There is nothing more basic to consistent business success than a well-conceived and executed hiring process.
Yet, there are very few "hiring masters" in our industry.
Rather, many of us hire in a rushed and reactive mode, impulsively bringing "warm bodies" into our organizations - people who commonly lack the critical skills and character traits necessary to serve our ambitions and goals.
Having erred through indiscriminate recruiting in this manner, we often compound the sin by failing to make the "cut or keep" decision at 90 or 120 days that would rectify the matter.
Consequently, in my travels and work with dealerships across North America, it's not uncommon for me to discover between 25%-35% of all employees in a given department languishing in mediocrity and creating extraordinary drag on company performance.
Let me be absolutely clear on this point. I'm not referring here to folks who are under-performing due to lack of training, inadequate technological support, self-defeating compensation, ill-conceived work schedules, poorly designed work space, inefficient work processes or questionable management practices.
I'm saying that even in a great work environment, I often find that a quarter to a third of the employees are simply the wrong people for the job.
In this brief discussion, it's not possible to present a comprehensive treatment on what a world class hiring process might look like, but I'd like to offer the one bit of advice most likely to lead you toward developing such a process on your own.
Hire character as well as skill and talent. We are often not sufficiently demanding. We ought to be hiring as if we're trying to get to the World Series. We ought to be asking ourselves if every candidate has that kind of drive, focus, dedication, team spirit.
If we're doubtful, we should pass. We must be willing to talk to more people to fill a single position if necessary. Better to leave it empty than to fill it with a new problem.
So, before you even place an ad or put the word on the street, create a "character description" to accompany your job description. Bring other bright people into the discussion with you. There are certain qualities or characteristics you'll want in everyone you hire, such as honesty, integrity, maturity.
By the same token, each job is likely to have its own unique requirements. High performance positions require different qualities than, say, Office or Parts.
Excellent salespeople are optimistic, gregarious, and resilient in the face of rejection. Excellent technicians are highly focused, methodical and detail-oriented. Both call for self-direction, a constant desire to improve and high levels of sustainable energy.
Management candidates should possess a good balance between drive and the nurturing impulse. Rather than fitting into the old paradigm of "control freak", they should have a strong desire to coach, empower and grow others.
We should no longer tolerate the temperamental machinations that were acceptable in past managers. People given to psychological and verbal abuse stifle performance and make us more vulnerable to workers' compensation claims and lawsuits alleging emotional distress.
Having established a clear character description, you must be committed to multiple in-depth interviews, formal personality and job skill assessments, complete reference checks and drug testing.
At least two managers should talk to each candidate as well as two of their prospective peers. The four should then meet and compare notes and impressions in a full and open exchange. All of this can effectively be accomplished in a single day.
Finally, it should be made clear to every new-hire that they are on probation till the "cut or keep" decision is made at 90 or 120 days. This is where so many organizations fail. They never make the decision.
So, if you want to be a cut above the competition, follow the old Nike slogan: Just do it.
Get together with the original interview team and anyone else who has been able to regularly observe the individual and make the tough call. Few people can "be on their best behavior" for three or four months.
The person's true character should have emerged by now. My experience is that if you observe a deficiency in ethics, responsibility, cooperation, drive or focus, you're better off cutting your losses, even with a highly skilled person. Otherwise, you're cultivating a self-defeating "high-maintenance" situation or "prima donna syndrome".
Remember, letting someone go doesn't necessarily taint his or her character as a human being. It merely says they don't fit with your specific needs. Albert Einstein was a brilliant fellow with great humanity, but he probably couldn't have sold a car.
Remember, the standard is, "Can this person really help us get to the World Series?" Be rigorous in your application of this question and you'll soon become a hiring master.
Bob Kamm is a popular industry speaker and senior consultant for The Nickelsen Group of Richfield, Ohio.