December 07, 2021

#014: How To Better Assess Your Talent

Written by George Randle

The quest to find top talent is harder now more than ever. So how can you assess the talents that you’re hiring? In this episode, George Randle is here to remind you that attracting the right people starts even before you get the resume. It’s all about relationships and processes. Although hiring is competitive now, you can’t sacrifice quality for quick results and risk creating more problems in the future.  Learn all about how to develop a high-quality talent acquisition process by tuning in to this episode.

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How To Better Assess Your Talent

We’ve got a short segment coming up for you about how to assess your talent better. I know everybody is trying to hire fast, but you can’t let quality go by the wayside, so you’re kicking the can down the road for problems. Stand by as we tell you the best ways to assess your talent.

We’re going to do something a little bit different. We’re going to do a couple of short episodes for our readers. We’ve been out there on LinkedIn posting some polls, trying to find out the most pressing issues. We’ve got a number of them. We thought we would do them in short segments. We’re going to talk about how to assess better your talent and the business that we’re in, executive search, management consulting, and talking about the number of companies. We certainly understand that some companies are experiencing the Great Resignation and having a hard time holding onto people dealing with COVID and the new variant that’s made the news.

We understand that hiring and keeping talent have a lot of sides to it, but we’re going to cover how to better assess your talent. In our book, The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent. One of the things that we talk about most is the talent mindset. The true belief is that your human capital is the one competitive advantage that you can hope to achieve and maintain over your competition. Part of that talent mindset is treating your human capital with the same discipline, rigor, and focus that you do with your financial capital. Assessing talent starts with that mindset.

For you hiring managers, talent acquisition, HR professionals and all those people that we’re so blessed to have read this episode, it isn’t about filling a role or getting a butt in a seat. I’ll be the first person to tell you. There have been plenty of times where I’ve been working on large talent acquisition engagements. We got brought to the table as usual, much later than I would have liked. There was a rush to get people in to meet the contract deadlines. Your host, whose teams have hired over 80,000 people, been there, done that, been to that rodeo, got knocked off the horse and made every single mistake that you can make.

Relationships

I understand the pressures to get people in the seats quickly, but moving quickly doesn’t mean that you should ever sacrifice quality, and I’ll be the first person to tell you. When you sacrifice quality, you solved a problem for today by getting a butt in a seat, but you’ve created a number of issues down the road for yourself. If you’re one of those great people who have that talent mindset and truly understand that talent is everything and are passionate about it, it might surprise you that my first tip is going to be to the talent acquisition and hiring managers out there because it all starts with that relationship.

When talent acquisition professionals understand the team dynamic, hiring manager, revenue, service, product, any and all deliverables that hiring manager and hiring manager’s boss has, when you understand all of those things, build a solid relationship with that team and truly understand the team dynamic, you’re way ahead of the game. I went onto Indeed and pulled up business analyst.

TWP 14 | Assess Your Talent

The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent

The number of jobs that came up was astronomical. When I went into the first ten, I had no idea how those companies are attracting talent, which we’re going to talk about in another episode, how to attract talent better. Let’s assume that you’ve got a posting out there. That posting should have started with the talent mindset and the relationship between the hiring manager and talent acquisition professional. Understanding and clearly defining what success looks like in those teams. I’ve coached my fair share of veterans as they transition.

Two of the things that I teach them are one, there are objective requirements. Those objective requirements are a point of fact. You have a bachelor’s degree. You won this award. You have this certification. You were ranked number 1 out of 50. You brought in 25% more revenue than expected. You reduced the time to delivery of your software by three months. Simple points of fact that you usually see as a bullet on a resume. In about 95% of the companies I’ve spoken with, maybe even a little higher, unfortunately, that’s the end of the discussion when defining success for the role.

They are only looking at objective requirements. As I tell the veterans, part two of having a list of your objective requirements to sell yourself is understanding the subjective or attributes that we talked about in The Talent War. What are those attributes inside of you as a veteran that allowed you to accomplish many of the bullets and achievements that you’ve listed as bullets on your resume? When I talked to recruiters throughout my career, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what years of experience, programming languages, business processes, certifications, or degrees.

It doesn’t take much to figure that out. That’s about a two-minute conversation at best. If you have a great relationship between the hiring manager and recruiter and the recruiter understands what keeps the hiring manager and team up at night, what their stressors are for deliverables, be that customer service, sales, R&D, product management, and product delivery. It could be in finance and accounting. What deadlines and reports? What systems are they trying to integrate and review?

Success Profile

Understanding the dynamics of what that team is operating in, then you understand the objective requirements, but the most important piece is getting into the subjective. Those attributes are predictive of success. Most people that I’ve worked with don’t take time to articulate those. They’ll say, “I want a team player, somebody who is collaborative and a great time manager.” The list of gray matter attributes is endless. Going back to that relationship between the hiring manager and recruiter, when you look across the team, who is the most successful team?

