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In the past two weeks, I have been contacted as many times for reference checks for my former employees. Both are bright energetic people who are doing well and obviously moving up in their careers.

Reference check is a must today. I always conduct them, advise my clients to do so and am always happy to serve as a reference when appropriate.

So, two calls for the same purpose, but what a difference.

Caller #1 reached out asking to set some time aside and called as agreed, sharp. He asked meaningful, intelligent questions and, when appropriate, looked for clarification or elaboration. It was a pleasant conversation for me and a valuable one for the hiring company.

Caller #2 sounded bored out of her mind. She mistook the applicant’s gender and did not know who I was. She had a list of questions, which she read in a monotone voice. Not once did she ask as follow up question or requested elaboration. It was a clerk ticking boxes, nothing more. The questions were as generic and vapid as they get. The ten minutes I spent on the phone with this woman were painfully long for me and of limited use to the hiring company.

Organizations often size people by the tasks they performed, not how they performed it. It would appear that the quality of work, the outcome, is of no consequence.

I have news for them. Result is the only thing that matters. Not the years of service or the size of the team; not the project budget or certifications or schooling. Just that – results.

The people who work for you today, are they more like caller #1 or #2? Do you hire to deliver results or to conform to procedures? I hope I made my point.

CNN has published this article on just another twist in the “talent battle” that does not exist.  Read the article and the comments.

If you cannot hire people in this economy, in any economy, I don’t know if I’d trust you with watering plants or raking leaves. This is not just sad, this is a sheer disgrace for the woman in the  picture and, as a result, for the organization she works for. Bad publicity and I wouldn’t want her to be a part of my organization.

This is a great example of how awful hiring practices can be and a reason for massive underemployment.

Link to the article

Based on my recent article.

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Jack has been with the company for almost ten years. On a Thursday afternoon, he was called to the HR, where he was informed that his services were no longer required. Not that he’d done anything wrong, but the economy is tough, you know. A security guard was called to escort him to the door like if he were a convict. His personal effects would be couriered to him later.

Elsewhere, a company’s new CEO reduced the middle maangement layer by half, sending some 120 employees home. Here is how it looked from inside: a phone in a cubicle rings.  After a 30-second conversation, its owner stands up and makes his or her way to the HR, never to return. The whole organization is terrorized for days. No explanation follows.

Yet some other place, every Friday at 3pm for about a year, names are called over a PA. Their holders are to report to a meeting room. Everyone knows that they are gone. This goes on for a year. Morale is at its worst.

Here is my advice to you if you are considering taking a job offer or are assessing the state of the HR department within the organization. Before looking at their promotional materials, policies or initiatives, look to understand how they go about letting people go. That’s the basic litmus test.

It is not easy to find a good tradesman, such as a plumber or an electrician. Really good ones seem to be booked up for months if not years and I was wondering, well, how long exactly does it take to develop that kind of a track record.

There is a roofer operating in the area where I live who I will call David here. When I asked another local tradesman if he could recommend anyone who is the best roofer around, he said that David is by far the best and probably the most expensive, however I’d have to get in line because he is booked solid for many months.

Apparently, he has a dozen guys working for him and they can strip and relay any roof faster and better than anyone around. They have the best tools on the market, some of which are customized. They take on complex and problem roofs that others don’t want to touch. Once the project is finished, the site is left spotless. Roofer

David is widely respected among other tradesmen who readily recommend his services, like it happened in my case.

David is 25 and has been in business for just about 5 years.

In organizations, we need to judge and reward people by the results they produce, not by their age, seniority, certifications, years on the job (doing the same thing all over again) or how carefully they fill out their time sheets or how much time they spend in the office.

In life, results is the only thing that matters. Seriously.

In my recent article, I suggested that you shouldn’t be hiring via recruiters or even getting your own HR to write a job advertisement.


Here is a good example, sent to me by someone in Toronto, Canada. It is from an advertisement on

“Strong work ethic (40-50 hour week)”

 Apparently, it is now measured in hours. Who writes these things?

UPDATE – August 12, 2009 – Someone posted a question on the Organizational Development group page in LinkedIn, asking how to quantify integrity.


I share 30 concrete (and sometimes controversial) ideas on building a winning team that can be implemented right away in this article published by

Link to the article

My latest article written for CBS.

“Visit the nearest bookstore and you will find uncountable volumes on team building, hiring, and personnel management. Browse the Internet and you will discover scores of articles, blog entries, and other content devoted to the topic. There is a good reason for this amount of attention to the topic. A leader cannot act alone and is only as good as his team. When we talk about Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Jack Welch, we mustn’t forget that there are people behind them, a team that supports and enables them.

So, given the abundance of writing on the subject out there, why this article?

The answer is simple: on an average, organizations suck at it — all the books and articles and other knowledge notwithstanding. As a consultant, I see a lot of environments, and the sheer number of teams that have a potential to be absolute stars, but are mediocre at present, is astounding. I would like to inspire the reader and provide some ideas for changing things for the better. I cannot be in every organization all the time to fix the problem, so this is simple way of leveraging the reading audience for maximum result.”

Read the rest of the article:

There used to be one reality show about the Roloffs, a family of little people, somewhat educational and probably a good offering at a good time.

Now, there are three or four reality shows about little people. What’s up with that? Looks like a rather unimaginative and straight forward replication of a past success.

Isn’t it what we often see in organizations? Something that worked well in the past: an approach, a service or a product, gets carbon copied and thrown into production.

It just does not work. The real value and spectacular breakthroughs come from innovation created by inquisitive and creative minds committed to lifelong learning and discovery.

Do you have people like that in your organization? Do you hire them readily or settle for more predictable types with years of experience in your industry? How many shows about little people can you possibly want to see?

Have you ever been frustrated with the obvious lack of service in customer “service”, such as being footballed around, having to explain the problem again and again and being offered explanations that are insulting to your intelligence?

If so, you probably know that every once in while you find a person who can resolve the problem quickly and efficiently, when the previous ten warm bodies you talked to at the same organization couldn’t.

Why? My consulting experience suggests that the key issue in poor customer service is the ingrained belief that the lowest seniority employee, such as a CS agent, is a choiceless doer, while all of the decisions are made by the management. This is the good old “Brains in the centre, fools in the field” concept, which is so deep-seated, it is often incredibly hard to disabuse people of it. 

In fact, we all have a choice of how to go about our jobs, no matter how scripted they are. The only way to ensure great customer service is to develop the agent’s ability to make the right choices by asking the right questions. You cannot script everything – ever – because business environment does not stand still, but you can develop decision making and judgement.

Case in point. I use iContact to keep in touch with my network of clients and subscribers. Yesterday, I tried to send a time-sensitive communication about an upcoming event, but it just sat in the queue and did not feel like going anywhere. I called their Technical Support and spoke to a couple of people there who assured me that it would go out “soon”.

I fond the message still in the queue this morning.  I called again and was lucky to have my call picked up by Tyrone. He asked me about the steps previosly taken, listened well and escalated the issue promptly without wasting my time. He had to make decisions along the way and was not afraid to escalate when it was necessary.

All was resolved in about 30 minutes, while I was working on something else. As a customer, I am happy.

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