Ideal Hire

The Art Of The Ideal Hire

Smart organizations implement formal training programs to help managers make spot-on hires.

Recruiting for open positions is exciting. You have the chance to add an employee who’s better than all previous employees in the available position. Or, if it’s a new position, you could find the exact person you had in mind to fulfill your needs.

However, with the potential for great things comes an equal potential for bad outcomes. You could wind up with a person who lacks the necessary skills, or one whose temperament is a poor match for the job role. There’s a lot at stake, so it’s worth making sure your managers are equipped to make good hiring decisions. Training managers to recruit, and hire, the right people is worth it. Here’s how some Training Top 125 companies do it.

Encourage (Legal) Best Practices

University of New Mexico Hospitals (UNMH) extensively prepares for the hiring process, says Organizational and Professional Development Director Eileen Sanchez. Hiring managers should be able to:

  • Explain legal and competitive advantages of following fair hiring practices
  • Construct or select a series of legally defensible interview questions to assess key competencies for the specific position being hired
  • Elicit complete behavioral examples from job candidates that show evidence of competency

To achieve those learning goals, the company’s Organizational and Professional Development (OPD) and Talent Acquisition departments partner to provide the required “Hiring Right!” course, a three-hour, instructor-led session. The course includes role-play/mock interviews, which serve as an opportunity to practice asking “probing” questions. “Probing questions get the candidates to give past behavioral examples, rather than ‘what if ’ types of answers,” Sanchez says.

The company’s OPD department also provides a “Peer Interviewing” course, in which staff-level employees are trained to take an active role in hiring using their experiences, skills, and needs for onboarding and assimilating new hires. “This helps increase cultural and team fit, and utilizes high performers, who eventually may become hiring managers,” Sanchez explains.

In addition, she says the Talent Acquisition department gives periodic hiring practice tutorials at “Management Coffee,” a weekly meeting for all managers, directors, and executives at UNMH. This includes demonstration of software tools used to ensure the best candidate is selected, including a pre-employment assessment and reference checks.

Along with these programs, UNMH Talent Acquisition Director Phil Pelleriti is a guest speaker at the “Up and Comers” Succession Planning program’s monthly meetings. “This gives our staff-level employees a sneak peek at leadership, including how to best hire, onboard, and retain talent—a topic that often is requested from the Up and Comers cohort,” says Sanchez. And if, after that extensive preparation, hiring managers still have questions, extra help is available: “OPD and Talent Acquisition are always available for one-on-one coaching and consultation regarding hiring and interviewing,” Sanchez says.

Fully Understand the Open Position

Hiring managers can’t do their job well if they don’t thoroughly understand the job they are tasked with filling. “We want our hiring managers to have a good understanding of the positions they are recruiting for,” says Two Men and a Truck Chief Talent Officer Sara Bennett. “In many cases, we will have them job-shadow someone in the same role, or will even have them sit through the training a new hire would attend.”

It’s also important to be able to psychologically handle the recruitment and hiring process, which can be a stressful time for managers. “Patience is more of a virtue than a skill, but it is incredibly important in hiring. It is natural for hiring managers to be so anxious to fill a position that they overlook a candidate’s flaws,” says Bennett. “We try to set reasonable expectations for the hiring timeline, so hiring managers don’t feel pressured to make a decision they will regret later.”

Along with the proper mindset, Bennett says hiring managers have to understand the importance of listening quietly and intently to the answers to their questions and the information candidates volunteer on their own. “They also need to be able to pick up on subtleties in the answer that might lead to other relevant information,” she says. “Sometimes this can mean being able to spot a solid candidate who just isn’t good at interviewing; other times it might mean having to be a human lie detector!”

Once hiring managers have an understanding of the job role, and are psychologically prepared for the experience of vetting, and listening to, numerous candidates, Bennett says they have to remember to maintain a professional image throughout the process. “For our company, it’s also paramount that the hiring manager be an ambassador for the brand,” she emphasizes. “We are in a tight labor market, and often are selling ourselves to candidates as much as they are selling themselves to us. We want our hiring managers to be enthusiastic about working at Two Men and a Truck, and be able to get others excited about joining our teams.”

