Some Things Never Change…Part III.

S is for Superman

So… Joe was going to be the next superstar; a real player. Or maybe her name was Mary.

Incredible resume, impeccably dressed… and personable. Oh my… was she personable; what an interview!

In-depth knowledge of your business; thoughtful answers to every question… even the tough, abstract ones. Amazing. It was ‘the dance’.

Fast forward six months…

Question marks; second guesses. Not a horrible situation, mind you; just not the leadership that you wanted… not the leadership that you needed. What happened?

Well, the answer could lie in the first of the three principles that we’ve discussed over the past few days. After all, it’s easy to be distracted during that amazing ‘interview dance’. If so, take heart… the last time it happened, will be the last time it ever happens.

Starting today, we are going to greatly reduce our reliance on an ‘interview’ process, and focus instead on a ‘discovery’ process. We’re going to replace a set of subjective activities, with a set of significantly more objective ones. Remember principle number one: “Past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior”.

So let’s go; the next time you or your staff are tempted to schedule a round of in-person interviews with someone who looks super on paper, take a deep breath, and do this instead:

1) Call and have a two or three minute conversation with the individual. Two or three minutes… not five minutes, not ten minutes, not half an hour. Request references, lots of them. Personal and professional; with names, home phone, company, company phone, cell phone, and e-mail. Go back ten years.

NOTE: If they are unable to do this, it may tell you all you need to know. After all, we’re talking about leaders here.

2) Now, apply the first principle, “Past behavior is a good indicator of future behavior”. An applicant can tell you whatever they want about themselves, but they can’t change history. People leave tracks as they go through life; tracks that we can follow.

Take their list of contacts and plan a 20-30 minute conversation with each one. These are not your standard ‘reference checks’. That activity is useless…no one likes to give them… and many companies have a policy against them.

Instead, we will have deep conversations… off-sight and off-record if necessary. Look for characteristics of high integrity and competence. Listen. Be on the lookout for any hesitation,
ask for clarification… verify everything.

This principle is rooted in the truth that people tend to repeat behavior. You want to get this right, because who they are and what they’ve done is indicative of what you can expect going forward. People are products of their thoughts, their habits, and their associations… all of which are about to be involved in your business, and with your customers, should you bring them on board. Dig deep.

NOTE: Real leaders have earned the respect of others; there is no resistance to this step when we are speaking with leaders, about other leaders.

So… now we’re ready to bring them in for a personal interview… right?

3) Not yet; do this first. Armed with history, conduct the first and second interviews over the phone.

Phone interviews insure that you won’t be turned on or off by their appearance, or taken in by their body-language. You will be free to close your eyes and hear every word they say. The main purpose of the phone interview is to get a read on their personality, and how they may fit into your culture.

Wind it down to your top two candidates in this manner, and then bring in both for a final interview. If the “discovery” work is done well, you will rarely miss, regardless of which one you choose.

Of course, then the real work begins… as difficult as it is to find great leaders… it can be harder to keep them. That’s where the other two principles come in.



Initiate deep conversations with personal and professional references to determine issues of Character and Capability.

Telephone interviews allow you to hear without being visually distracted; use them to evaluate Personality and Culture fits.

Attracting great leaders is hard work; keeping them is harder.

A hiring success rate of 80-85% can be achieved over time, and will serve you and your organization well.


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