B2B Solution of the Week: How your company should find its next employees

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As we enter the New Year, B2B firms should do themselves and their potential employees a favor. Instead of extending out the hiring process looking for the “perfect” candidate, they should decide on one of the many “good” applicants who are ready and able to start working immediately.

Because as Confucius, Shakespeare, Voltaire and others have noted in striving to find the perfect, you may prevent yourself from obtaining the good.

With 49 percent of employees having tenure of three years or less at their current employers, the investment companies sink into their recruitment functions to find these unicorn employees just isn’t worth it. The perfect candidate will not work for you very long in any event. What is the definition of “perfect” any way? Is it someone who has the same background and outlook as all the other people who already work at your company?

Organizational fit?

This begs the question: Are more capable candidates being bypassed for inferior applicants that have better “organizational fit?” There is danger in everyone in a B2B organization all being like-minded, which can lead to “group think.”

Just consider the Enron and WorldCom scandals of the early 2000s. So many people were of the same mindset at those companies that they either failed to notice or had convinced themselves nothing was amiss in the accounting of either of those houses of cards. If there had been even a representative sample of people with a divergent point of view from that of the majority, questionable business practices could have been called out and many billions of dollars in lost enterprise capitalization might have been preserved.

Bad questions lead to bad answers

Another area where B2B human resources professionals and hiring managers should consider reforming their “best practices” is the line of questioning with which they burden their prospective personnel. While typical questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” are probably perennials that do not do any real harm and could generate some useful information, in contrast others are quite nefarious and turn the hiring process into a diabolical game of cat and mouse.

During a job interview
During a job interview

These are the “set-up” questions where in complying with the interviewer’s request for an answer, the applicant basically provides potential fodder for why she should not be hired. These are the questions with a negative premise that include:

  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • What tasks do you not like completing?
  • What don’t you like about your present job?
  • Tell me about the culture of the workplace you liked the least

The problem with these negatively-premised questions is that if the interviewee provides an honest answer, it will likely be overly negative in tone and not representative of her thinking as a whole. These questions only generate a prompted reply that results from spontaneous thinking.

On the other hand, if the applicant offers a practiced response, these often take the form of the “strength-as-weakness” answers such as “I’m a workaholic” or “My impatience to get things done” or similar replies. Beyond their ability to make the interviewer’s eyes roll, these responses shed little light on the candidate except to reveal her lack of imagination. But if you’re looking for a cookie-cutter employee who knows a good cliché when she hears it, maybe you want to try these.

It’s a job interview, not open mic night

In case you missed it, that last sentence was “sarcastic” or “funny” depending on your point of view. Which brings me to another point: job interviews are artificial constructs.

While a job interview is an opportunity to probe the thinking of future co-workers and can help verify critical details from resumes, interviewers will not learn everything in this process. Most employees are nervous in interviews and simply want to make it through without making any “mistakes.” If part of your hiring process is to find out how “loose” or “humorous” employees are, the interview room is the wrong place to seek this information.

Humor is a very subjective phenomenon. And just like nine out of 10 amateur standup comics will get heckled off the stage during open mic night at the local comedy club, so will interviewee jokes go over like lead balloons. But if you insist that employees need to express their inner Robin Williams or Rodney Dangerfield to join your team, help set the stage for them by being funny yourself. Maybe they will get the hint. Seriously, though, leave the jokes to the professionals and concentrate on determining the relevant skills of your next hire. Because a mind for B2B is a terrible thing to waste.

Show me the metrics!

In 2016, no doubt the trend of quantifying as many B2B processes as possible will continue. With the advent of better marketing automation and analytics tools, marketers and other business pros feel they can capture and measure every scintilla of data. For sake of argument, I’ll suspend disbelief in the foregoing proposition. Even with that stipulation, some practices have to be taken on faith, more or less.

For example, marketers will have to believe their own lying eyes when they read writing samples from potential content creators rather than some purported metrics about “qualified leads” or even “revenue attributed to marketing” figures tied to these materials. It should be easy enough to determine if a writer can construct a persuasive problem-solution-results B2B scenario or not.

Perhaps, the problem lies in having the having the wrong people analyze the deliverables. Those with a creative background should be the arbiters of good content, not self-described “Google Analytics” geeks. After all, it’s more art than science.

Don’t leave ’em hangin’

Finally, don’t leave potential employees hanging. It’s stressful enough for employees and recruiters to wait for the calendar to creep toward the day of destiny: the interview date. Once the in-person interviewing process is complete, the hiring manager and critical inputs should assemble and make a decision as soon as possible.

One noted top executive, Rajat Taneja, executive vice president of technology at Visa, suggests that this process should be completed on the day of the interview. Then soon afterward, all the candidates should be informed of their status: they made the next round, got cut or have the job.

What Taneja left unsaid was that feedback should be provided to employees about why they did not make the grade. Legal experts will state that providing any subjective feedback to those rejected could result in litigation. Realistically, no could-have-been employee is going to take a B2B company to court.

In fact, the most mature candidates will thank you later if you provide valuable insight into what they could have done better in the interview process. Or just tell them it was a case of numbers and they were a qualified fit but only one person could be selected in the end—if that’s the truth. Ultimately, don’t leave these people hanging on tenterhooks. Give them some outcome for all the effort they put into trying to become part of your company.

Read Part 1 of our two-part series on recruitment and HR in the B2B space here.

Photo via Flickr, Creative Commons

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).