For employers, standing out in today’s labor market is tough. Really tough. But if you want to improve your organization’s employee hiring and retention outcomes, you already have the secret ingredient.
I’ll give you a hint: It starts with an “m” and ends with an “anagers.”
During our recent Manager Development Best Practices webinar, presenters Sandy Zannino and Stephen J. Roppolo spoke at length about why managers are crucial during hiring. They also each offered practical takeaways for organizations looking to optimize their hiring practices. Let’s take a look at what Sandy and Steve had to say.*
*(Note that the following has been edited for clarity and does not constitute legal advice whatsoever.)
Sandy Zannino on Hiring Best Practices for Managers
More and more companies are training their managers to spot and hire top talent. In fact, I’m a broad reevaluation of hiring tactics across the board. It’s clearly a timely issue with our changing workforce. I recently read an article that revealed that talent shortage is a top concern for most organizations in 2019. We have really, really tight labor market, and that’s created fierce competition.
Think about it from a candidate’s perspective. Jobseekers have multiple opportunities. There are more openings than there are people to fill them. On top of that, boomers retiring and millennials and members of Generation Z are filling the workforce—and these generations have completely different motivations. They want to know what their career path is. They want to know how you, as their new employer, are going to help them get there.
For years, many employers have engaged in what I call “post and pray”—they post a job opening and pray that this rock star résumé comes in. Those days are over.
These days, organizations need to strategize their talent acquisition by training managers to follow certain hiring and workforce engagement practices. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Create a workplace of distinction and promote it. Develop your workplace into an environment in which people want to work and use social media to brand and promote that. Keep in mind that millennials and Generation Z are tech-savvy. They’re all over social media. Your company needs to be all over social media, too. Managers should pay attention to what’s being said about your company on social.
2. Ensure that your hiring managers are well-versed in company benefits and the employee value proposition. This is definitely a “thing” these days. We often talk about the customer value proposition but candidates are also looking for value—not just monetary value—in your organization.
3. Develop a hiring process and train your managers on it. Find a process that works for your organization, put that process down in writing, and have every hiring manager follow and stick to it. Process can seem like a difficult or unnecessary step, because slow things down and managers often feel a sense of urgency in hiring—especially in industries such as automotive. Managers want that warm body in the service bay or somebody on the sales floor. But when managers hire based on a feeling rather than interview answers, the organization isn’t necessarily getting to those top performers. Instead, you need to train managers dig deeper during the interview process. There are so many different ways to interview candidates. I’m a big proponent of behavioral interviewing, for instance, as past performance is often the best indicator of future performance.
4. Teach managers to maintain an open mind and look out for “fit.” Keep in mind that past career performance might not tell the whole story. The best candidates aren’t always the most experienced. Sometimes, it’s better to prioritize fit, whether that means cultural fit or finding someone who has the skill set and competencies that align with your organizational goals and core values. Design your interview questions to help managers uncover candidates’ skills and characteristics. I follow Dave Anderson’s guidance and interview looking for traits like talent, attitude, character, drive, and energy. If I’m looking for drive, for example, I’ll ask a candidate to tell me about a recent accomplishment they’re very proud of. I want to know why they’re proud of it, as well as what obstacles they overcame to be able to achieve that goal.
5. Make sure managers take notes and prepare for interviews ahead of time. Managers should never ad-lib the process. They need to prepare prior to every interview—for at least half an hour to 45 minutes. They also need to take copious notes, and remember to be objective about those notes. As an aside—and this is an important aside—do not take your notes on the application or on the résumé. I using a separate notepad where you can jot your impressions down. You don’t want your notes to become part of the employee file.
Steve Roppolo on How Managers Can Mitigate Legal Risks During Hiring
I completely agree with Sandy that one of the biggest dangers is the tension between finding a warm body and following smart, careful hiring practices. The processes Sandy mentioned are important not only for getting the right person in the job, but also for keeping the employer out of trouble.
Too many times, employers will say, “We just a service technician, so we didn’t do a background check— and, oh yeah, he didn’t actually fill out the employment application.” Or, “Oh, that’s right—we forgot to give him a drug test.”
Don’t cut these corners. If you then find that there are reasons not to bring that person on—whether it’s the results of a background check, a drug test, or otherwise—it can be much more difficult to let the person go at that point, because they’ve relied upon your providing them the job without that information.
Here are a few more tips for managers to keep your organization safe during hiring:
1. Consider the potential risk of a discrimination claim from the very beginning. Think carefully about how you attract and recruit applicants. If you advertise on job boards or use Monster.com, for instance, you need to think about the messaging you use in your external communications. Are we talking about the “kind” of workplace that they’re going to enter, or about the “kind” of people we want to see come in the door? If so, we want to make sure we communicate that in a way that does not otherwise create potential risk with respect to discrimination.
For example, you don’t want to say in an external posting that “we want young, energetic people to work as salespeople.” That’s a huge mistake. It’s an obvious age discrimination problem that you’ve essentially admitted from the start. Likewise, you don’t want to say anything in the advertisement that suggests you only want people who are past child-bearing years, or someone who is not going to be reliant upon daycare. All of these things are, first of all, unnecessary in that external communication, but they’re also not appropriate questions for managers to ask during an interview.
2. Be careful of relying too heavily on word-of-mouth to fill positions. When you do that, you’ll often wind up getting applicants who look a lot like the people you already have. That can be a recipe for non-diverse workforce, which could be problematic if you’re later trying to show that you are an equal opportunity employer.
3. Develop detailed applications and use them consistently. Don’t allow your managers to accept résumés in lieu of applications. Make sure the application is filled out by everyone, because the document contains important legal aspects. Some applications include language that makes it clear that individuals are applying to become at-will employees. That means employees can be terminated for any reason. Make sure you don’t skip over that step.
Moreover, a résumé is what the applicant wants you to know. The application is what you want to know about the applicant. Those are not always the same thing. Applicants may puff up their résumés or leave things out. The application is designed to obtain specific information from people and to do so in an organized manner so that the employer is protected later on. If you learn a specific statement an employee made in the application is false, for example, and it turns out that that’s the reason for termination, you have good grounds to get rid of the employee.
4. Ask the right questions (and avoid the wrong ones). As I mentioned earlier, employers should not include in advertising any questions that might suggest that the organization interested in a candidate’s age, national origin, race, or other protected characteristics. Managers should also avoid asking questions about these characteristics during the interview. You can usually infer someone’s age by virtue of other aspects of the employment application, if for whatever reason that’s relevant for the hiring consideration. However, the only information your organization should be interested in finding out is whether the person can do the job. Any questions related to identify can raise flags for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or another party in court.
Be careful about asking about prior arrests and criminal convictions. If you must ask these kinds of questions, limit the inquiry to convictions only. Also, make sure you use language that clarifies that if an applicant answers “yes” to the question about whether they’ve been convicted that they understand that the fact will not disqualify them from employment in your organization. Keep in mind that some jurisdictions now have what’s called a “ban the box” ordinance. Many municipalities—and even some states—prohibit the question in an effort to minimize the possibility an applicant gets excluded due to a criminal conviction.
5. Take the time to conduct background checks. Background checks are important, but that doesn’t mean they need to be time-consuming. It can be as simple as seeing whether the jobs an applicant put on their application check out. You might be amazed how many times people simply make up things on applications, assuming the employer will never verify the details.
For more guidance on manager hiring and development, be sure to check out our recent blog series on the topic. You can also watch Manager Development Best Practices any time, on demand.