Book Takeaway Post: Verify the Story

First Date
Don’t expect to see someone’s true personality on a first date

An outside HR consultant once told me, “There are three places where you can’t always see someone’s true personality: on a first date, at church, and at a job interview.” This year, a Wall Street Journal article stated over 1 out of 10 people lie on their resume.  When it comes to recruiting talent, as the saying goes, “trust but verify.”

Verifying a job candidate’s history is a key part of the interviewing process.  Increase the odds of hiring someone whose personality, values, and work ethic match your own by thoroughly checking them out before extending an offer of employment.  At Intertech, we do multiple verifications/assessments:

  • Candidates complete an online personality assessment to determine fit to the job and our culture.  My experience shows, “People are hired for skill and fired for personality.”
  • Reference checks are done for the three past employers.  When performing reference checks, be sure to ask the questions correctly.  For example, don’t say “Frank said he was your top salesperson… is that true?” Instead, ask, “How did Frank stack rank compared to your other salespeople?” Just like in a casual conversation, open ended questions get better answers.
  • Near the final stage of the process, we perform a background check.  The Small Business Association has a complete list of background check options along with defining what’s legal for employers to screen.
  • For salespeople in particular, we request W2 copies for the past three years.   We match up what they said with what the W2 shows.  If there are discrepancies, we pass.

Consistently doing the above, helps us assess someone’s “real” personality.  If you’re reading this and still in the dating scene, try one or more of the above steps and let me know how it goes!

Last in the series: “The power of collective intelligence in organizations”

Two Way Street
Working well with a vendor/partner is a two way street!

This is the last post I’ll make related to the work of MIT Professor Tom Malone and his interesting book, The Future of Work. Previously I told you about Malone’s concept of how technology is enabling collective intelligence at a level never seen before and how that is changing how people work.

Another trend Malone cites as a driver for radically different work is what he calls the “e-lance economy” comprised of electronically connected freelance workers or independent contractors that combine in unique configurations on a temporary basis to accomplish specific projects. An e-lance model already is common for the motion picture and construction industries. Malone predicts that this way of organizing will become more common in other industries.

That approach also is common in the IT world and is the model on which Intertech has been based since we started 20 years ago. I devote six chapters in my book Building a Winning Business laying out my thoughts on how to work effectively with vendors. Takeaways #39-#40 describes how to supplement your team with carefully selected vendors and to work the interview process. Takeaways #41-42 deal with the importance of communication and taking the time to get the project off on the right foot.

Just about what you might expect, right?

What might surprise readers is the chapter (#43) on how to be a good customer. Yes, you read that right. Working effectively with vendors of any type is a two-way street. Good customer-vendor relationships require both parties to participate, communicate and share responsibility for a successful outcome. I won’t reiterate everything in the chapter here but I will tell you that communicating – early and often – ranks high on the list!

Second in a series: “The power of collective intelligence in organizations”

Is a command and control hierarchy better than a communicate collaborate structure? Not sure? Read below.

My previous post on the concept of collective intelligence quoted Tom Malone, who is the Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management and Professor of Technology at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of the book The Future of Work. “Collective, global and human intelligence is growing due to technology and the Internet. This has never existed on our planet before,” says Malone.

But what does this mean for the way we run our organizations?

Organizations in the future will give employees “far more freedom, responsibility and power” says Malone and he provides some compelling models for designing companies of the future based on four different types of decentralized organizational structures: loose hierarchies, democracies, external markets and internal markets.

Loose hierarchies primarily are characterized by important decision-making occurring at lower organizational levels. AES, one of the world’s largest power producers, is an example of such a loose hierarchical corporate structure. Malone explains that AES operates on the basis of one important decision-making rule: employees don’t need approval of their decisions but they must seek advice for making decisions.

He says that democracies will replace old business models based on an increasingly outmoded industrial age. He sums this up as a shift from a “command-and-control” to a “coordinate-and-cultivate” management style.

I couldn’t agree more!

Takeaway #18 in my book Building a Winning Business  describes the importance of involving the whole team when defining values. Taking a page from business expert Jim Collins we employed the Martian Group exercise in which all employees are asked to pick the handful of colleagues who best exemplify the organization’s core values. This process helped us indentify the values we hold most dear at Intertech: positive attitude, commitment to delivering and professional excellence.

Book Takeaway Post: Have a Process

Take each step.  Don’t skip!

In a Harvard Business Review post on avoiding hiring disasters, it notes “A carefully crafted hiring process can help avoid most mishaps.” Further, “Needing to fill the role yesterday is not an excuse for shortchanging the process.”  Both of these ideas are what Takeaway #2, Have a Process, in my book is all about.

At Intertech, we have nine steps in our hiring process.  The steps are:

  1. Resume reviewed/screened
  2. Background interview
  3. Technical exam
  4. Topgrading interview
  5. Senior leadership interview
  6. Personality assessment
  7. Team interview
  8. Reference checks
  9. Background check

Along with following the process, in the same HBR article, it states “Screening for the right soft skills is critical.” I agree.  People are hired for skill and fired for personality.  Throughout our process, and particularly in steps #5, #6, and #7, we’re looking for a fit to our culture and values.

Finally, if we’re trying to talk ourselves into why this candidate is a good fit at any one of the steps, it’s probably a sign that they aren’t.