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45 effective ways for Hiring Smart

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How to predict winners & losers in the incredibly expensive people-reading game

45 effective ways for Hiring Smart - How to predict winners & losers in the incredibly expensive people-reading game   

One Sentence Summary: Making a hiring error can be very expensive – around two and a half times the salary of the person hired if you catch the error six months later – and the success of a company depends on the quality of people in it; this book recommends 45 methods, tricks and stratagems for hiring as efficiently as possible.

By Dr Pierre Mornell, 240 pages, published in 2001.

Summary and Book Report:

First of all, this book looks good. Really. It is printed on really nice glossy paper, on big, comfortable pages with large text, and sprinkled with enlightening illustrations that support the text effectively :

  Stategies after the inteview

Strategies after the interview

This book is a long way down my crazy PMBA project list – in 38th place actually – but I just won a big contract with a client and I needed to hire a new employee. So I seized this opportunity to combine two useful efforts by reading this book a little earlier than anticipated and applying the knowledge to this situation. No doubt I will “jump around” in the list again from time to time according to my personal needs or those of my business.

Dr Pierre Mornell, a Training Psychiatrist, shares with us his 15 years of experience as a recruitment consultant in the form of 45 methods divided into 5 sections. According to him, numerous companies are not sufficiently prepared for recruiting and do not dedicate enough resource to it. Further, the top ten American teaching institutions for business affairs do not provide any training on evaluation, selection and recruitment of personnel to key positions: “MBA students are offered exactly the opposite […] How to interview successfully in order to get the most coveted jobs.” His 45 strategies are not strict rules, but rather ways of improving the recruitment process, of reducing uncertainty, and getting the time on your side that is necessary to go through the legal process. Here is a summary of each of them, chapter by chapter. I have highlighted the ones that I think are most relevant to my small business.

  • Chapter 1: Pre-Interview Strategies

To save time and be efficient you must eliminate 80% of candidates without even meeting them. This avoids unnecessary interviews. Additionally, the candidate prepares himself to the greatest extent possible for the interview: “Surprising” him with one of these original methods can tell you a lot about him.

    1. Make Phone Contact with the candidate

      This will tell you a lot about him: see if it is easy to set up an appointment with him, if he returns your call quickly or calls you at the required time, does he speak well, and finally what first impression did he leave you with.

    2. Ask for a letter and a resume

      This may seem obvious, and it is. Other than the basic information, examine whether the presentation is neat or sloppy, whether there are spelling or typing mistakes, etc. In particular, verify the facts on the resume: according to a study conducted by a specialist agency, 65% of executives lie about their university degree, 45% lie about the actual responsibilities of their position and 42% lie about their salary.

    3. Give an assignement before the interview

      Asking the candidate to visit a store, a warehouse or a website and asking him for an account with suggestions for improvement can be a great way to test his skills.

    4. Walk around the office when the candidate arrives

      This strategy is for medium or large companies: a tour of my office, or those of my employees, would be very quick! But the idea is to make the candidate feel comfortable by making small talk and offering him coffee, then inviting him for a tour of your facility to introduce him to employees and see how he interacts with them. If you have anything unusual or interesting on the premises, it might be interesting to see whether or not the candidate asks questions about it, demonstrating whether or not he shows signs of being curious.

    5. Read resume in teams if possible

      Reading resumes with a group of 4 or 5 employees, especially for management positions, can be a very enriching, even a surprising experience: one of your employees could turn out to be a great resume decoder…

    6. Cast the widest net possible

      The more candidates you have, the better your chances of hiring the Best ONE. Therefore, cast a wide net, and use all the means at your disposal to make your job offer known: agencies, websites (including your company intranet), your network, etc.

    7. Use caution around any big change

      In the same way that you would never ask a 100 meter sprinter to run a 1500 meter race, it is important to be aware of whether the candidate comes from a large company and wants to work in a small or medium one, or completely change industries.

    8. Rethink the position before the interview

      If you are filling an existing position, this is an ideal time to take a look at the position and subsequently modify it.

