Ever pass by the little hole in the wall, unassuming restaurant only to find out once you sat down and indulged that it was truly a hidden gem?

Ever wonder in your efforts to not hire the wrong the person, that you may have passed over the right person?

Seven assumptions to avoid and questions to ask in your search for hidden gems of talent

  1.  They have too much or too little experience: It is easy to assume that a certain number of years are required to be competent in a particular role. Believing this helps reduce the number of candidates you choose to consider. The real question is what was learned. Instead of making this assumption, ask: “What have you learned from your experiences?”
  2. The person is too young or too old: Of course, you are not supposed to ask a person’s age. Yet many online applications require you to enter specific years you held jobs, leaving a pretty good basis for guessing someone’s age. Similarly, some applications require you to indicate when you graduated. You may overlook a gem if you assume they are too inexperienced or too set in their ways. You are also making an assumption about how long you expect an employee to be working at your company. What is important is what difference will they make in the time they are with you. Instead of guessing their age and making assumptions, ask: “What difference will you want to make in the next three years?”
  3. They will not be willing to get their hands dirty or they will be too stuck in the weeds: Consider what a person in the role who is consistently performing above average is doing. Chances are they demonstrate the ability to think big picture and to execute on the details. Ideally the person understands both the overall strategic direction of the company and how short-term activities connect to longer term strategies. Instead of assuming they are oriented one way or another, ask:“How did you connect what you did each day to the big picture?”
  4. The person will not accept the salary you plan to offer: Does it make since to pass on a quality product that is value priced so you are guaranteed to get a significant return on your investment? Do you really want someone who is driven more by money they receive than impact they achieve? Is your compensation philosophy purposefully priced to only afford average employees? Research has consistently shown that most employees are not driven primarily by pay. Do not get sidetracked by not being able to imagine why they would come or stay for the salary you intend to offer, ask: “If you had three offers how would you choose?”
  5. They will not fit the company’s culture: First of all be clear about what your company’s actual culture is rather than its aspirational one. Then be clear that your company’s culture is contributing to its sustainable top-level performance. Then consider whether there is value in and capability for managing the productive tension of having some diversity of thinking and styles of performance. Be willing to test your assumption that the “best” fit is obvious and that it is always smooth. Ask: “When you joined a new team what challenges did you have and what difference did you make?”
  6. Because they have not done it before they cannot do it or are not interested in trying: It makes sense to look at past performance as a predictor of future performance. It is also important to consider how any change in variables might influence a change in outcomes. Changes in personal and professional circumstances? A different style of leadership support? Joining a different team? A shift in the learning environment of the company? Avoid assuming that any number of changes might impact the probabilities of a person being successful in a new and/or unexpected role by asking: “What have you wanted to do but have not had a chance to try?”
  7. You are NOT biased: You have had your experiences about what seemed to be a successful profile. You have made your own calculations about what level of risk you want to take in recommending a candidate for the next step in the process. Ideally you know what your ‘preferences/biases/blind spots’ are. Ideally you appreciate the significant influence you have on the professional lives of candidates and the organizational capability of your company/client. Hopefully you are clear that your perspective can be biased. Instead of assuming you are always fair and objective, invite others, including the candidate to test your perspective. Ask: “What might I have overlooked or missed?”

So what hidden gems have you been passing by? What different question will you ask to find out what you might be missing? and get genuinely closer to sampling and assessing the talent you need?



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