good guys

As recruiters, one of the most common things we hear from decision makers is “bring me a good guy.”  We can almost bet when we ask for a definition of a “good guy,” they’ll say “I’ll know him when I see him” or “you know what I mean, you’re a Recruiter”!

It still amazes us how many hiring authorities make an intuitive decision in the first few minutes of interview and spent the rest of the meeting supporting their “gut feelings.”  However, it’s no longer acceptable to run companies with employees chosen using the undigested matter of your intestines. Sure, you need to know if a candidate is a fit for the company but that should only happen AFTER you determined if they can do the job. So many people make the mistake of hiring people who appear like themselves when in reality there are various skills and personalities typically required in any business.

Take an Estimator for example. Sure they need to be able to talk with vendors and negotiate price but their real talent is being able to bang out cost projections on numerous bids, day after day. There is not a lot of deviation to this role but getting it right on every job is essential to profitability. This is analytical work that requires less “snoozing” and more focus. As candidates, Estimators are usually pretty factual and not too verbose, but that’s why we need them. They’re only interested in the bottom line. They’ll leave the people side of the business up to Project Managers and Sales staff. From our experience their interviewing style is very much process driven. If you’re a hiring authority who is full of life and a little chaotic you’ll drive an estimator crazy. Alternatively, Estimators don’t typically walk through the front door like a bat out of hell.

So if you go on just your gut instinct you might miss out on a great candidate because stylistically you don’t gel.

Of course you should spend some time discussing a candidate’s background but if someone has been with a few decent contractors for a reasonable amount of time it’s a safe bet they have the job fundamentals down. New England is a pretty small place, so it won’t take long to find out if someone is less than “stellar.”  Have you ever asked an Estimator to see some of their previous bids? Obviously you don’t want to break any confidentiality but it’s still a good practice to ask. Get them to walk you through a take-off during the interview or maybe show them a purposely flawed bid and see if they highlight the error. The goal is to find ways to test them on their actual job skills in real time.

Finding a “good guy” needs to have structure around it. A candidate needs clarity around expectations for a role. Tell them what is required and give examples around how they will be successful in the first 90 days, 6 months and after a year.

We recommend starting with some critical areas that you would like addressed, say four or five tasks. Give the candidate a half hour alone with a computer and ask them to determine the hierarchy of needs and get them to write a simple one page “recommendation and next steps” document. You’re not looking for a working business plan here – you are just testing for their ability to jump in and see how they respond being put out of their comfort zone, their critical thinking skills, and the level of literacy etc. and most importantly; their confidence.

Here are 5 simple steps in making a great hire:

  1. Explain to the candidate, explicitly, what needs to be achieved in the next 12 months
  2. Review their background to see areas of commonality or similar projects that could be leveraged
  3. Discuss how, when, where and why they have done those things before – look for examples of resourcefulness and creativity
  4. Collect the names of people who can attest that they have successfully achieved those things
  5. If you can conclude that they could do the job THEN consider fit. Would you like working with them all day, do they bring something different to the team, do they have outlying skills that have value etc.

Once you are clear on the above, it will be much easier to find a “good guy”. Call us if you need a gut check.


Article written for High profile monthly.

Image Credit: Andreas Fusser