Who has gotten promoted and exceeded the expectations in their role? It doesn’t have to be the same role. What have those people done that sets them apart? It’s not the experience. Is it their drive, resiliency or a person who, no matter what you give them, is a true problem solver, something we call effective intelligence? It is delivering solutions where no previous book solution existed. Do they need that effective intelligence, relationship building and communication skills or curiosity? How high of resilient do they need to be? Is this an area where you’re going to be told no a thousand times?

Is it where your product’s going to fail 2, 3 or 4 times and you’ve got to find solutions? Resiliency counts. You have to sit down as a talent acquisition consultant and hiring manager and say, “I’m looking across the team. This is what success looks like.” Eventually, for the absolute best teams, after you’ve done this a number of times, the hiring manager can point to a person on their team and say, “Let’s clone that person.” In that relationship, you know exactly what the success profile is. The recruiter and hiring manager should create a success profile.

Once you know what those attributes are, you can ask questions to determine to what degree they have that attribute. You can start looking for hints and signs of those many attributes and evaluating their answers. If it were as simple as going off objective requirements, you wouldn’t need to interview. You could simply look at the accomplishments on the resume, the objective requirements 2 to 3 to 15 plus years of experience, this many years with this system, software and hardware, then you could hire the person.

Your human capital is the one competitive advantage that you can hope to achieve and maintain over your competition. Click To Tweet

We all know we would never do that in a million years, yet companies do that time and time again. They don’t put the work in on the front end. Developing the relationship between the people responsible for sourcing, attracting and bringing that talent in the door to be assessed and ultimately hired, move to something else, or they’re not a fit, there has to be a great relationship between the two entities. If you don’t have that, the rest of the tips I’m going to give you aren’t going to matter.

If that recruiter knows that team and leader knows the team inside and out, you should come up with the success attributes. By all means, pick up our book if you’d like to know the nine attributes. Mike and I wrote about this in our book. We’re not completely discounting experience, but that’s table stakes. It’s not something they either have or don’t have but you should make that range of objective requirements as big as possible to attract the biggest pool. It’s more important than ever that you attract the widest band and create the biggest pool of talent to select from.

Panel Of A-Players

Once you narrow down that list to the top 10, 5, 3 or 4 that you want to bring in, the skills and experience become table stakes. Now it’s about the attributes but if you know the success profile and the attributes that define success in that team, environment, department, and business unit, then those things will start to jump off the page of a resume. Once you have that success profile, it’s about building an interview panel. The number one mistake I’ve seen countless times is recruiters having to chase managers and members of a team.

Look through calendar after calendar and figure out who is available to interview. Tip number three, have a very defined panel of interviewers for your team that consists of A-players. Mike and I talk about it all the time. A-player select A-players. They have the confident humility to see in others who are going to make their team better. Find those people and make them responsible for being the frontline interview team that’s going to add to your group. Just because they’re A-players doesn’t mean they know how to interview.

TWP 14 | Assess Your Talent

Assess Your Talent: The most important piece is getting into the subjective. Those attributes are predictive of success.

 

One hundred and ten percent, make sure that the talent acquisition and HR business partners are training those people on how to interview, understanding the process end-to-end, what they’re responsible for, the role they have, where they sit in the order of interviews, and what they are going to be evaluating or assessing. Additionally, on that team, always make sure you have one agnostic person. There are a number of companies that are doing this and I applaud them. If you are in the customer support or customer success team in sales, what’s wrong with bringing somebody from the legal department that’s an A-player over to interview?

Why don’t you grab somebody from the finance team or the IT help desk? You could pick any department that you don’t normally communicate or work with except on an exception basis and choosing A-player to come to interview your folks. What you’re doing is removing the bias and providing some balance to the interview and you’re allowing somebody who sees the rest of the company to see if this person is additive to the company as a whole. Have you’re a-players, make sure they’re trained, and add somebody who doesn’t have a stake in this hire evaluation.

The confirmation bias when you get so many people on a team, even with A-players, once they like somebody, they tend to move that person forward and find reasons to say yes to them even the best of us do it. Having somebody outside of the team in a completely different department, interviewing against the company values and success profiles, general ones, gives you an outsider’s view, an independent voice to do two things. Number one, to assess a candidate. Number two, to calibrate the people on your interviewing team.

Let me give you a fair warning. Please do not put 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 people in the interview. It’s never been a good idea, but I’ve seen so many hiring managers and leaders do it. It is an abject waste of everybody’s time, it’s not additive to the process, it doesn’t help you get a better hire, and it simply drags along your process. Pick 4 or 5 people, max, for the whole thing and trust them to make a decision that once you’ve trained, calibrated that team, and assigned them roles that they are going to assess talent the way you need to assess.

