Good times just have to be around the corner and, when they hit, your number-one need is going to be employees whom you can trust to get the job done well. But why settle for good when you can have extraordinary? The problem is finding them, of course. As it so happens, you can make that problem far less severe by taking some of the advice offered at a recent leadership conference summarized by Geoffrey James in Inc. Online.
Among your own employees and others' you know, who's extraordinary? And more to the point, why? What are they able to do that makes them so special? Which of their attributes make them that way? Are they perfectionists? Are they focused on pleasing others, including client representatives and coworkers? Are they good "schmoozers"? Is it all of the above and then some? Figure it out! Write it down. And then identify observational methods that help you spot the traits you're looking for. And be sure to also develop interview questions that may reveal what you need to know about a candidate's attributes that might comprise or at least lead to the creation of "extraordinary."
Develop a Candidate Pool
Mr. or Ms. Right is not likely to walk in the front door ten minutes after you tack a "position available" sign to it. That's why you should make it clear that your firm is always on the look-out for top talent. Use your website, social media, newsletter, blog, and person-to-person contact to encourage people to learn more about your company and possibly come in for an "informational interview" at any time, whether or not you have a position open. If the interview makes you believe that "this is a person I want on our team as soon as we have a position open," then you can bet the individual is extraordinary. Use the same types of tools - social media, et al. - to stay in touch with the person. Then, when the time is right....
Hire for Attitude
Experience can be overrated, especially because it may have involved methods you're not too keen on. Besides, experience may not be all that valuable when your work environment is subject to change or when the next few years may bring an individual opportunities that will require development of new skills. Developing new attitudes is far more difficult, of course, and it's attitude that truly makes people extraordinary. What is a person's attitude? Does the individual possess the traits you've already identified as extraordinary?
Ask Extraordinary Questions
You're not likely to learn a whole heckuva lot about a person's traits or find extraordinary candidates by asking ordinary questions during an interview. You need to ask questions that folks cannot easily prepare for and that reveal character. Here's an approach we really like: Rather than asking people about their greatest achievements, ask them to write down their two greatest achievements from grade school, two from high school, two from college, and two post-college, with at least one related to business. Then ask the candidate to identify the one that is the source of greatest satisfaction. This should give you a glimpse into what makes a prospective hire tick.
Look for Resiliency
No matter what the job, it will entail frustrations and disappointments. Extraordinary workers typically are able to learn from these and move forward. The not-so-extraordinary decide to move on. "What are some of the biggest disappointments you've ever experienced?" may be a good question, with follow-ups designed to indicate to what extent candidates were able to dust themselves off and move forward. "How'd you overcome that? How long did it take?"
Look for Self-Motivation
Extraordinary employees don't need constant motivation the way some top performers do. While, certainly, that doesn't mean you should withhold frequent "attaboys," it does mean that you shouldn't have to constantly oversee a person, hold the person's hand, and so on.
Speak with Real References
Plenty of people are likable and that trait can encourage others to give them a good reference. "She's just a heckuva great gal" is encouraging, of course, but how likely is it that a candidate would identify references who may say negative things? Don't limit your references to those identified on a candidate's resume. Dig about a bit. For example, if a person worked on a certain project whose design team included a person or two you know, call them and ask about interactions they had with the candidate. When you hear "Great. I wish I had an opening for him," then you know you have a winner, even if you don't happen to have a spot just now.