How To Hire The Right Person Every Time

Finding Your PRIME Candidate

One of the parts that I love the most about being a leader is getting to interview prospective employees. Getting the right people on the right team is vital for success. Over the years, I’ve come up with some qualities that each of my best hires have possessed. You can use them to find your PRIME candidate.

via visitBerlin @ Flickr Creative Commons

via visitBerlin @ Flickr Creative Commons

As a leader, you should already know your strengths and weaknesses as an organization. So in moving forward with interviews, you should already have some specific questions ready to help you pull the evidence from your prospect that you need to know. Always write them down.

Second, use open ended questions. They will begin to tell you more if you leave the door open.

Additionally, you can find out a lot by just smiling and letting the person talk. I’m very comfortable with silence, but most people I interview aren’t. That doesn’t mean they’re not the right person. Everyone prospect is at least a tad nervous when they come into your office. Smiling will set them at ease, and the strategically placed moments of silence from you the interviewer will make them dig deeper and tell you more.

Next, in order to find your PRIME candidate, I’ve come up with an acronym to help you out. Here are the qualities that I look for in potential hires:

P – Personable. Does he/she have the type of personality that makes me feel confident? Do they make me feel at ease? If hired, this is someone you and your team will be working with daily. The question you must answer is whether or not you would LOVE to work with this person each day, not whether you could tolerate him/her.

The biggest principle to take away from this is that you as the interviewer are going to see the best in this person. And if you don’t feel comfortable, if there’s “something” just not feeling right on the inside, then this may not be the right person for your team.

R – Respected. I always call references. I’ve found that when I followed up with a previous employer, you can always tell how they actually felt about this person by the tone of their voice. I don’t just listen to what they had to say about this applicant, but how they said it.

I also follow up with my team. I discovered this the hard way when one hire just didn’t work out. After mutually agreed to move on, one of my employees came to me and said, “I wish you would have asked me about her before hand. I could have told you this was going to happen.” Point taken!

In some cases, not all, I’ve even asked team members to participate in the interviews. The feedback is always very helpful. Additionally when someone is hired, the team members who participated in the interviews with me are always quick to spread the word that we have a great person joining our staff. It evokes a lot of confidence in the new hire right off the bat.

I – Invested. I’ve never believed that an employee needs to live in our school’s community to be a great candidate. But I do believe he/she must be invested in the community in some way.  Without this, the possibility of the candidate moving on to find the next opportunity or greener grass is always in the back of everyone’s mind.

Questions like, “Do you plan to be involved in the community?” won’t tell you a thing. You must ask “How do you plan to be involved in our community?” and then listen. I’m usually looking for someone that is willing to bring their kids to our school, or someone that wants to get involved in extra-curriculars, someone that I see at ball games, etc.

“Actions prove who someone is. Talk just shows who they want to be.” 

M – Maleable. Are they willing to learn? What have they learned at their previous job? Do they have an idea of where they want to improve as a person and leader?

Maleable is a term used for working with metal. So the ideal candidate is someone who is firm in his/her beliefs, but also understands that he/she doesn’t have everything figured out yet.

Maleable also denotes that you can bend under pressure, but not break. I look for candidates who have faced adversity and were better for it.

E – Enthusiastic. You also have to love what you do. If I’m hiring you, I want to know that you beyond any shadow of a doubt want to be a part of this organization. It’s a covenant that I will give you my best and you will give me yours.

Enthusiasm involves passion. That if you were afforded this opportunity, you would go so far above and beyond to do your job that we would never once regret taking a chance on you.

But here’s the thing…

“Excitement is driven by the environment. Enthusiasm is driven by your heart.”

The Disqualifying Factors:

There are also qualities that will cause me to move on down the road and look for someone else. Again, these have just come from my experience, from my core values, and from being burned a few times by taking chances on people that had these qualities and things just did not work out.

Gossip. I simply won’t tolerate it because I’ve seen what it can do to destroy a team. If I catch wind that someone is a gossip, or if I pull up your social media accounts and see that you’re a pot-stirrer, I physically toss your application in the trash.

Untested. Understand that this does not mean “experience”. Some of the best hires I’ve seen had never had even a year’s experience in the position I was hiring them for. But they were able to tell me of hard times they faced either in life or their previous job. They were able to articulate how it challenged them, how they faced it, and what they learned.

Anytime I’ve taken a risk on someone that I wasn’t certain could handle the pressure, I’ve always ended up disappointed.

No Feedback From the Previous Employer. Isn’t no news supposed to be good news? Not in the case of references. One thing I want to stress to applicants is to make sure when you put someone’s name down on your resume, that they know you’ve done so.

One of my pet peeves is when a current employee puts me down as a reference and never tells me about it. Do they really think it’s professional that I find out about their job hunt from anyone but them? Many bosses, myself included, won’t even return calls or emails about a reference if they weren’t at least told about it beforehand. So please be professional and let your current employer know that he/she might be receiving calls from other employers.

Unmotivated. I’ve tried a few times to hire or transfer someone that seemed unmotivated. It’s never worked.

If you had a car that you had to push to work every morning and push back home at night, how long would it be before you understood that you’d be much better off to just junk the car and buy a new one?

This totally makes sense, right? But we can become too emotional at times when it comes to people. But the principle holds true that each employee must do his/her job in order for me and others to be able to do our own job. It takes more effort to move someone who isn’t motivated than it does to just cut ties and go a different direction.

QUESTION: What qualities do you look for in prospective hires? Are there any red flags that you watch for?

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