task no matter what. When I’m not interviewing prospects, I’m working on improving and preserving the culture that attracts them.
Back to hiring the right people. You hear this all the time...our secret is we hire the “right” people. I’ll define it further...I hire artists. Artists are people who are capable of and interested in producing more than the required tasks. They give you what Seth Godin terms...emotional labor. These are the people that will make your company alive with stories that spread...make you remarkable.
So, here’s what I focus on when I hire...precisely in this order.
- Are they aligned with your culture?
- Can I fulfill their dreams? (I figure if they’re going to give me their heart and soul, I should give them more than a paycheck)
- Are they competent?
This approach has worked for me for quite some time. Realizing there’s a lot that goes into each of those three items, the point here is that the technical part of the evaluation comes last...it’s the least important, at least in the sort of work we do.
I encourage you to worry less about the next big idea, how to change your product or how to market it. All of those things will sort themselves out quite nicely if you make hiring artists and preserving culture your first priorities.
I just finished taping this as a segment in my Art in Hospitality series...will be up soon.
you have a compelling story and a loyal tribe of raving fans. At this stage, you don t post ads on HCareers and hope for a good bite. Instead, you do what Sasha does at Acumen. You let your audience spread the word and impose a deadline taking advantage of the principle of excess demand over limited supply.
Your goal is to go from push to pull.
Sure...you could send a resume. But, why not separate yourself and start a conversation in the process?
The first thing you should figure out about a new employee is not what they can do...but rather who they are.
Most employer-employee failures happen as a result of culture misalignment, not the inability to do "the job". So, ask yourself why job descriptions are largely task oriented, why interviews focus so much on experience and why we spend so much time showing someone how to do it. Instead, spend more time getting to know what makes someone tick, understanding their world view and what their dreams are...this is the stuff that counts in the end.
There are a lot of experts that can tell you how to interview people. There are seemingly countless methods, techniques, tests and scenarios to sort talent into the right groups...or to vote them off the island. Over the years I have tried many of these with varying degrees of success. But, my short list...the questions that get me the information I absolutely, unequivocally must know...
- What do you want to do with your life (what are your dreams)?
- How can we help you get there?
- What do you like to do for fun?
If people can't answer these with some degree of certainty, they're likely just looking for a job. You want someone with dreams and a reasonably thought out idea of how to achieve them. You don't want someone who hasn't given this an ounce of thought or wants to do just enought to get by.
Do your recruitment and hiring practices tell your hospitality story? Is it quickly apparent to an outsider that this isn’t just another job? If so, how? If not, why not?
Do you need to announce (post) job openings in the same place everyone else does? Why?
Does your culture and reputation attract the best prospects on it’s own?
Do you actively build relationships in the hives where your best prospects live/work/learn/play?
Which way to you lean with these practices?
- Application Process/Paperwork vs. In-Person/Conversation
- Resume/Q&A vs. Prospect led Presentation
- HCareers/Monster vs. Hive Immersion
Hiring for hospitality is much harder than posting a job and hoping applicants find you. It takes months, perhaps years of cultivation and nurturing of the right audiences.
Sometimes you have budding artists on your team. Have you recognized them? Have you nurtured them? Do you have a good chance (or any chance) of keeping them?
- Explore/Harness Passion vs. Give Performance Evaluations
- Create Groups/Channels of Learning vs. Offer Training Classes
Sometimes you have people on your team that stand in the way…impede your progress and keep their colleagues from being successful artists. What are you doing to challenge them?
- Complain vs. Help
- Follow Instructions vs. Develop New Ideas
- Do their Job vs. Push the Boundaries
What are you doing to keep the passion and enthusiasm from escaping?
If you’ll agree that a primary goal of any company is to create an audience of loyal raving fans, then you might consider the following…
Simply making something better or cheaper isn’t effective any more. You’re not likely to own cheapest or best quality. But, you have a really good chance of being the best in your market at the delivery…the use of care, warmth and comfort as your edge. The best chance to accomplish this is to infuse the Art of Hospitality into everything you do.