    9. Use pre-interview tips in combinations

      Combine the above techniques to create a funnel for eliminating inadequate candidates at each level.

    10. Conduct a brief pre-interview interview

      Make a first meeting short when possible. Especially when the candidate’s resume is impressive but the candidate himself is not.

  • Chapter 2: Strategies during the Interview

It is important to conduct an interview. It’s the most important part of the hiring process, and it can be deceptive – the ones that get the job are sometimes those that succeeded in this phase rather than the best qualified. What’s more, actors can easily fool you. The author also recommends keeping the candidate as long as possible because a candidate on the defensive is on his best behavior but when he is detained, he lets his defenses down. This allows you to judge the man rather than the image.

    1. Trust your instincts – Chemistry is crucial

      Your mind is made up during the first few minutes of the interview. If you are not “feeling it,” trust your intuition.

    2. Look for passionnate candidate

      A passionate candidate loves his work. He puts all his effort and energy into it.

    3. Ask all yours questions at once

      This might be surprising but it has three advantages: 1) once you have asked a question, the ball is in the candidate’s court. It’s his job to sell himself the best he can by responding to all your questions. This helps you avoid the most common interview pitfalls: 2) talking too much and, 3) not listening enough.

    4. Have fun during the interview

      Ask two or three seemingly naïve questions, like inspector Colombo, then sit back and watch carefully. These questions could be “Are you lucky?”, “Are you curious?”.
      “What will you get up to that will make me lose money?” 

    5. Assign a mini-project to the finalists

      About three quarters of the way into the interview, assign the candidate a task or a project that will allow you to test his skills and break the monotony of the interview.  I personally find this type of test very effective: the last time I hired someone, I had a very nice candidate who, on paper, had all the qualifications necessary for the position and who told me about some impressive achievements.  When it was time for the test (which required debugging an application), he was simply the worst of all those I interviewed.  It showed me right away that he wasn’t qualified for the job in spite of all the brilliant things he told me about.

    6. Seek closure by annoncing the five-minute warning

      Saying "we have five minutes left" at the end of the interview encourages the candidate to reveal something important before this short time elapses.

    7. Watch for innapropriate behavior

      Pay attention to the behavior quirks, gestures and verbal idiosyncrasies of the candidate: these might be an indication of alcohol or drug use.

    8. Identify strenghts and weakness

      Beware of a candidate’s strengths: when pushed to the limits, these can become weaknesses. An individual who has a strong need to be recognized and accepted could appear to be genuinely charming, sociable and hard-working; but under pressure, he could have a tendency to pursue his popularity more than results and over-sell himself.

    9. Pick a subject where you are the expert

      Discuss a subject that you are an expert in to see how the candidate handles himself. 

    10. Takes notes during the interview

      Take a sheet of paper on which you have drawn a straight line, dividing it in two: on the right hand side, write what the candidate says and, on the left, what you think. Very useful for deciding between several candidates. 

    11. Interview in teams for top candidates

      It is not a commonly used method, but definitely very effective, especially for management positions.  

    12. Ask for a legal release

      Our society is more and more litigation oriented. It is important to protect yourself thoroughly. Think of all the clauses that you should include in the work contract, make him sign the company rules, the procedure manual. Don’t hesitate to consult a lawyer. 

    13. Throw a few curveballs at the end of the interview

      Surprise the candidate at the end of the interview. Accompany him to his car: you can learn much about someone from examining their vehicle. Take advantage of the situation to ask him a surprise question like "What is your weakest area?" or "What makes you angry?"

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  • Chapter 3 : Post-Interview Strategies

Perhaps you think the game is over after the interview, but you are only at half time. Continuing to watch the candidate after the interview allows you to learn several things about him.

