Category Archives: Brad Remillard

Traditional Job Descriptions Don’t Attract Top Talent: Define Success for Qualified Candidates

By Brad RemillardBrad Remillard

A recent research study identified the ten biggest mistakes companies make when hiring. The study included over 130 companies ranging in size from Fortune 500 to mid-size privately held organizations, a wide variety of industries, and more than 250 job openings.

The number one hiring mistake made was rather surprising and one rarely even considered by most companies. Yet, this one mistake impacts the whole hiring process, including how candidates are sourced, where to find candidates, compensation, performance management, advertising, position title and what questions should be asked during the interview. Everything seems to go sideways all because most companies fail to properly define the real job.

There are two reasons why traditional job descriptions are ineffective as a hiring tool. The first reason is traditional job descriptions describe the minimum qualifications required for the position such as the minimum duties, tasks and responsibilities. Add to that the minimum education required, minimal years of experience, and minimal skills, plus the endless list of behavioral traits: team player, a good communicator, self-motivated and big thinker.  Most job descriptions describe the least qualified person, not the real job.  This often leads to hiring the least qualified. The harsh reality is, when you define a job in mediocre terms, odds are you will attract and hire mediocre candidates.

The second reason is traditional job descriptions fail to focus on what defines success in this role. If you want to hire successful people, start by defining success, instead of the person. Most people would agree that a person who simply performs the duties and responsibilities outlined in traditional job descriptions would rarely be considered a success. In fact, most candidates would not last long in a company that is growing and outpacing the competition. Just because the person has the experience listed doesn’t mean they can deliver the desired results. Here’s the misnomer: past experiences are a good indicator of future performance. Past experience is actually a poor indicator of performance. Past performance is a better indicator, but the best indicator is their ability to deliver results in your company. After all, you are hiring for your company with your culture, your resources, your systems, your budget, your management style and your company’s values, not for what they did at a past company.

For example, how many times have you heard someone say: “We’re looking for a VP Operations” The reply is, “What are you looking for?” The typical answer is usually, “We need a person with 10 years experience, 5 years in our industry, team leader, strategic thinker, good communications and an MBA is preferred.” This is all about the person and nothing about what defines success in the role or what the person is expected to deliver once they come on board. It is naturally assumed if the person has the experience mentioned, they can deliver the expected results. It is our contention that experience has nothing to do with delivering results. Just because the person was a great VP of Operations at their last company, doesn’t mean they are the right VP of Operations for your company.

Instead of using the traditional job description, consider defining success in the role. Do this by creating a list of success factors. Success factors are simply the results you want this person to deliver, in order for you, the hiring manager, to consider this person a successful hire.

Take the example of a VP Operations, success factors would define exactly what the VP needs to deliver, usually within the next 12 to 18 months to be considered an outstanding hire.

For example, the success factors would read:

  • Within the first 30 days develop a plan of action that will improve on time deliveries from 85% to 96% and present the plan to the CEO.

  • Within 6 months, develop and begin implementing a vendor qualifications program that will insure zero defects and 100% on-time deliveries from vendors.

  • Within 9 months consolidate the operations of two plants and produce a cost savings of at least 15%.

Continue developing these success factors until there are 5 or 6 which clearly define what is expected of the candidate once they come on board.

Now when asked the question “What are you looking for?” The answer is, “We need someone who can improve on time deliveries to 96%, can implement a vendor qualifications program and consolidate operations with at least a 15% cost savings.” Instead of defining experience, start defining success in this role.

Now, find a person that can accomplish these success factors. When that happens, this person will have the right experience. It might be 5 years of experience, it could be 10 years of experience; it really doesn’t matter, as long as they can deliver the results.

Using the success factors as a hiring guide sets the stage for a successful hire. Instead of the traditional job description, the success factors clearly define expectations and let candidates know what is expected of them once they come on board. The success factors define success in the role, not minimum qualifications. After all, isn’t that what you really want to hire?

Brad Remillard is a speaker, author and trainer with more than thirty years of experience in hiring and recruiting. Through his corporate workshops and industry association speaking engagements he demonstrates how organizations can effectively attract, interview, hire and retain top talent. Brad is also the co-founder of Impact Hiring Solutions and co-author of, “You’re NOT the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent.”

