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Hire the Right People

Lynn looked like the perfect job candidate on paper. He checked all the boxes and had the skills and experience for the job. In fact, he was so perfect several members on the interview team made up their minds before they even interviewed him. None of the other applicants even came close.

His first month on the job seemed to confirm that Lynn was the right pick. But then the cracks started to show. Although he was knowledgeable, he had trouble getting along with peers. He was quick to blame and slow to take personal responsibility when something went wrong or when a deadline was missed. It seemed that the more pressure he was under, the more sarcastic he became. Worse, he was a chronic complainer and never missed an opportunity to talk negatively about people behind their backs. His teammates described him as “toxic", and his behaviors were dividing the team.

No amount of talent can make up for toxic behaviors. Period.

Great leaders are masters at getting their people strategy right because they recognize that a strong team is the path to results. This requires making your people strategy a top priority, coequal in importance with your business strategies and tactics.

Jim Collins in Good to Great provides a simple (but complete) formula for thinking about the challenge: Get the right people on the team. Get the right people in the right roles. Get the wrong people off the team. Ensure everyone is committed to being on the team. Communicate where the team is headed and how it is going to get there.

Building a high performing team starts with hiring the right people.

Note that the process Jim Collins outlines starts with getting the right people on the team. So how do you ensure the right people are on the team? The first step is to reassess your new hire criteria and interview process. To build a high performing team means having team members who can be trusted for both their character and competence. Most leaders get the competence piece right but fail to take steps to evaluate character.

The key to improving your hiring is asking behavioral based questions during the interview process to gain insight into how the candidate interacts as part of a team—this is where character is revealed. What follows are some open ended questions to improve your interviewing.

Sample interview questions for gaining insight into character:

  • Tell me about a time that you failed or fell short of expectations. What happened?

  • What are your core values? How do you live out those core values at work?

  • Think about the statement, “People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.” How have you demonstrated caring?

  • Tell me about a time when you knew you were right, and you believed everyone else was wrong. How did you handle that situation?

  • Describe a time when you let your emotions control your reaction and did something you later regretted. How did you handle it?

  • Tell me about a time when you made a personal sacrifice to help another person succeed. What happened?

The answers to these questions provide clues to a person’s character and how they interact with their work and others. Make these type of questions a standard part of the interview process and train every interviewer on the questions and how to listen for character clues. It will not guarantee every new hire is a perfect fit; however, it will significantly improve your averages.


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Team Trek is a world-class provider of culture transformation solutions, leadership development, and team building.


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