Make sure each of them has a list of 9 to 10 attributes like the ones we mentioned in the book, understand what those attributes look like, and how to listen for them in the interview. Additionally, you need to provide each of those A-players a set list of questions designed to elicit the description of how that person thinks and attribute shows itself. Make sure they have questions around drive, resiliency, and integrity, the one question nobody asks anymore. We take it for granted, which is often disastrous.

We will not ask questions about their effective intelligence, curiosity, whatever those things are, but your people on your interview panel have to know those attributes. Additionally, you’ve got to assign the questions like I mentioned and then pick 1 or 2 people to provide pressure or a little bit of stress in the interview. The number one way to do that is all of us multiple times a week or month all had a fire drill. Recreate that fire drill in a hypothetical question and see how this person would solve that problem or respond to that fire drill.

Create a short, impactful, direct scenario with the ramifications that failure isn’t an option. Create whatever pressure points you want, but stress that this is a big deal. Make them feel the pressure of the question, but have it be your fire drill so you could see or get some insight into what they would do in your environment. If everybody has questions for the attributes, has an independent role on the panel, and has somebody agnostic, let me remind you and caution that every new candidate who goes through the interview needs to have the same questions and scenarios put forth to them.

Moving quickly doesn't mean that you should ever sacrifice quality. Click To Tweet

You want to be evaluating to the best of your ability, apples to apples, oranges to oranges, make them answer the same questions and make sure that you have a good scorecard. That scorecard should have a block for technical abilities and experience. Those are the top two lines. That’s the table stakes. Some are going to be stronger than others in that regard, but list out the success attributes, factors and make sure that the scorecard has room for each interviewer to score that on a 1 to 3, 1 to 5 scale, or whatever you prefer. My personal preference, anytime you get beyond 1 to 5 scale, the differences aren’t as clear.

I’m seeing a little bit one means they don’t have it. That tends to be the easiest. Five might have this attribute in spades. They have a lot of this attribute at four. Number three, they got enough. Two, not seeing enough of it. It’s generally how we would make it pretty simple to do. Once you put candidates through that interview process with A-players, somebody agnostic, each person having set questions and scorecard, you have to make sure that people don’t share their feedback with the other interviewers.

Please don’t start biasing the other members of your team, then the recruiter should bring everybody together. Collect that feedback by email, Zoom call, or however you want to do it. We certainly don’t get particular about how you gather your feedback, then start stack ranking the candidates and looking at everybody on the team how they scored. The hiring manager and recruiter should sit down and go through that scorecard. This does not make the process slower. It means you’ve prepared in advance with a talent mindset.

You’ve got strong relationships and from those relationships, you easily developed a success profile, you developed a panel of A-players, you train them, you assign them very specific roles, you teach them how to use a scorecard, you give them the questions, and you run candidates through the process. Do not ever make this ad hoc, no matter how much pressure you get. You can speed it up all you want, then you’re never comparing like to like, apples to apples. One candidate is going to get one set of questions, another candidate is going to get something different, and it’s all going to come down to likeability.

TWP 14 | Assess Your Talent

Assess Your Talent: If you’re hiring managers or leaders and you don’t do a success profile, you are creating problems for your organization.

 

You can have a simple scorecard. Keep the interview panel the same across to all candidates. I know in this fast-moving environment where one person is doing the work of 2 or 3, there are going to be times when you’re pulled out but I want to remind you of something that I learned from Patty McCord, the Chief Talent Officer at Netflix, who said the only reason someone could miss a meeting was to conduct an interview because talent was that important to Netflix.

It’s hard to argue with how Netflix turned out. While I understand that you may be an A-player, you may have A-players in your panel and they may get pulled away for something that the client needs desperately. You need to set interviewing days or blocks a time and do everything in your power to make sure that they don’t miss those.

God forbid, you drag somebody in a B-player or C-player and throw them into the process. You’ve corrupted the whole process. If you want to assess your talent better, have a talent mindset, understand how important this is because it builds for the rest of what I’ve given to you. Make sure you have great relationships. If your talent acquisition team isn’t reaching out to the hiring manager, hiring manager reach out to the talent acquisition team. If that’s not an internal team, make sure you have a great relationship with the external agency that you’re working with.

You need to know them and how they think. More importantly, they need to know about your team, how you evaluate, what you’re looking for, and what success looks like. Define success for the role, that team, and that department. One thing I want to stress is if you’re hiring people, managers or leaders and you don’t do a success profile, you are creating problems for your organization. Attrition and retention are two words we probably all hear too much of. Make sure you’re selecting the next generation of leaders if you’re bringing them into your company and not promoting internally.