    1. Ask a return call from the candidate
      Before the candidate leaves the office, ask him to call you early on Monday. According to the author about 15% of candidates don’t call! 
    2. Assign a take-home project
      Show him a project that you are in the middle of studying and ask him what he thinks. I have also sent a surprise technical question via email to candidates asking them to find a quick and effective solution. Only one person understood my question and sent me a satisfactory solution. That’s the one I hired because it was one more positive in addition to all the others. 
    3. Travel with finalists for executive positions
      A trip lets you learn an enormous amount about a person. Even a simple car ride, especially if he’s the one driving.
    4. Meet the Spouse or significant others
      For management positions, meeting the spouse can give you a better idea of the candidate’s personality, and let you find out if the spouse is an asset or an obstacle for him in his work. 
    5. Put potential problems on the table

      Plan on a final interview to resolve any potential problems. Rather than finding out if problems will come up, it’s more a matter of finding out what the problems will be.

    6. Use an intuitive person in the selection process
      Ask an intuitive person from among your personal or professional acquaintances to help you evaluate the candidates. You might be surprised by what they are able to tell you.  
    7. Consider what psychological tests have to offer

      Use tests, but be aware that the skill of the person who evaluates the results is even more important than the type of test used. 

    8. Experiment with handwriting analysis

      When it comes to psychological tests, you should call in an expert in the matter. However, I don’t agree with the author on this point:  countless studies have shown the futility and inefficiency of handwriting analysis. This Wikipedia article, loaded with numerous references could not be clearer on the subject : 

Many studies have been conducted to assess its effectiveness to predict personality and job performance. Recent studies testing the validity of using handwriting for predicting personality traits have been consistently negative [50], the results of most of the recent surveys on the ability for graphology to access personality and job performance have been negative as well [51]. Here are some of the specific results for the personality tests:

  • Graphologists were unable to predict scores on the Eysenck personality questionnaire using writing samples from the same people[2]
  • Graphologists were unable to predict scores on the Myers-Briggs test using writing samples from the same people[52]
  • Using meta-analysis drawn from over 200 studies, graphologists were generally unable to predict any kind of personality trait on any personality test[53]

Graphologists didn’t do better to assess job performance:

  • Professional graphologists using handwriting analysis were just as ineffective as lay people at predicting performance[54]
  • A broad literature screen done by King and Koehler confirmed dozens of studies showing the mechanical aspects of graphology (slant, slope, etc.) are essentially worthless predictors of job performance.[51]

The best way to summarize the appeal that graphology has despite the complete lack of empirical evidence has been put up by Dr Rowan Bayne, a British psychologist who wrote several studies on graphology: "It’s very seductive because at a very crude level someone who is neat and well behaved tends to have neat handwriting" and then added that the practice was "useless… absolutely hopeless".[55]. It is also worth noting that the British Psychological Society for example ranks graphology alongside astrology – giving them both "zero validity"[55].

Chapter 4 : Checking References

Checking a candidate’s references properly does not just mean checking to see if they are real, but also having access to numerous witnesses of his strengths and weaknesses.  

    1. Ask the references to call you back 

      Call the references at a time when you know you will not catch the actual person, like lunch time for example. Then you can leave a message with the front desk, a secretary or an answering machine something like this: "Mr or Ms X has applied for the position of Y in our company. I would be grateful if you would call me back if this candidate is exceptional." Between a candidate where 2 out of 10 people call back, and one where 8 out of 10 call back, the information conveyed is not the same… and yet not one derogatory word has been spoken. Perfectly legal.  

    2. Network up the chain of command

      It is better to go directly to God than to the saints. Try to reach the highest ranking individual with respect to the candidate.  

    3. Use the Internet as a resource

      You can find out a lot of information these days by doing an internet seach on the candidate’s name.  Do it.
    4. Perform due diligence for all finalists 

      I’s best to do a background investigation as in depth as possible, under a lawyer’s supervision, using information that is publicly available (financial records, real estate, driving record, court reports, tribunals, etc.) 

    5. Ask the candidate : "What will I hear ?"

      Ask the candidate: "In your opinion, will I hear positive or negative things about you when I talk to your references?" A practical and fair question. The candidate can then forewarn his network of your future calls. 

    6. Devise a phone reference checklist

      Prepare a list of simple questions. The author offers many examples, such as "Can the candidate perform the required tasks?" or "On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you rate the candidate’s intelligence?" 

