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Why You Need to Maintain Your Hiring Standard … Even When You’re Desperate

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I don’t know about you, but it feels harder than ever to find and hire great talent. It seems like everyone I wish I could hire is gainfully employed, well-paid, and fully engaged. I still have several open job postings from 2017.

This is undoubtedly the toughest hiring environment I’ve seen in my career.  I’m getting pretty desperate. I suspect you are too.

I see this issue impacting the managers around me. I can smell desperation in the air when we review our hiring plans. I catch subtle eye rolls when I ask about the status of recruiting. The quality of the candidates I’m seeing in final interviews is objectively lower than it used to be.

The pressure to hire has never been greater, and the availability of great candidates has never been lower. It’s a problem.

Today, I’m going to share four tips I use to ensure I don’t let desperation cloud my judgement. It’s the same advice I give to the managers on my team. I’ve found it very useful to make sure I don’t get tricked into hiring the wrong candidates just because I so desperately want them to be good.

It’s hard, seeing your team underwater, struggling under the weight of an ever-increasing workload, while you have 20 open positions to fill.

It’s painful, saying “no” to candidate after candidate when you know your team is falling further and further behind.

It hurts, to disappoint the managers on your team by pushing back on “ok” candidates, when you know how badly they want the position filled.

In times like these, when hiring is so tough, we need to add rigor to our recruitment process. If our emotions had their way, we’d hire anyone resembling a qualified candidate just to make some progress. So, we need to lean on structure and principles to help us make the right decisions in the face of such intense pressure.

Related: 4 Ways to Encourage Team Members to Tell You the Truth

Here are four tips that help me make solid hiring decisions, especially when I feel desperate. I rely on these to continue building a great team, even when the recruiting environment seems bleak. They help me double and triple check we’re hiring the right person, so we don’t inadvertently let emotions trick us into poor hiring decisions. I hope they are helpful to you.

Reward tough decisions

This one is critical if you manage other hiring managers. As much as you want to fill your open positions quickly, you cannot support hiring “so-so” candidates. There is nothing more important than building a high-quality team of amazing people. You can never let desperation trick you into hiring below your standard. As painful as it may feel to be short staffed, it is much more painful to be fully staffed with the wrong people. As leaders, we need to strike a fine balance between putting pressure on our team members to hire quickly, and insisting they hire only the highest quality candidates.

My advice to leaders is to constantly reinforce the need for high standards in hiring. Your team members need to know you support them, especially when they make a tough call to pass on an “ok” candidate. Your team members need your help to maintain the bar for quality. Whenever I get the chance, especially when I know managers on my team are feeling desperate, I make a point of recognizing them for upholding our high standard. It’s not always easy to do, when you’re feeling as desperate as they are, but your team and your company will thank you in the long run.

Add another check and balance

I often assign short projects to final stage candidates as a check and balance in my hiring process. It’s especially helpful when I know I’m feeling the pressure of a recruiting void. It’s an extra step that helps me gain a little more confidence in how a person will actually perform on the job. From a candidate’s perspective, this can sometimes feel like a burden – to be assigned work before even having the job, but I find it very effective to forecast how a personal will perform.

My recommendation to managers is to assign a 90-minute or two-hour project to all final stage candidates (usually no more than 2-3). Then invite the candidates to present their work to you as the last step in the hiring process. Most of the time, this extra step validates the decision you were already leaning towards. But sometimes, it will reveal a serious weakness you didn’t pick up on during the interview. It can save you (and the candidate) a lot of pain and heartache.

Doublecheck your forensic analysis

When I’m feeling the pressure to hire, I double down on the vetting of candidates. I review the resume like I’m a forensic detective. I search for red flags … anything that I might have missed through a cloud of desperation.

What companies have they worked for? Did they have great cultures or bad reputations?

How long have their tenures been? Do they hop from job to job? Did someone else value them enough to keep them for a long time?

Have they had promotions while at a company or have they only made vertical jumps by leaving?

Have they worked in a business model like yours? Will they give you scale or will you just have to spend more time managing them?

My advice to managers is to take one extra pass through resumes and perform some forensic analysis before hiring. It’s a great extra layer of security when hiring in desperate times.

Add a social encounter

When I’m hiring for a critical role, or if I’m not 100% sure about a candidate after the standard interview process has completed, I like to meet them socially. It’s an additional step in the hiring process but it can be exactly what you need to make a more confident hiring decision. I find a social encounter to be especially valuable when hiring senior level people, or anyone who will be a cultural leader in the organization.

We spend a lot of time testing for skills and competencies, and validating experience, but ultimately you need to enjoy working with a person for the relationship to be a success in the long run. A one-hour coffee or drink or meal, can give you one more window into the candidate, which can make all the difference in the world.

My advice to managers is to consider adding a social meeting to your process when you’re unsure about a candidate or feeling an unusual amount of pressure to fill a position. It will give you more confidence to make the right decision.

The war on talent has heated to unprecedented levels. Employers are pulling out all the stops to retain and engage their best people. The impact on hiring is being felt by all of us. Lately it feels harder than ever to find and hire amazing talent. You can go months and quarters without filling key positions. The team you have in place gets tired as you ask them to handle an unrealistic amount of work. The pressure we feel as hiring managers can lead us to make sub-optimal decisions because we’re desperate. When I’m feeling this way, I place additional rigor into my recruitment process to ensure I don’t let my emotions trick me into making bad hires. I hope these were helpful to you, and as always, I’d love to hear any tips that have worked for you.

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