Skills and Experiences Are Irrelevant When Hiring

By Brad RemillardBrad Remillard

A candidate’s ability to apply their skills is what counts

Just to clarify, the word is “irrelevant.”  It doesn’t read “not important.” There is a difference between something being relevant and being important. Of course, having the right skills and experiences are important to performing the job, just not relevant when hiring. Skills and experiences are simply the tools one brings to the job. It is one’s ability to use these tools effectively that counts.  Just because you have a hammer and saw in your garage, doesn’t make you a fine finish carpenter.

Since most people have been taught interviewing is about the candidate’s skills and experiences, the interviewer tends to ask a lot of questions about their past. For example, “What have you done in this area?” or “Have you ever done _____?”  Those trained in behavioral interviewing will take those same questions and convert them into asking for an example such as, “Give me an example where you have done X” or “Tell me about a time when you had X as an issue.”

All of this may be good to know, but the fact is you really don’t care about any of this. When a candidate shows up on Monday morning, you no longer care about all the things they have done. You only care about one thing, whether or not they can do the job you are hiring them to do. That is all you really care about. Nothing else matters anymore. They may have the best skills and all the right experiences, but if they can’t effectively apply them to do your job, then you really don’t care about their skills and experiences.

Have you ever hired a person that had all the right skills and experiences? They interviewed well, had all the right answers, their resume read like the job description, and after you hired them they fell flat on their face? This has happened to just about everyone who has ever hired.

Why does this happen? It’s usually because the person’s skills and experiences are not primary indicators of their ability to do your job. These are at best secondary indicators and more often than not, misleading indicators. Yet, these are the indicators that most hiring managers rely on.

Instead, focus the interview on the primary reason for interviewing which is, “Can they do your job?” The key to successful hiring is having a methodology that puts the candidate in the job BEFORE you hire them. It is not about determining if the candidate has the right tools. It is about determining if they can use those tools effectively to get your job done.

This is why behavioral interviewing often falls short. Behavioral interviewing was once a quantum leap forward in how interviewing was performed; however, it too has run its course. Great interviewing is more than getting examples of the past. It is about doing your job. The tag line for behavioral interviewing, “past performance is an indicator of future performance” isn’t always the case.

A good hiring methodology shifts the focus from the person’s skills and experiences to how they will use these to do your job. If they can’t use these effectively in your company and your position, then they may be a great person but they aren’t the right candidate. This is why a person with all of the right skills and experiences often falls flat on their face.

So how do you put the candidate in the job before you hire the person?

  • Stop asking questions that start with “have, what, have you, tell me about a time when, etc.” These are all fine to know but they should be used for probing after the example and not for the example. That is a huge difference. The famous, who, what, when, where and why questions are for probing deep and not for opening questions.

  • “How” questions should be used for the opening question. One of the biggest challenges facing hiring managers is getting them to shift to asking “How” questions. After that you can then begin probing with the five W’s. For example, “How would you decrease costs by 10%?” “How would you increase gross margins by X%?” “How would you go about implementing a complete systems upgrade of our ERP system?” “How would you increase market share in your territory?” Then probe deeply with the five W’s.

  • Now the interviewer is shifting the interview from skills and experiences to having the candidate explain how they would apply these to do the job. If the candidate can’t apply their skills and experiences in the new job, then one has to question whether or not they are the right person regardless of skills and experiences.

The reason most hiring processes fail is because it is easy for a candidate to talk about their skills and experiences. Some might even embellish in this area. It is significantly different to explain how they would apply those skills and experiences in your company, with your culture, your resources, your budget constraints and all the aspects that make your company unique from the company they are leaving or just left.

Brad Remillard is a speaker, author and trainer with more than thirty years of experience in hiring and recruiting. Through his corporate workshops and industry association speaking engagements he demonstrates how organizations can effectively attract, interview, hire and retain top talent. Brad is also the co-founder of Impact Hiring Solutions and co-author of, “You’re NOT the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent.”

Six Ways to Motivate Top Talent in De-Motivating Times

By Brad RemillardBrad Remillard

To retain your top talent it is absolutely critical to ensure they are motivated. In difficult times this is often not high on the priority list of managers or CEOs. Most people are working long hours and doing the job of two people, stress is at an all time high, fear of layoffs is a reality, salaries are frozen, pay cuts have been implemented and forget about any bonus. For many companies this is their current culture.

