How to Hire Great People

As a leader, one of the most important things you can do is to hire good people. The right person can help you solve important problems, make the team more productive and perhaps grow into a future leader. Selecting the wrong person to join your team can cost your organization up to five times their annual compensation, not including the hidden costs of lower morale, team dysfunction and management exhaustion.

If you want to be sure to get hiring right, bring in an expert to help you.

When you work with professional recruiters, you benefit from their deep connections and experience at finding—and vetting—the best candidates. These five steps will help maximize the value that a recruiter can deliver and help you make great hires:

  1. Begin with the end in mind

For fans of Stephen Covey, you know this is Habit #2 of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In this case, the end goal is to hire someone who can do the job and who will be an asset to your team and your company. You will be living with this person on your team for years to come so you want to find the right person. Everything you do in the hiring process should be designed to achieve that goal.

The more you share with the recruiter about what you are looking for, the better chance they have of finding it. That may seem obvious, but many clients make the mistakes of allowing recruiters to talk only with their Human Resources team and providing them with only a position description. No matter how good your HR professionals are, they are no substitute for actually speaking with the hiring manager and at least some of the members of the team with whom the new hire will be working. As the key decision-maker, you should be part of the process from the beginning and should, if possible, invite the recruiter to your office to meet the whole team. The more visibility you give the recruiter into your own style, the team and your organization, the better they will understand the tangible and intangible aspects of the job—and the better candidates you will see.

  1. Let the recruiter help you define the role and the hiring process

Part of the value of using a professional recruiter is market knowledge and experience. Recruiters can help you design a position description that is tailored to attract the types of people you need. When discussing who you want to hire, share as much detail as possible about what this person will do and your expectations for them. Your recruiter will then help you translate that into technical requirements and "nice to haves."

Define the interview process up front. Ideally, there should be no more than two or three rounds of interviews. Who should the interviewers be and in what order? By defining the process clearly, you can schedule interviews more efficiently when the time comes. It also helps the recruiter to set the expectations of the candidates to avoid interview fatigue. You should be clear on who will make the final decision. For example, if the hire must be approved by the Board of Directors, build that approval into the overall process.

Of course, compensation is an important component of every job. Recruiters can provide you with data to help you set compensation for the role that is consistent with the market. If you can be flexible on compensation, let your recruiter know and then they can find you candidates at different price points. If your budget won't support the type of person you are looking for, a recruiter can help you understand what type of person you can attract within your budget or what sort of non-cash components you can add to the package to attract the kind of person you want.

  1. Communicate openly and often

The recruiter is the face of the company in the job market. Recruiting involves both buying and selling so you need to give your recruiter as much information as possible. The more you share about your company and your team, the better your recruiter can "sell" the job in the market. Divulge the bad news, too. Candidates will research your company before interviewing, so they will find anything that is public. If you brief your recruiter ahead of time, she can develop a strategy for explaining or putting difficult information in context to minimize any negative reaction on the part of candidates.

Once you start receiving candidate information, tell your recruiter what you like and don't like about each individual presented. That feedback allows your recruiter to fine tune the search to be a better "buyer" of talent for your team. The more detailed feedback you provide early in the process, the better the outcome will be.

  1. Keep the process moving

Good candidates have options. Candidates with excellent credentials are used to being received with enthusiasm and perhaps even being courted a little. If you are presented with candidates you like, you need to move forward as quickly as possible. Long delays in the recruiting process lead to candidates either withdrawing because they find something else or getting offended by the company's lack of enthusiasm about them.

  1. Remember, we are talking about people

Professional recruiters will find, vet and present you with candidates who meet your key criteria. Since you are dealing with people, however, they each come with their own personalities and communication styles.

Let your recruiter help you assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of the candidates and then put them in context. You may not find the candidate who has absolutely everything on your wish list, but you will certainly find someone who will get the work done well and make your team stronger.

Hiring the right people is one of the most important things you do as a leader. By working with a professional recruiter, you will significantly improve your chances of making a great hire. Keep these five tips in mind to get the most of out of your relationship with a recruiter.

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Barrett Avigdor is Managing Director for Latin America, a member of Major, Lindsey & Africa's In-House Practice Group, and based in the firm's San Diego office. A certified executive coach and trainer, Barrett has worked with attorneys around the world to help them enhance their professional performance and create a life they enjoy by utilizing emotional intelligence and their individual strengths. She is the co-author of the best-seller "What Happy Working Mothers Know" (Wiley 2009). Barrett can be reached at (858) 202-5359 and bavigdor@mlaglobal.com.

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Joanna Herman brings significant contacts and experience in the Southern California legal market to her practice, helping build and strengthen in-house legal departments. She works with clients locally and nationally. Joanna’s experience includes searches conducted in the pharmaceutical, financial services, aerospace, retail and transportation industries. She can be reached at (858) 202-5349 and jherman@mlaglobal.com.

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