Sunday, November 15, 2009

Five Ways to Avoid Hiring the Best Candidates

Hiring: even good managers are sometimes bad at it. Many seem to hate the process, and by extension, the candidates. And who can blame them? You have to kiss a lot of frogs during the recruitment process, and there's no guarantee of even a single prince at the end.  So why not make it easy on yourself?  Just scare away the best candidates - anybody left will be happy to accept pretty much any offer you're prepared to make!

Here are some ways to make sure that the best candidates will take a position with your competitors, and not with you:
  1. Create a vague job description. Like this one, which has been on Monster for months: and no wonder.  (Sorry if it's been taken down by the time you read this.) This type of bland, non-descriptive advertisement says to potential candidates that only the most desperate need apply. Highly qualified candidates will be much too selective to give that ad a second look.

  2. Don't prepare.  During the interview, ask questions that make it painfully obvious you have not reviewed your candidate's resume or cover letter. Even better, have no questions prepared at all: just wing it. Then have him hang out in the conference room for 20 minutes while you hunt around to see if anybody else - anybody - is available to speak with him. Message: this role isn't important enough for us to spend any time thinking about who will be filling it.

  3. Don't challenge them.  Only throw softballs during the interview.  After all, it's so darned uncomfortable for everyone when the candidate can't answer a question;  who wouldn't want to avoid that? Your candidate will understand completely: you're a leader who can't make a difficult or unpopular choice.

  4. Play "gotcha".  Instead of asking boring questions designed to illuminate his skills, experience, and values, spend an hour trying to stump your candidate.  If he seems to know a lot about something, keep digging until you turn up something he doesn't know (and that you probably don't know either). He'll recognize that you're the type of leader that needs to be the smartest person in the room.

  5. Make them wait.  Keep your candidate waiting in the lobby for half an hour past the scheduled interview time. Then make her wait after the interview to hear what her status is. Don't tell her when to expect a decision, or if you do, miss the deadline. Don't reply to her thank-you note.  This technique will send your candidate a clear signal that your employees come last when you are prioritizing your tasks for the day.
In all seriousness, great employees are still hard to find, even in tough economic times.  You'll work hard to recruit them, and you'll work hard to keep them. Accept that, and you will build a team whose success creates new rewards and new opportunities for them, and for you.


    Timothy Reed said...

    Excellent list.

    Tim said...

    I love the CTO ad---it says the candidate needs experience in the industry, but it doesn't tell you what industry it is!

    fred said...

    Great article. Reminds me of an interview where the guy talked about himself for the first 20 minutes then asked "How do you make a build versus buy decision?" After explaining how I would go about it, he said "The buy decision is always the right one."

    Okay .... so much for wanting to work there ....

    E. Scott Menter said...

    Oh, hey, that's a good one I'm going to add to the list next time: spend the whole time talking about yourself (and I'll also add: spend NO time talking about the position).

    jromine said...

    If you do hire someone, use Leave alone / Zap management so they'll quit.
    PS: +1 on Peopleware - excellent book.

    E. Scott Menter said...

    I should probably post something on the leave alone / zap thing -- it's a great point. It's been a long time since I've read 1 min mgr. On a related note, Peopleware points out that the worst thing you can do to an employee is to provide no feedback (or, as la/z implies, to lurk around until you have an opportunity to provide negative feedback.)