So how do you motivate your top talent to achieve the company’s goals?

How do you keep them from contacting recruiters?

How do you keep them passionate about coming to work?

How do you keep them engaged day after day?

The answer to all of these is “culture.” Even in difficult times top talent, by definition, will always rise to the occasion. They will always strive to be the best. If they don’t, they aren’t top talent. However, even top talent can burn out, get frustrated, not see the light at the end of the tunnel or wonder if they are really contributing.

It is the role of all CEOs and managers to ensure these things don’t happen. There seems to be a consistent theme as to what great managers do in difficult times to hold on to and even attract top talent.

The following are six areas managers must focus on to ensure they keep their top talent motivated:

1) Companies must have a performance based culture. Even in difficult times there must be clearly defined goals for the company. These goals must cascade down to your top talent. They must have quantifiable objectives that motivate them, so when reached, they feel a sense of accomplishment. Providing specific time based goals with achievable results clarifies exactly what is expected of your people. Your best talent will embrace the goals and not stop until they reach the goal. Employee engagement is critical to retaining your best people.

2) Dysfunctional culture. This is probably the biggest reason top talent gets nervous and begins to think outside your company. Do you know your company’s culture? Can you define it? Will your executive staff define it the same way? Will the in-the-trench worker bees define it the same way? If not, this is the time to begin working on it.

Then once the culture is well defined, do the behaviors match the culture? Do managers from the CEO on down demonstrate this culture day-to-day in how the deal with the employees, customers and vendors? You can’t claim to have a culture of teamwork if the manager’s idea of teamwork is, “As long as we do things my way, without any questions, you can be on my team.”

3) Respect and appreciation. This is probably the least expensive and least used method to motivate and retain top talent. Small things can make a big difference with top talent. Respecting their contributions, listening to them, including them in the decision making process, asking for their thoughts and ideas all make them feel respected and appreciated. Consider building a culture that respects your top talent so they feel appreciated. Top talent does not want to be taken for granted.

4) Consistent feedback. This could be considered a subset of number three, but more formal. This includes regular and structured 1-on-1 feedback sessions. Not standing in the hallway conversations, but actually sitting down and focusing on them. Giving them feedback, encouraging them, listening to what their needs are (even if you can’t meet them, just listening), taking an interest in their career and building a shared bond. This makes them feel their manager cares about them as a person, not just an employee.

5) Praise. You may have experienced a manager with this philosophy: “That is what they get paid for. Why should I thank them? They should thank me for having a job.” How did you like it? Compare that to a manager with this philosophy: “Thanks, I know it is just part of your job, but I appreciate the pride you take in your work. It helps everyone in the department.” How did you like that? A little praise goes a long way to motivate people. In difficult times when people are doing more than expected and yes maybe they should be glad to have a job, demonstrating appreciation will be returned when the economy turns and they don’t have to be working there any longer.

6) Education and Growth. Top talent insists on getting better. They know once their learning curve flattens out, future opportunities can become limited. Top talent does not like to have their growth potential limited. Giving your best people the opportunity to take some additional classes, lead a project outside their normal job, challenge them with new opportunities, give them a chance to serve on a cross functional team or take an on-line class will ensure they are becoming better. All these not only ensure your top talent is growing, but also makes them a more valuable employee.

Consider these six areas as a way to motivate your top talent. Your best people will appreciate this more than most managers realize. The increase in productivity by having motivated employees is the best ROI any company can receive.

Brad Remillard is a speaker, author and trainer with more than thirty years of experience in hiring and recruiting. Through his corporate workshops and industry association speaking engagements he demonstrates how organizations can effectively attract, interview, hire and retain top talent. Brad is also the co-founder of Impact Hiring Solutions and co-author of, “You’re NOT the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent.”

Two Reasons Interviewing Fails So Often: The Five Questions to Ask in an Interview

By Brad RemillardBrad Remillard

Do you have other people in your organization interview candidates that will end up working directly for you? Just about everyone answers “Yes” to this question. The follow up question to that is, “Have you ever sat in the interviews with these co-workers and assessed whether or not they are competent interviewers?”  Not co-interview with them, but specifically be there to assess their interviewing abilities. Most answer “No” to this question.

