Never hire someone without asking this

Published by rudy Date posted on May 2, 2016

COMMENTARY by Kraig Swensrud APRIL 3, 2016,

It shouldn’t be about filling specific job titles.

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you avoid hiring the wrong people?” is written by Kraig Swensrud, CMO of Campaign Monitor.

Hiring is the most important part of building a strong business, and should be treated with extreme rigor, both on the part of the company and the candidate. If it’s easy for someone to get a job with your company, you’re probably doing something wrong. In fact, it’s not unusual for a deliberate hiring process to feel a bit painful.

Here’s how I design the hiring process to find and retain the best people:

Evaluate their online portfolio

Creative professionals, like copywriters and web designers, share their portfolio of work the moment they apply for a job. But what about everyone else? I like to ask every candidate—regardless of the role they’re applying for—for their portfolio of work before the first interview. I usually ask them to send me five links that showcase their best work and to explain the story behind each project.

This pre-screening process is the first opportunity to see beyond the resumes, get insight into their character, and see their perspective of the world. Do they know how to sell themselves? Do they truly understand the industry? What problems have they solved, and how? If a candidate is thoughtful and deliberate in presenting their achievements, they rise above the competition from the start.

Give the best candidates a real-world business challenge

I believe that you hire the best people by putting them through a challenging series of interviews—and I don’t just mean asking tough questions. Candidates should meet with a broad group of colleagues and executives across departments. This is a great way to give current employees a stake in the hiring process, and their feedback will give you a good idea as to how the candidate will work with their key stakeholders.

If candidates make it past the interview stage, go a step further and ask them to deliver a presentation to your team. For example, I recommend taking a real-world business problem—one that you might be working on yourself—and ask them to articulate a business strategy. Invite them to come in and lead a discussion for an hour about their findings.

Even for some of the best and brightest, this can be daunting. As a result, many people get to this point and say, “I’m out.” But those who excel at this final step prove their tenacity and feel like they’ve accomplished something exceptional. And they know they’ll be working with other talented people who have accomplished the same.

Make sure your passions align

The people you hire need to be as dedicated as you are to your mission, your customers’ success, and the problem you’re solving. Use the extended interview process to explain the company vision and see if they buy in. Don’t just ask them why they’re excited about the opportunity. Ask what they would do differently if they were in your position.

I like to ask questions that I’m passionate about solving. I lead the marketing team, so I ask things like, “What do you think of our website? How about the competition—what do you think about how we’re positioning ourselves against them? What did we do wrong in our last press release?” The answers tell me a lot about the candidates’ points of view and critical-thinking skills, as well as their excitement about the work.

Don’t interview for a specific job title

It may seem counterintuitive, but I have found that building a strong team isn’t about filling specific job titles—it’s about finding amazing people and identifying unique qualities in candidates that can help the team and the company succeed. In fact, I no longer hire someone for a specific job title. I’ve found that great hires (and the best teammates) aren’t concerned about whether they’re a manager or a senior manager—they want to be excited and challenged.

For example, Campaign Monitor’s head of demand generation signed her original paperwork without knowing her job title. The company shaped the position over time to match her abilities and ambition. By intentionally leaving part of her title unwritten, she had immeasurable room for growth.

Hiring right is about much more than asking the right questions. It’s about taking the time to get to know people deeply, explore their passions as they relate to your company, and push people to expand what they think they’re capable of doing—and see who rises to the occasion.

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