By Dan Riordan of ThinkHR
Company success depends on hiring the right employees, so an executive-level focus on recruiting and hiring is critical at any organization. Hiring the wrong person will not only disrupt the cultural harmony of a company, but it can also lead to major operational and financial setbacks. Research has shown that on average, companies spend more than on $10,000 per hire and take 51 days to fill an open position. Making the wrong hire has real, material impacts on an organization.
(Photo courtesy of Dan Riordan)
These days one frequently hears about companies “hiring for values” and/or “cultural fit.” But, it’s comparatively rare for an organization to describe how it actually determines whether a candidate embodies their values or why those values matter. In my experience, this lack of strategy leads to poor hiring decisions.
At ThinkHR, our strategy for making the right hires (and avoiding the pitfalls of making the bad ones) is centered on measuring each candidate against our company’s three core values: love, innovation and passion. As the company’s senior operating executive, I make it a point to be intentional about these values when I interview each candidate for cultural fit. My process relies on questions that reveal whether a candidate truly exhibits the love, innovation and passion that we’re looking for, as opposed to just asking them outright. Your chances of determining a good cultural fit are measurably higher when you understand what makes a person tick.
Being intentional with your hiring process will help you find the right people, but it can also be applied as a best-practice for other business decisions. Taking this process of intentionally outlining your goals and values and applying it to all aspects of your business will lead to additional focus and efficiency.
While specific values vary per company, the following will give you a sense of how ThinkHR uses a very intentional, strategic approach to making successful hires based on our core values:
Value #1: Love
Love manifests itself in various ways, but it ultimately boils down to finding people who care about others. It can mean the difference between a workforce that helps one another or a toxic work environment. We want to cultivate a company culture that is conducive to love, where caring about each other and our clients is encouraged.
During the interview process, I often screen candidates on their inclination toward love by giving them the following scenario: You have $500 to run a company event. What would you do with that money and why? Candidate X suggests using the money to hold a team offsite at a fancy golf club. Candidate Y prefers doing an in-house activity that gets everyone in the office to interact. The better fit is candidate Y, who exhibits an innate interest in getting to know other people, regardless if there’s an opportunity to do something more extravagant.
Value #2: Innovation
When we say we want people who are “innovative,” what we really mean is that we seek candidates who think about things critically and can find new ways to achieve business goals. All too often, people take orders from authority figures without a second thought. But curiosity begets innovation, a value that drives change in your personal life and in business.
One corporate example that I like to share is of a young manager (let’s call him Sam) who was hired by a company that puts on mud runs to increase the number of registrants from 10 thousand to 25 thousand. Sam racked his brain trying to figure out how to achieve this significant increase, but after thinking further about it he decided to ask his superiors a simple question: “Why are we trying to double registrants?” From that simple question, Sam learned that the primarily goal was to increase revenue.
With that knowledge, he was then able to come up with a new and ultimately better solution: focus on existing, happy customers and find new ways to engage with them. Sam helped the team sell more apparel, travel packages and gear to the existing registrants. As a result of Sam’s intellectual curiosity and creative approach to increasing revenue, the company grew at a far higher rate than was originally imagined. Innovation is fueled by curiosity, which was the element that got Sam to think bigger than the problem at hand, opening the door to unforeseen growth opportunities.
Examples of innovative thinking and intellectual curiosity aren’t exclusive to the workplace. About a year ago, I was shocked to learn from my doctor that my blood pressure was too high. I regularly exercised, so I was baffled by how this could have happened. Confused by this turn of events, I went home and spent hours watching online videos of experts explaining the causes of high blood pressure. This led me to discover that my high blood pressure was due to my diet, not my exercise habits. Once I understood what had to change, I transformed my diet, which allowed me to lose 40 pounds and lowered my blood pressure. I feel better now than ever, and it’s all because I had the intellectual curiosity to dive into the why behind my high blood pressure.
When we screen candidates at ThinkHR, we therefore always ask them to share a situation from the last 12 months when they had the curiosity to think and do something different. Candidates that aren’t afraid to question the order of things, whether in their personal or professional lives, will embody the essential intellectual curiosity needed to drive innovation into our business.
Value #3: Passion
The ideal candidates that we look for also need to have a high level of passion, which means that they fully commit and care about what they do. People characterize passion when they have a driving determination to seize a task and “own it” right through to the end, bringing accountability and results to a business. We seek team members that won’t make excuses on why something didn’t get done, but instead we look for those who can move obstacles and roadblocks to overcome challenges. It’s the difference between someone who is “just doing their job” and someone who takes it to a whole new level because they care.
For an example of passion, let’s circle back to Sam. He exhibited his passion by being unafraid to take on the challenge of doubling the revenue for the mud run company, regardless of the potential roadblocks ahead. In this case, Sam’s intellectual curiosity and passionate personality worked together to full effect. Sam wouldn’t have made the effort to think of innovative new ways to drive revenue if he hadn’t cared deeply about making a difference.
One way that I determine whether candidates are passionate is by asking them to share a big issue in their field that they’d like to solve, and if so, how and why. Candidates that respond with creative insights into their field are more likely to inhabit passion, simply because they care enough to look at their day-to-day work through a larger lens and find meaning in what they’re doing. An additional question that probes passion is asking candidates about times when they have been the most and least satisfied at their current job. This can reveal what candidates’ value in a job, and, more importantly, how passion plays a role in helping them overcome the aspects that they find least satisfactory.
After asking questions that reveal candidates’ love, intellectual curiosity and passion, I ask one final question that brings to light how they envision their future in our company. I ask the following: Imagine yourself four years from now and you have taken this job. Why was this job the best decision you made? What’s next? Candidates that are compatible with your company’s values and can paint a clear picture of how they will fit in down the line are candidates worth investing in.
Whatever value that you’re interviewing candidates for, what ultimately matters is being intentional about how you hire. Using an intentional approach that discovers and brings out these values will not only help you find the best match for your company, but it will also help you define the kind of business you want to lead.
Dan Riordan is President and COO of ThinkHR, where he oversees the company’s day-to-day operations, product development and service delivery. Prior to ThinkHR, Dan spent 25 years in a variety of leadership positions—from operations, manufacturing and global expansion to sales and marketing — with Level 5 Networks, Optranet, Skystream Networks, C-Cube Microsystems and Sierra SemiConductor.
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.