In addition, formal training programs that prepare hiring managers can be supported by practicing hypothetical scenarios. “Informal ways to teach a hiring manager to be objective include practicing role-play scenarios and one-on-one motivational coaching,” says Manager of Administration Courtney Frank. She notes that getting it right is essential, as there is so much at stake. “Having a hiring manager who is not trained properly can lead to considerable troubles,” she says. “This includes a negative reputation within the industry, negative online reviews, candidates being unfairly or inappropriately treated, and potential legal situations involving unfair management practices.”

Train to Recognize a Good Cultural Fit

The right skills and past job experience are only part of what a hiring manager is looking for. The other essential part is whether the person will fit in at your company. What are their personal values, their attitude, how do they like to interact with colleagues, and what are their expectations for their work environment? “Above anything else, we focus on culture fit when we hire people at United Shore, for any kind of role,” say United Shore Vice President of Training Matt Boschi. “A person’s work ethic and attitude are at the top of the list for what we evaluate, as well as gauging how well he or she will mesh with the team from a personality standpoint.”

Hiring managers also have to understand the time that will be available for training after the new employee is hired. “Hiring managers have to be able to take into account situational leadership, and the urgency of our business needs,” Boschi says. “That way, they know if we need to hire someone who is ready to hit the ground running on day one, or if we can hire someone we’re able to dedicate more time to developing and coaching. Additionally, great hiring managers have to be in tune with their team’s specific objectives and business needs. They have to be able to accurately make a judgment call on whether that candidate is capable of meeting those objectives, instead of basing their decision on the thought of, ‘I really like the person.’”

Craft the Right Questions

Hiring managers can make small talk with candidates and ask general, open-ended questions about their experience, but to be truly effective, they should understand how to ask probing, in-depth questions, says Gretchen Van Vlymen, vice president of Human Resources at StratEx, an HR consulting firm. She recommends that questions follow the PRO Competency Model:

“P” stands for problem/situation “R” for response (or actions taken) “0” for outcome (or results of actions)

“This model allows interviewers to obtain specific examples of past behavior to check for those key competencies they want,” says Van Vlymen. “Each question should tie to a competency, and each answer should go through the P, R, and O to determine whether the interviewee falls below, meets, or exceed expectations.”

For example, if the competency you are looking for is “teamwork,” then you might say, “Tell me about a time when you had to work with a difficult team member to achieve a goal.” You then would expect the interviewee to:

1. Tell you the problem (for example, “One key team member wouldn’t show up for team meetings”).

2. Explain what his or her actions were (for example, “I consulted that team member and realized she wasn’t showing up because she couldn’t secure childcare during the times we were meeting, so I asked the group to meet at a different time or had the employee to dial in remotely”).

3. Reveal the outcome (for example, “The team was able to work together to utilize all team members’ feedback to get the presentation in front of the board by our deadline”).

Sometimes finding the information you need during the course of an interview requires a balance between intellect and instinct. At Southern Management Corporation (SMC), hiring managers know how to ask questions to substantiate, or refute, a feeling about a candidate, says Talent Acquisition Manager Olivia Hunter. “We teach interviewers to acknowledge their gut feelings, and then test their conclusions/assumptions by asking more specific questions to confirm, or refute, information presented by or about the applicant,” says Hunter. “As a policy, hiring managers do not check references with sources outside of our company—instead we contract with a vendor to conduct background checks and references.”

To ensure managers continue to be able to ask effective questions, SMC has updated its hiring manager training. “In 2017, we convened a project team, comprising hiring managers from around the company to discuss their experiences with the hiring process, and share feedback and recommendations,” says Hunter. “As a result, we piloted a stand-alone class in June 2018 designed as a refresher. It will be a training requirement for all hiring managers in the company to complete it in the next 12 months.”



  • Keep it legal. Start by covering the interview basics that will keep your company out of trouble, including specific examples of questions that are not legal for a company to ask applicants.
  • Create formal training programs. Rather than leave it to informal learning and trial and error, create structured programs in which managers get a chance to practice job interview interactions.
  • Make sure the hiring manager understands the open position. Have the hiring manager meet with the outgoing employee, and even shadow that employee, to get a good sense of the type of skills, and person, needed to fill that position.
  • Prepare the hiring manager psychologically. Be sure he or she is ready to be patient, and do more listening than talking.
  • Give a sense of the training and support that will be available for the new hire. Hiring managers should understand whether they need a new employee who is ready to s tart work on day one, or whether there will be ample time and funding to train the new hire.

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