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How to Hire Employees Who Will Stay
The chemistry factor in hiring and how to sense it.
As a leader, hiring is one of the most important tasks you have on your shoulders, and it is crucial to find the right people, as this can have a significant impact on the success and growth of your team. However, the hiring process can be extremely time-consuming and sometimes frustrating.
Everytime you want to open a new position for your team, you have to:
📝 Create a position profile (or at least tweak a template you used before)
🔎 Dig into candidates that applied or were scouted by the HR department
📊 Evaluate profiles and decide who could be a potential good fit
🎙️ For those candidates who are suitable, go through the interview process (2-3 interviews in the best cases)
🎯 Check eventual code challenges or exercises you gave to the candidate
🔥 Finalize the hiring delivering an offer and getting the contract signed
While this process is often facilitated by good HR departments and Talent Acquisition Specialists, it still takes a lot of time and commitment.
In addition to this, some HR departments are required to meet some hiring standards in terms of time. If you consider that the average "time to fill" is 36 days and in these 36 days you have to squeeze all the steps I mentioned before.
That inevitably creates an unhealthy rush.
🏃♂️ The Risk of Rushing the Hiring Process
Rushing the hiring process is a common pitfall for many companies. However, this can lead to a number of negative consequences that can be bad for the organization in the long run. When companies make poor hiring decisions, it can be costly, both in terms of time and money.
According to a study by CareerBuilder, the average cost of a bad hire is $15k. The Undercover Recruiter reports that bad hires can cost up to $240k in expenses. These figures are significant and highlight the importance of taking the time to hire the right candidate.
While money is already concerning, in my opinion, there's an outcome that could be even worse: a poor hire can undermine team harmony, leading to the loss of more team members. The negative impact of a bad hire can be felt for months or even years and can take a significant toll on team morale and productivity.
⏱️ Dedicate Time to the Hiring Process
To avoid the potential negative outcomes described before, there are no shortcuts: you must give the right weight to the hiring process and prepare it properly.
As mentioned before everything starts from the position profile, which is your first selling point with any potential candidate. That's why even though it's fine to start from a template, you want to spend some time to customize it and make it attractive for the kind of person you would like to see becoming part of your team.
Another crucial aspect to ensure multiple points of view (but also a strong and unique cultural fit), is to involve multiple people in the hiring process, including other team members and managers.
🌟 Prioritize intangible qualities
For sure when you hire for a new position, skills are important. But, they are not everything.
To quote Simon Sinek:
You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude.
You can always teach skills.
Being fooled by technical skills, without considering poor or non-existent soft skills to support them, is a huge mistake. And I have a real-life example to share.
A few years ago, I helped a team leader hire a new engineer. We followed best practices such as creating a good position profile, scouting candidates with attention, and taking our time not to rush. During the interview process, we met a candidate with an impressive CV, and the technical aspects of the interview went pretty well. However, both of us were left with a strange feeling that we couldn't quite identify. We even conducted an additional interview, but the feeling persisted. Despite this, we decided to hire the candidate because of their technical skills.
Unfortunately, this decision turned out to be a terrible one. Although the first few months were fine, which contributed to making the situation even tougher, the strange feeling we had during the interview process eventually took shape. The new person we hired turned out to be arrogant and immature. It took months, if not more than a year, to mitigate the negative effects on the wider team and finally move on from this mistake.
The lesson learned? We were too focused on the candidate's technical skills and didn't pay enough attention to their intangible character traits.
💞 Building a relationship and feeling the chemistry
To quote Simon Sinek again, "Recruiting is like dating" (and in some cases, I'd say it's like speed dating!). When you need to bring a new individual into your team, you want to build a lasting relationship. Unfortunately, it's not always possible to go out with a candidate as Simon suggests, to have coffee and chat about non-work related stuff. This is even more true in remote environments. So you have to feel the chemistry.
🧪 Sensing Chemistry
Sensing chemistry is not something you learn from books. It's more like a superpower that grows with you and your experience. But there are a few tricks that I use to amplify it, and I'm going to share them with you.
👉 Take the candidate out of his comfort zone
Do you remember one of the last issues of this newsletter, when I wrote about the strategic use of misdirection in leadership? Well, this is a perfect example. You can use this technique to take the candidate out of their comfort zone, which is useful to see how they react. I'm not saying you have to make them feel bad; it's always important to make candidates you are hiring feel comfortable. This is more to surprise them and push them to be open.
