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Lisa Earle McLeod: Seeing the best in others makes you terrible at hiring people

Published 12:33am Thursday, June 23, 2011

I admit it; I’m not very good at hiring people. My husband is great at it.
The reason I’m terrible and he’s great is because I see people for what they can be.
He sees people for who they actually are right now.
I see their long-term potential. He sees how they’re going to show up on Monday morning.
I add my energy to interviews. He gets an accurate assessment of their energy.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re hiring a babysitter or a sales rep, if you’re the kind of person who gets excited about other people, it can hinder you in the hiring process.
The ability to see another person’s untapped potential can make you a great trainer, mentor or coach.
But when you’re making an important hiring decision, you don’t want your own enthusiasm to color your perspective.
I’m much better at hiring people than I used to be. But I had to learn the hard way.
Here are four tips to help you avoid my mistakes and get an accurate read on people:
1. Keep your own answers short. A good interviewee will ask questions. Don’t make the mistake of over-sharing.   You’ll wind up doing all the talking and come away thinking, “Wow, he or she is really excited about what we’re doing.”  But in reality you’re the one who’s excited. Instead, ask them what they know about your company first. If they ask you a question, share a nugget. Then ask how they envision themselves contributing.
2. Assess competency versus personality. An engaging personality is important, but it can’t take the place of job skills. Ask specific questions about what they’ve done in the past.  Test their industry and job knowledge. Write down exactly what they say so that you can assess the actual information, not the way in which they presented it.
3. Don’t confuse smarts with skill. Just because they’re smart doesn’t mean they’re a great fit for the job. Einstein was smart, but I bet he’d make a terrible customer service rep. An excellent understanding of the company and the industry is helpful, and the ability to make small talk is nice. But the skills to do the actual job is the most important thing.
4. Envision how they will perform with NO training. Be realistic about what they can contribute day one. I run a training company, so I’d be the last person to discount the value of training. The right training can make the difference between success and failure. But even the best training can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.  Don’t count on training to turn someone into something they’re not. Think about how they’ll perform without constant help and coaching, because that’s what they will ultimately have to do.
There’s something wonderful about seeing the best in others.
People are thrilled when you spot their potential.
I’ve done interviews where people left saying, “Wow I feel like I can do anything.”
But if you’re more excited about their career than they are, they’re probably not a good hire.
If you’re one of those people who can see magnificent possibilities for everyone, consider it a gift.
Spread the love to your family, your friends, and the people who already work with you.
Don’t be too quick to spot promise in an interview, or you’ll wind up hiring potential instead of an actual person.

Business strategist Lisa Earle McLeod is president of McLeod and More Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in sales force and leadership development. She is a keynote speaker and the author of The Triangle of Truth, a Washington Post Top 5 Business Book for Leaders.
www.TriangleofTruth.com

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