I define the Art of Hospitality this way…give people more than they want, deliver it in a meaningful way, and show them you care. Please give attention to some key words…
- Give vs. Sell
- Meaningful vs. Average/Expected
- Show vs. Tell
Now, here’s the hardest and most important step to reaching your goal…hiring the artists to do the work. Recruiting and hiring an artist is different than hiring someone to complete tasks. The idea flow goes like this…
If we are here to deliver the Art of Hospitality, we require artists.
If we require artists, we don’t need people who just do jobs.
If being an artist requires passion and enthusiasm for something, we deserve to know if a person has it.
They should show us. Not just tell us in an interview.
Artists can’t wait to show you what they’ve done.
If a person is an artist, how will their art and passion help our organization move forward?
Bonus: Can they lead? Do they solve interesting problems…in an interesting way?
- Remarkable vs. Same/Fit-In
- Robin Williams Effect vs. Order Taker
Every time we have a job opening, we have a chance to hire someone remarkable…an artist. Sometimes, we settle for less. We shouldn’t…because it greatly limits our ability to achieve our goal.
- Easy vs. Hard
- Fill a Job vs. Sacrifice Short-Term Gain to Hold-Out for the Best
- Focus on Trainable (Function/Technical/Efficiency) vs. Non-Trainable (Personality/Caring/Enthusiasm/Passion/Delivery)
If you're hiring for personality, these are important questions to ask. In no particular order...
- What are you looking to do next, and why?
- What type of people (team) do you want to be with and why?
- What would you like to learn?
- Where do you want to live and why?
- What are you an expert on? What are you the best at?
- What is the worst decision you ever made?
- Describe your most remarkable project/achievement.
- How did you move your last organization forward? What did you do to move those around you forward?
- Imagine you had your own business...what would you do to improve service, improve morale, improve the bottom line, etc.?
- Describe a challenging problem you have helped solve.
- Describe a problem you foresaw, and how you helped avoid it.
I use these with all levels of jobs, from front line to senior management. As you can imagine, I receive all sorts of answers...none of them wrong. But, in the end, I know more about what makes a person tick, how they will fit in and whether or not they can help us move forward.
Hint...if you're submitting a cover letter/CV, do something remarkable and incorporate the answers into your presentation. You might just get noticed.
Let me know if you have some to add.
Your company wants you to perform at the top of your game. When you do, it greatly improves their chances of winning. But, why should you care? What's in it for you?
If you have 3 or so minutes to spare, here are my two cents on the matter...
Need to hire someone? Place an ad in the local paper, or a few regional or selected national rags. Post an entry on Monster, HCareers or yourindustryhere.com. Call a friend, and if you have some extra bucks, a recruiter.
Or, you can create a job specific billboard like this one and get everyone you know to spread the word. Most companies, department heads and HR departments won't take the time to be this creative. Good for you...less competition.
Lindsay Clark doesn't. You probably don't need one either...if you can capture your brand like this...
I've riffed about this before. Since then, I, was included in a group of business and HR experts who were invited to weigh-in on the subject by the Albany Times Union. I encourage you to read the interesting and varying perspectives (find them about halfway down the page on the Class conflict blog) on whether resumes remain effective. I found Brandon Mendleson's (the graduate student reporter who invited me) post a nice summary of the problem...and a pointer to the solution.
Static websites can't compete with 2.0 experiences in conveying what you might feel when using a product or service. Text doesn't work well without pictures. Sound and animation (video) brings a product to life. Why would you expect words in a word document to accurately portray your personal micro brand? To oversimplify, one dimensional tools don't work well in a three dimensional world...and, we're fast approaching the fourth dimension.
is that what people really want to know about you is in between the lines. They want the story that isn't obvious. They want the picture of you on top of the mountain or with your dog. They want to hear how you would react to a financial crisis or guest complaint. They want to read the last performance appraisal you wrote. They want to see what your passionate about...what makes you tick. How is a resume going to accomplish that?