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How to Hire a Rock Star

July 21, 2009
by Tim Tolan
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You have an open requisition to hire technical talent for your IT organization. Now what? I recommend a process that will help you stack the deck every time to land the best candidate.

Defining the role This is critical. You can't possibly find the best talent if you don't clearly know the skills and profile of the person you are looking for. A detailed job description is something you need to be involved in drafting. If this candidate will be reporting to one of your subordinates, then that person also needs to be involved in defining the role.

Profiling and sourcing candidates This part of the search is usually performed by the search consultant (internal or external). Profiling should be targeted at individuals that have similar skills and titles as your ideal candidate. The detailed job description helps the search consultant narrow the field.

Interviewing This part of the search is critical. I recommend that the search consultant interview a candidate multiple times, both by telephone and in person. I also like video interviews, and this is a great alternative to spending travel dollars until you have a final slate. I like both situational and behavioral interviewing methods. Another option is group interviews where one person asks the questions while others can take notes to compare later. Topgrading by Brad Smart is a great book and has some wonderful tips and techniques on hiring methodologies. I look for image, energy level, spontaneity and communication skills, and try to gauge if the candidate is a good cultural fit. In many cases, cultural fit represents 50 percent or more of the decision.

Testing I like to “test” candidates on a number of fronts. In most cases, their technical skills can be measured most effectively by the hiring manager. I recommend someone on the interviewing team have the requisite skills to determine if the candidate(s) meet the technical requirements of the job, if the hiring manager is unable to check the box on aptitude. I also like to perform a personality test on each candidate. There are many “off-the-shelf” testing tools that are fairly accurate. Finally, I think it's important to test the candidates' written or presentation skills. Often we have clients that will ask the finalists to either complete a detailed questionnaire or give a presentation to the search committee.

References Although we are a retained search firm, I often recommend that hiring managers engage in checking one or two references on the candidate once they have narrowed the field. This is the time when you can uncover details and insights about background and prior performance. Find out what the candidate is really good at and what areas need work. This will help you manage and coach this new employee to become an outstanding member of your team.

Offer and acceptance Make sure you have someone on point that has the experience to present the offer. I like to present a verbal offer in advance of a written one to increase my closing odds. The person presenting the written offer needs to be in a position to coach the candidate, negotiate the terms of the offer and give advice on any potential counter-offer that might arise from their current employer. Then it's time to extend the offer, inform the candidate, send a welcome aboard gift, celebrate and move to the on-boarding phase (see the Career Paths column in the June issue of Healthcare Informatics).

Embracing these simple steps will go a long way to ensuring you get the right candidate every time.

Healthcare Informatics 2009 August;26(8):54

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