If you read my last piece, we covered the importance of a clear job description as well as some tips on interviewing to determine the candidates’ skill set. But once those skills are validated, the next most important criteria is organizational fit. According to one of my favourite business authors, Patrick M. Lencioni, in one of his books ‘The Ideal Team Player’, these are the three virtues that an ideal team player possesses. Here’s a quick breakdown of what those attributes mean and how I probe for them:
Humble, Hungry & Smart
Humble candidates don’t display ego, they aren’t concerned with status and they are open-minded. They prioritize team wins over their own and are quick to share praise. While seemingly tough to interview for; it can be telling when you probe into someone’s accomplishments and ask questions to uncover what role they played versus others on their team. Is it all about them only or are they proud of what others did as well? You can also ask how they handled a failure or embarrassing career moment? Look to see how comfortable they are with talking about a shortcoming and their ownership over it.
Hungry candidates express a keen desire to learn. They are motivated, self-starters and have a desire to go above and beyond. The coachability trait can’t be taught. Possible questions to ask are: “What is the hardest you’ve ever worked on something in your life?” Look for specific examples of real and difficult experiences that they are grateful for, versus complaining. Ask what they like to do in their free time, or about their work ethic as a student. Try to look for how they dealt with adversity, tough times and hard work in school, a job or extra-curricular activity. There’s no right answer. You are getting to know how the candidate views the world and if they have an inner drive to grow and improve.
Smart candidates have high emotional intelligence, in addition to sound judgement and problem solving. They also interpersonally aware and appropriate with groups and the impact their words and actions have. Ask candidates how they’ve handled a difficult colleague or boss and see if they’ve navigated the situation appropriately, or learned from a mistake. Ask them what annoys them about others, and/ or what they do to annoy people. This will allow you to see their self-awareness and if they can navigate annoying people in a constructive way. I sometimes ask a candidate to give me the first and last name of their most recent manager, and then ask “So if I called your boss Jane Smith to ask how she’d describe your towering strengths, what would she say? And your weaknesses?” Look for answers that are real and a little painful. Are they willing to talk about true shortcomings? It’s not what these are specifically — it’s just their comfort level in acknowledging areas they feel are important to work on. And by getting the full name of their manager, they will be more honest as you write down the name and notes on what you heard. Reference checks can be done to corroborate what you heard.
Combined — these three qualities of humble, hungry and smart is a trifecta of important attributes that almost always guarantee a strong hire. And not just for us as a company, but for the candidate as well.
Defining and constantly demonstrating our company’s core values ensure the right people get excited to join. Treating people with respect and providing a safe environment to learn is at the centre of everything we do. It’s permeated our diverse work culture. When you come into our office, you’ll notice that we don’t have a reception desk. Guests often comment that they are surprised at how friendly and helpful people are that pass by — asking if they’ve been helped or offering a drink. This welcoming has never been discussed or instituted as a policy. It just happens naturally, as that’s how they’ve been treated when they first arrived at HomeStars. It’s these small things that make it a fun and supportive environment and makes me proud to be working with such a great group of people.
We work very hard to ensure that each individual feels appreciated and valued. Our turnover rate dropped 12 per cent last year and we will continue to do exit interviews and understand if we fell short when people leave. Ups and downs are normal in every company as new challenges come up, so it’s important to keep thinking ahead to protect and nurture this very special culture you’ve created.
Hiring the right people takes time and open communication with the teams who are hiring. In an ideal world, we want to build future leaders from within the organization. It’s a huge win when a current employee is keen to take on new and potentially ambiguous roles cross-functionally. That’s a nod to our scrappy years as a tech start-up.