    7. Meet references for the finalists

      You will get more complete and more honest information if you establish direct contact with the reference. If possible, stop off to meet a key person in their office and discuss the candidate with them. 

  • Chapter 5 : Final Strategies

Some strategies to save you time. 

    1. Invest in People, not ideas

      The secret to success in business lies more in human resources than in money, technology or ideas.  

    2. Find someone to trust

      Sometimes certain leaders are surrounded by people who hide bad news from them, often they mean well or they are afraid to let the truth be known. Find someone you can trust who can warn you of impending doom.

    3. Follow the three cardinal rules

      When it comes time to evaluate the candidate, ask yourself these 3 basic questions:

      • Honesty?
      • Clean criminal record? Alcoholism?
      • Good physical condition?
    4. Ask yourself these ten questions

      Some personal questions to help you better evaluate the candidates.  

    5. Use yourself as a test case with experts

      Try yourself out as a virtual candidate on the experts that you are going to ask to help you with the hiring.    

    6. Suggest a trial run when possible

      If you can’t decide on a candidate, give him an important task to do or ask him to do a job as a test.

    7. Design your own hiring system

      The author recommends a framework to select the best techniques. I was inspired to create a summary sheet of the principal points which I used when I hired someone recently.

The author then recommends a box of tools for the 10 stages of the interview, a list of many questions to ask during the interview, puzzles that test a candidate’s creative intelligence, and a list of 10 surprise questions.

Book Critique:

I don’t actually agree with all the techniques recommended by Doctor Pierre Mornell. Handwriting analysis is an antiquated technique which is relegated to the same rank as astrology or to a lecture on entrails by the scientific community, and the author seems at times somewhat expeditious in the examples that he gives throughout the book.  Some candidates were denied positions for reasons that seem frivolous to me.

Never-the-less, the variety of recommended methods, the wealth of examples, means everyone will get something from it, whether you work in a small, medium or large company. What’s more, the cost of the book (€ 26.60) and the time necessary to read it (2 to 4 hours) are negligible in comparison to the amount of time lost that a single failed hire could cost you. If this book only transforms one failed hire into a successful hire, you will have a return on your investment that could be the best deal in the galaxy, at the very least πŸ˜‰ . You would be wrong to deprive yourself.

Strong Points:

  • Numerous methods, tricks, tips and strategies simply explained.
  • Superb book with lots of illustrations.
  • A table at the end of the book summarizes all the points (in a different way than I have done here for you! πŸ˜‰ )
  • From experience, I know many heads of small and medium companies who are helpless when confronted with having to hire: this book will help them enormously. 
  • Negligible cost with respect to the potential gain.  

Weak Points:

  • Sometimes doubtful methods (handwriting analysis)
  • The author seems a little expeditious in some of his hiring. 

My score : Rating white RatingwhiteRatingwhiteRatingwhiterating

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PMBA Challenge:

Cost of the book: € 26,60
Total cost of the project: 47,16
Number of pages: 225
Total number of pages: 600
Time to read the book: 2H20
Time to write this article: 3 H
Total time for the project: 16H50

Buy this book on Amazon :

3 Comments

  1. Stefan T says:

    Hi,

    I follow with interest your blog. You’re doing a great job. What I don’t understand is the table at the end. In this particular example, you wrote: “Time to read the book: 2H20” for a 600 page book. That’s nearly 2,5 pages/minute. I find it almost impossible (although I read also “10 days to faster reading”). I’m confused. Could you explain a little bit?

    Regards,
    Stefan

  2. Hello Stefan,

    Thanks for following me πŸ˜‰
    600 pages is actually the total number of pages i read since the begginning of the project. The number of pages of the book is 225, so this mean that i read it at a rate of 83 pages/hour.
    It’s pretty coherent, because this book is print in HUGE letters, with a lot of pictures. With a more condensed book like “Blue Ocean Strategy”, my rate was 66 pages/hour.

  3. […] of all, this book is nice. Not only from the point of view of pure aesthetic, like 45 Effective Ways to Recruit Wisely, but because of all the books I have read for my Personal MBA Challenge this is the one that best […]

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