How to recruit great staff, the 4 factors for success

2 Businessmen, one jumping from block to larger block holding briefcase.

Recruiting the best people for your business goes hand in hand with running a successful business. There are other factors in play, but recruitment is one of the most important and also one you can control the most. Given how effective integral recruitment is to the success of a business, it’s surprising to see that often, it isn’t the top priority for CEOs. It seems, as companies tend to get larger, the CEO appears to become further and further removed from the hiring process. In most blue chips the recruitment function reports to a head of HR who in turn reports to an HR Director, and the Director may not even sit on the board. The CEO probably talks about the importance of having the right people, but recruitment departments are often measured on non-quality-based measures such as the time and cost to recruit. Time and money are obviously key drivers within the recruitment process, but the most important factor to consider is overall value, as this brings quality into the equation.

Most people prioritise intelligence, experience and if they have done before, whereas it can be argued this is an ineffective approach. Here are four factors for successful hiring:

1. Hire people that want to succeed in your business

Motivation and a drive to succeed are often far better indicators of long-term potential success in a position, rather than academic results and previous experience. If a person’s drive is not aligned with their success-measure, it’s incredibly unlikely that person will ever be motivated in their position.

Good academic results are an indicator that a person is driven. However, they only prove they possess drive to achieve good academic results (for which the motivations might be parental approval or peer competition). Hire someone with a first from Oxbridge for a job they do not enjoy and it will mean little.  If a person is ‘too intelligent’ or overqualified for a position, they are likely to underperform and become unmotivated as the job probably won’t be challenging them.

A common assumption is that experience is the most important factor to take into account when it comes to recruitment. Obviously, to recruit within a technical area, a minimum level of technical knowledge and skills is required by a candidate, but an alternative approach is to hire a less experienced person with a larger amount of drive and hunger for success, than a more experienced person.

2. Look for people with a growth mindset

The growth mindset is best expressed as a willingness to experiment, fail and learn from your mistakes. Regarding failure as a learning opportunity rather than an embarrassment is critical to rapid development and the likelihood of someone using their initiative. The people that learn to ski the first are generally the ones that fall over the most often when learning!

Unsurprisingly the drive to do this comes from having the right motivations. Unfortunately, the issue is clouded by meta-motivations (“I’d like to be the sort of person that would like to learn the piano”) which means that people often talk a good game in interviews (see below).

NASA asks people in interviews to discuss in detail a time that they made a serious mistake and what they learned from it. People with the growth mindset will be happy to do this, people without will generally try to excuse the failure by blaming external factors (or won’t have a failure story at all). You can’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t accept you are making them.

3. Don’t rely on interviews: introduce practical tests and competency-based hiring

Interviews are a very poor way of choosing people and companies tend to hire confident people in preference to capable ones and there’s a bias to hire people similar to the hiring manager.  Assessment should, therefore, be made more practical. This is easier for some jobs those others, but the very least you should be doing is a competency-based interview: very specific questions designed to work out if they have the actual skills (and motivations) you need. Make sure you ask them for specific examples where they demonstrated that they had the skills you want and applied them in a real-life example.

4. It’s a two-way process

Think carefully about the candidate experience – what is it like applying to you? Is it a simple and transparent process, do they get good feedback? Make sure you put as much effort into selling your company as a place to work as you do to giving people hurdles to get over and create the interest first of all. Finally, be prepared to move fast for the right people. The best people will have many options; make sure you have your offer to them first. You will not look desperate if you have followed a rigorous selection procedure.