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Questions to Consider When Recruiting and Preparing a New Team Member

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Dear BAM Mentor,

I am a co-owner in a BAM company (in Thailand) with my business partner and we are looking to add one other to our senior management team. What sort of characteristics or background should I be particularly looking for as I recruit? How should we be preparing them (or encouraging them to prepare)? No one person is going to be the complete package, so what should I focus on and is there anything you would consider a ‘deal breaker’?

~ Rookie Recruiter

Dear Rookie,

You are wise to seek advice on this topic. Although business is very complex, most things such as pricing, margins, overheads, etc. can be addressed and adjusted as required. However, if you bring the wrong person into the core management team it can be disastrous. It is similar to adding way too much salt to a soup – once it’s done, it’s hard to undo and you may have to start over.

Since it is usually so hard to find someone with the right Kingdom goals it is tempting to put on your rose colored glasses, find any reasonably close fitting candidate and then hope for the best. This is always risky.

Your question is rather vague, so the first thing to do is systematically address some fundamentals. Many failures in hiring are caused by a lack of proper communication from the hiring organization towards the person being hired. The following overall factors must be addressed: detailed role definition, relationships to existing and future staff, management style, authority boundaries, incentives, performance evaluation and termination conditions and procedures. In addition, some specific items about the candidate, including the questions you mention, need to be considered; characteristics and background, is this person currently in a similar position, suggested areas of preparation and “deal breakers”.

Here are some questions to think about for each of the areas outlined above:

Role Definition and Authority Boundaries
  • Clearly outline what the role boundaries within the company are. Who does what and why they are doing it?
  • What is expected of the new hire? Who and what they are responsible for?
  • Who reports to them and who do they report to? What reporting requirements are there?
  • How much time are they expected to be on the job?

Try and assess what the strengths and weaknesses of the individual are. Are they suited to one aspect of the position and not others? Can the role be altered to suit a candidate that is strong in some areas but not in others?

The new hires must be given the tools and authority to succeed in their new position. If the company CEO is a micro-manager the new hire will have very little chance of succeeding.  Evaluate this carefully and if necessary the existing CEO should acknowledge this and move towards a resolution of the problem.

Relationships and Management Style

This is a really important one and would be an area to get input from a previous employer, if at all possible. Keep the following in mind:

  • Is the new hire a “lone ranger” or a team player.
  • Are they proactive or reactionary? Ideally talk to previous employers about this.
  • Are they a “bully” or a “soft touch”?
  • How do they make decisions?
  • How do they communicate? Is everything always verbal with no accountability trail? (Watch out for this one!)

Existing staff may resent an outsider being brought in. Some communication to existing staff must be given as to why it was necessary to go outside of the organization to find someone to fill the position.

Incentives and Performance Evaluation

One common problem with any new hire is coming up with the proper incentives. This is especially difficult in cross-cultural situations. It is pretty well guaranteed that your expectations of performance don’t match those of the incoming hire. For example, in many developing economies the whole cultural fabric will work against individual responsibility and accountability. Get local advice on this.

Part of the new hire’s compensation should be based on whether or not they meet certain expectations and performance benchmarks (production rates, sales targets, profitability, etc.). Of course, you must clearly outline these expectations. Managing expectations is one of the CEO’s key job functions.

Termination Conditions

This is the yucky part of any CEO’s job. To make this as fair as possible the new hire must be aware of and acknowledge their performance requirements as outlined in the Role Definition.

The new hire must receive feedback on how they are doing – assuming you are tracking this, of course. This is impossible if you don’t have a reasonable system in place. Any problem areas must be addressed and recorded. The new hire must acknowledge that if the performance does not improve they will asked to leave.

Characteristics and Background

The following areas need to be investigated, some with prior employers. If the most recent employer cannot be queried since the person is still employed there then the employer prior to the current one must be contacted. If no character references or prior employer information is supplied then don’t waste your time with the candidate.

  • What is the candidate’s education and job history? Check these out to confirm them.
  • Overall, how did the potential hire do in their previous role? What did they actually do in the company? How did they treat their co-workers?
  • Is this person currently in or has ever held a similar position?

It is not uncommon for job candidates to exaggerate their experience to match what you are looking for. If it is claimed that they have relevant experience then probe this experience with a few technical questions about the anticipated role!

It is highly desirable, subject to subsequent verification, to hire someone already employed in a similar position you looking to fill. Those who are capable at a certain job are likely to already be employed in that field. If you are considering a currently unemployed person then make sure you understand the conditions of their prior dismissal or season of unemployment.

Areas of Preparation

Prior preparation is highly likely to be required unless you find the perfect candidate ( highly unlikely). Clearly state what they need to do and the milestones they need to pass prior to joining the company. Clearly state what they are expected to do after joining the company in terms of skills upgrading and who will pay for these. I once hired an accountant that promised to get her professional designation within three years of being hired. After she was hired she promptly “forgot” all about it. When reminded about her prior commitment she did accomplish it and has actually been grateful ever since because it allowed her to secure excellent subsequent positions.

Deal Breakers

This section has everything to do with expectations. If the candidate is worth their salt they will have expectations that likely exceed your ability to deliver on them. Examples of this are: expected salary and bonuses, amount of annual holidays, support staff available to them, hours of work, constraints on outside activities (e.g. they cannot work at two jobs), expected date of arrival on site, etc. Be ready with your initial thoughts on these topics. If the candidate is outstanding you may have to be flexible on these issues.

Moral issues are clearly deal breakers. Abuse by superiors is common in developing countries. The new national boss of a global Christian NGO in a developing country I was working in was having an affair with one of the secretaries. This is poison. This may only be detected by talking to prior employers or co-workers, a tough thing to uncover.

It Doesn’t Work Out

Finally, sometimes it simply doesn’t work out and you have to be emotionally ready for this.

No matter how much you research or prepare sometimes it simply do not work. For example, I once asked one of my mentors, who was the boss of a 5,000 person company, why I was having so little success in hiring sales persons. He responded that every company, his own included, only has a 50% success rate in hiring sales people. That was a revelation and an encouragement to me. It turns out that sales people are usually best at selling themselves to you. However, Sales is also one of the hardest jobs in the company, make no mistake about it. The same statistic, to some degree or another, applies to all hires. In our case, as Kingdom workers, spending time prayer for wisdom through the hiring process and for the right candidate is certainly appropriate.

~ Garry

More Responses on this topic:

From Robert:

Much of what you need to look for in a new senior management team member is what any business would look for: skill and experience that will add to the business. Every BAM business requires a complex set of skills and competencies and these are generally met by contributions from a number of different people working together. Be clear first on what skills the business needs, then on what skills you have in place. You can then see more clearly what skills you would want to bring in this new person you’re recruiting. The skills could be administrative, marketing and sales knowledge, financial expertise or skill regarding local language, culture and spiritual dynamics, just to name a few. But don’t expect anyone to bring everything. We all bring our weaknesses as well as our strengths to any position!

The real key to building any team is being able to work together so you can benefit from complementary strengths. You want to have people with very different outlooks and skills. A rich team brings together very different people and allows them to use their different strengths. But for this to work the team members need to be able to cooperate and benefit from their differences. [Read More…]

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