You are relying on their opinion to hire someone that will play a role in your success, yet you don’t even know if they are competent interviewers. So you cross your fingers and hope everything works out. Crossed fingers and hope make a poor hiring process.

Two reasons interviewing fails:

First and foremost are incompetent people conducting the interviews. This is by no means a knock on those people. The fact is, a few people are naturally good interviewers, just like only a few people are natural at music, sports, or math. However, most people are not good interviewers, just like most are not good at music, sports, or math. Most would be considered amateurs when it comes to interviewing. Do you want to have your success based on amateurs conducting the interviews?

The vast majority of people learn to interview from the people that interviewed them. Since that is true, then where did the people that interviewed them learn to interview from? You guessed it, from the people that interviewed them. And so it goes all the way back to Moses. This is not a training program.

Interviewing is a skill that needs to be developed and honed. Since very few people ever actually receive any training on how to properly interview, most just aren’t good at it. Most people have either had no training or it was one short class years ago and they’ve long forgotten what they learned.   How can anyone expect their managers to be competent interviewers? Skills need to be practiced or at least kept up to date to be effective. Asking the same questions you were asked 15 years ago in an interview is not up to date.

Lack of training and practice creates one major flaw which poor interviewers make over and over again. They don’t probe deeply enough into what the candidate tells them. The interviewer tends to just accept or reject what they are told. Few really probe for facts, time, data, outcomes, challenges, team issues, names, etc. They may ask one or two follow-up questions, but even these are pretty superficial. Teaching interviewers how to probe deeply is the biggest challenge to overcome when training people to interview. Not that the person doesn’t want to probe, they just don’t know how or they are uncomfortable asking these deep level of questions.

Secondly, vague questions equal vague hires. This is often because those in the second or third round of interviews really don’t understand the position. They interview every candidate much the same way regardless of position. It is the one size fits all interviewing syndrome.

Since the other interviewers don’t really know the details of the job, they ask vague and generic questions, just like they were asked way back when. The problem with this is that once the person comes on board the job expectations by their new manager are rarely vague and generic. Nobody has asked the probing question as to how the person will do the job once they come on board.

Can you guess what percentage of hiring managers actually review the details of the job description with the co-workers that will be interviewing the candidates? If you guessed less than 10%, you were correct.

So that means the other people interviewing simply assume they know what is important in the job, what specific issues need to be probed, and what questions they should ask to determine if the person is qualified for the job they themselves don’t even understand. Is it any wonder interviewing fails?

Interviewing doesn’t have to be all that complicated. It doesn’t have to be so sophisticated that a person needs to go through extensive training every time they have an interview. In fact, interviewing should be simple, thorough, and easy for everyone to understand.

Well-trained interviewers can get about 80% of the information they need to decide whether or not the person can do the job with just five questions and 6 words. That is it. If they can’t pass these five core questions, then all the other questions are irrelevant, so why ask them? In fact, for most hires at the manager level and higher, if the candidate can’t get past the first three, you should move on. The five questions are:

1) Give me an example where you demonstrated high initiative. Just about every position requires initiative. The degree of initiative may change based on the position, but if they don’t have it at the level you need, do you really need to continue?

2) Give me an example where you successfully executed on a critical project. If you have critical issues you need done and they can’t execute and get them done, you may not have the right person.

3) Give me an example where you lead a cross functional team on a complex project. Leadership is something managers must possess. Cross functional is important, because motivating people that one does not have authority over is just one difference between managing and leading.

4) Give me an example where you have done X in your current company. Aligning past experiences and accomplishments with regards to scope, size, and organization is important.

5) When you come on board how would you accomplish X within X period of time? Getting them to describe how they will do the job in your company, with your resources and your culture demonstrates their ability to adapt to your company.

Once the interviewer asks each of these questions, then simple probe deeply with who, what, when, where, why and how. Simply ask follow-up questions that start with one of these six words. If the candidate really did what they claim to have done they will be able to describe in great detail what they did. Probing deeply is what will separate those that did it, from those that claim they did it.

Brad Remillard is a speaker, author and trainer with more than thirty years of experience in hiring and recruiting. Through his corporate workshops and industry association speaking engagements he demonstrates how organizations can effectively attract, interview, hire and retain top talent. Brad is also the co-founder of Impact Hiring Solutions and co-author of, “You’re NOT the Person I Hired: A CEO’s Guide to Hiring Top Talent.”