If it were as simple as going off objective requirements, you wouldn't need to interview. You could simply look at the accomplishments on the resume. Click To Tweet

Make sure that this process is locked down tight for the attributes, the leadership characteristics, leadership attributes, and you know what success looks like. You can easily describe it with your eyes closed and see it with your eyes closed in an interview. Understand what success for a leader looks like. Make sure you have the panel of A-players, train them, practice, role-play, assign them the questions and make sure that they can look at talent the same way each candidate comes through the process. Have a great scorecard. Put some pressure on them. You can roll this quick.

Great Process For The Top Talent

Ideally, you get one candidate in one day, one shot, put them through the process. Don’t make these multiple days to the degree that you can. I know candidates have schedules too, but that to the degree that you can, make it one continuous process. Last thing that I’ll leave you with and this is a little bit outside of assessing talent. Top talent has choices in the market more so now than ever. This is the most tilted market towards candidates I’ve seen over the years. That experience that they go through, if it’s disciplined, rigorous, tough, and uniform, still creates a great experience for a candidate because they want to be challenged.

TWP 14 | Assess Your Talent

Assess Your Talent: The better you assess your talent, the better chance you have at retaining, coaching, mentoring, training, and having them make an immediate impact on your bottom line.

 

They don’t want to join companies where it’s a walk in the park to get the interview. Trust me. They don’t. Make sure that the candidate experiences every single touchpoint from the source, recruiter and through everybody on that interview panel that is a professional process and great candidate experience. The simple way to do that is to ask yourself, “How would I view my own company if I went through this process?” It’s as simple as that. Make it something you’re willing to put your name on and you’d want to go through. The quicker you can make this process, the quicker you can assess talent, the quicker you can move on to selling the candidates you want to join your company.

We’ll talk about that in a different episode. Just because we have COVID and talent can be scarce right now, there is no reason to sacrifice quality. Have a talent mindset, develop a great process, repeat it and refine it. Use the feedback loop once you’ve hired people. See how they’re doing. Line that up against the process that you’ve created to assess that talent and see how good you were and make adjustments along the way. Great recruiting and interviewing is an art, it requires practice and keeping that skill sharp at all times. We certainly didn’t talk about one thing, but I want to give a nod that there may be some assessment tests in the process that you want to give.

I’m a fan of putting that upfront after a recruiter has made the initial screen and you’ve done your initial cut down to five. Put a number of assessment tools in there, but make sure that those tools are predictive of the things that they say they measure. I’m not a fan of certain things that, “This person would like to do this or use of their strengths.” No, it needs to be a behavioral-based test and it needs to have a great data set that it can compare against hundreds of thousands of other people who’ve taken the test.

That is one leg of the stool, your process is the second part and the third is the recruiter. If you can put all of those things together, you are going to be so far ahead of the game in assessing talent compared to other people who rushed through it and want to get a button a seat. It’s all about that process, planning, forethought and training. If you put the work into it, have a talent mindset, you believe that talent is the most important thing, and the only competitive advantage that you can hope to achieve and maintain, you will put the discipline and rigor around a great well-defined candidate-hiring experience.

I wish you guys the best of luck. I hope that this has been helpful. If you don’t get it right and you don’t take the time, you’re creating problems down the road. The better you assess your talent, the better chance you have at retaining those folks and being able to coach, mentor, train, and have those folks make an immediate impact on your bottom line. With that, Talent Warriors, I wish you the best. Appreciate your struggles here and about them all the time, understanding talent is scarce, but this too will pass. Those people that are killing it and winning are the people with the talent mindset. Have a great day.

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About the author

George Randle
Managing Partner & Co-Director of Talent Advisory | View Bio | More From the Author

George Randle is an experienced talent executive, veteran, coach, mentor, and leader known for selecting, building, and reorganizing teams to reach their full business potential. George has 20+ years of Fortune 100 and Fortune 1000 global Human Resources and Talent Acquisition experience building elite teams. George began his professional life by enlisting in the US Army Reserves.  While serving in the USAR, he received his bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University and was commissioned an officer. His career assignments included Berlin, US CENTCOM, and III Corps with deployments to Africa (Somalia and Kenya), Central America, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Following his successful military career, George transitioned to the corporate world, experiencing many of the same challenges the Military and Veterans face today. These challenges along with the recognition that building elite teams are his true passion, George ultimately transitioned to the Human Resources and Talent Acquisition function. He later went on to create one of the largest and most successful Veteran Hiring Programs for a Global Fortune 50 firm. Collectively, the teams George has built have hired over 85,000 professionals, including over 2000 executives. He is also a Hogan (HPI, HDS, and MVPI) Leadership Assessment Certified coach.

George currently resides in Austin, Texas, and is the co-author of the best-selling book, “The Talent War: How Special Operations and Great Organizations Win on Talent” and the Host of "The Talent War" Podcast.

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