What I usually do when I have a first interview with a candidate is to do exactly the opposite of what they would expect. Take the technical candidate example. They would expect to be asked technical questions, while at least in the first interview, this is something I don't usually do. I focus more on chatting about culture, their interests, what makes them happy, and so on. This is pretty useful to start sensing if there's chemistry or not.
👉 Ask the right questions
When it comes to questions to ask, well, there are no right or wrong questions. It's all about asking things that are not necessarily related to the job itself and that are helpful to bring to light traits of the candidate's personality that otherwise wouldn't stand out.
Let me give you some examples.
One of the first questions I always ask is: “What is your biggest weakness?” It could seem like a typical L1 HR question, but in the end, depending on the candidate's reaction, it says a lot about the person you have in front of you. If the candidate is unable to answer, that could mean that they're just shy or find it a stupid question. If the candidate answers and tells you a personal weakness, that could mean they're honest, transparent, and willing to build healthy relationships. In my case, that already means a good step in the chemistry I'm searching for. There are many other questions that you can ask that could help you build an idea of the profile you are interviewing.
Here are some more examples:
📌 What are some values that you prioritize in your life?
📌 What are some hobbies or interests you have?
📌 Tell me about a time when you had to apologize to someone. How did you approach the situation?
📌 What would you do if you were the last human on earth?
📌 What is something that you are passionate about but haven't had the opportunity to pursue yet?
📌 If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and why?
📌 What are some small things that can make your day better, and how do you incorporate them into your routine?
📌 If you could choose any job in the world, regardless of pay or qualifications, what would it be, and why?
While these questions may seem generic and not relevant, they can all provide insights into a candidate's personality, values, and motivations, which can help assess whether they would be a good fit for the team and the culture you have built. It's important to remember that the goal of the interview is to get to know the candidate, so asking open-ended questions and actively listening to their responses can help build a relationship and assess chemistry.
One last thing. One of the secrets to creating an immediate relationship is to ask these questions between the lines. So try to adapt and inject these questions into an informal conversation. Don't just take the list and ask.
👉 Don't fall into the bias
While chemistry is very powerful as a way to understand if you want to work and spend time with a person, you need to be careful not to fall into the affinity bias.
Affinity bias refers to our inclination to favor individuals who have similar interests, backgrounds, and experiences to our own. As a result, we tend to feel more at ease around people who share our similarities.
As we discussed earlier, the line between chemistry and affinity bias can be quite thin. Therefore, it's crucial to ask yourself some questions to avoid falling into the trap of bias:
❓Is the good chemistry between me and the candidate, or is it between the candidate and the team culture I've created?
❓ Am I experiencing good chemistry because I share similarities with the candidate, or is it because the candidate's qualities could benefit the team?
By reflecting on these questions, you can ensure that your assessment of chemistry is based on objective factors rather than unconscious bias.
🚀 Time to Feel Chemistry!
In conclusion, hiring is a complex process that requires effort and cannot be improvised. The most important aspects to consider are:
🏃♂️ No rush! Better to spend two additional months than suffer for a year or more
📝 Prepare and follow a good hiring plan
🌟 Don't be fooled by technical skills; prioritize soft and intangible ones
🧪 Try to sense chemistry
👉 Take the candidate out of their comfort zone (with a bit of tact)
👉 Ask meaningful questions
👉 Don't be biased by what is good for you
I know it seems like a lot, and probably it is, but it's just a matter of practice and experience. And yes, it's also an effort, but in the long term, having teammates who last, is one of the most valuable assets you can build as a leader!
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⌨️ Build a Brand New Commodore 64
If you are a nerd and old enough (like me), you probably know what a Commodore 64 is. It’s one of the first and most famous home computers ever built.
On my list of things to do during weekends, I have long wanted to buy an old Commodore 64 to show it to my son (nerds raising nerds!). Unfortunately, I haven't had the time to do it yet.
The Commodore 64 was discontinued in 1994 and since then, it has been impossible to find a 100% new "real" (non-emulation) replacement. You could go to eBay and buy one, hoping to find it working and at a decent price.
Last week, I stumbled upon a video of a guy who built a working C64 by using almost all new pieces of hardware, and I thought: that’s a perfect weekend project for our nerdy Hybrid Hackers!
I recognize that it’s a bit expensive to build, but it was too cool not to share it!
Check it out!
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