Article: Lessons in Hiring: A Great Place to Work Institute Series

Talent Acquisition

Lessons in Hiring: A Great Place to Work Institute Series

Hire for culture-fit, not merely for roles
Lessons in Hiring: A Great Place to Work Institute Series

Are there any key principles in hiring that distinguish a great workplace from others?


Imagine the most sophisticated recruitment process designed by any organization. You will probably have multiple toolsfor assessment and selection. If you think a little more, you will think of organizations that invest in training their recruitment managers. Some of the best examples spend a lot of time in building an employer brand.

Are there any key principles in hiring that distinguish a great workplace from others? We all know of ‘great practices’ of many organizations, but practices are not always replicable across organizations and moreover, practices change over time. Principles, on the other hand, are timeless. They may seem obvious in retrospect, but might be lost in the midst of multiplicity of best practices. This series of articles attempt to discover some of the principles that do not change with industries and change little with time. The other distinction is that we are using the word ‘hiring’ and not ‘recruitment’. Over the years, recruitment has been associated with HR while hiring is what all managers do.

Principle #1 - Clearly identify your kind of talent

Not all talented people are meant for your organization. IBM did a global study to identify “Who is an IBMer?” Google knows what “Googliness” is. SAS Institute uses a culture fit interview questionnaire to determine their kind of talent. The first hiring criterion for Titan is, again, culture fit. This brings me to principle number 2.

Principle #2 - Hire for the organization, not narrowly for the role

Google does not reject a candidate because she/he applied for a wrong job or does not appear to be a ‘great fit’. It has instituted a ‘candidate sharing process’ across their non-technical teams. ‘Good 4 Google’ specialists are seasoned home grown recruiters, familiar with all of Google’s open positions. When recruiters identify outstanding candidates who may have applied to the wrong position, this team works to find a role for the candidate that best matches their skills and expertise.

Principle #3 - Develop a strong employer brand

While large organizations like Infosys and Accenture reach out to hundreds of engineering colleges, social networking and viral marketing has made it easier for smaller organizations to build their own unique brands. Building a brand is not limited to just external communication to potential employees. Hiring managers (reporting managers) in Equitas, an organization in the micro-finance industry, actually visit the homes of shortlisted candidates to meet their families. This ‘Know your Employee’ requirement helps in building the brand with families.

Principle #4 - Provide an accurate picture of the role and organization

A ‘realistic job preview’ before joining can enable employees to know what exactly s/he getting into. This preview provides candidates with an opportunity to learn more about the responsibilities of this position. They are given a tour of the office, introduced to their potential work group, and given a chance to talk to current employees about their positions.

Principle #5 – Managers, and not HR, are accountable for selection

Equip people managers with the right tools and techniques, calibrate them, and encourage peer learning. Hiring managers in Ajuba are trained in candidate psychology, Ajuba brand building, guest relations, behavioral event interviews (BEI) and recruitment process compliance. While at P&G, top performers are the interviewers who are trained on a structured process.

Principle #6 - Ensure that hiring managers hire people better than themselves

This is essential to constantly enrich the organization’s talent pool, yet difficult to ensure. At Corbus, designated high performers called ‘pace setters’ are trained to recruit the best technical talent. One pace setter needs to be mandatorily present in each interview panel and he/she can veto the decision of the panel. At Google, each candidate is evaluated by two hiring committees, including one that is deliberately cross-functional in makeup. Hiring committees add value by presenting multiple perspectives, more thorough consideration, and generally preventing idiosyncrasies in the hiring process.

Principle #7 - Create joint stakes in the success of the selected candidate

The best workplaces routinely hire 40 percent or more new employees through employee referrals. Peer interviewers are common at Google, which recognizes the role of peers in making a new employee successful. ‘Smorgasbord’ is a hiring initiative at Google, in line with continuous interviewer education. It is an off-site intervention that brings focus groups together to explore interviewing styles and creates a reservoir of questions and clarifies their hiring approach. It is a moderated session plan to facilitate maximum information pollination amongst a mix of new and experienced managers and peer interviewers. These sessions highlight Google’s culture of sharing and learning from each other’s experiences.

Principle #8 - Provide candidates a great (hiring) experience

Great workplaces aim to make the hiring experience such that even the rejected ones become the organization’s brand ambassadors. FedEx encourages managers to provide feedback to all unsuccessful candidates. Unsuccessful candidates in FedEx can avail of an interview appeal process within 7 calendar days of the interview to appeal against the interview decision! To ensure that candidates leave their interviewees feeling positive about the company, its work, and culture, regardless of the hiring decision they receive, Google introduced the ‘Candidate Experience Survey’, termed as VoxPop. Based on their input, it has implemented a number of improvements to the recruitment process, such as increasing training and support for interviewers and sharing more information with candidates about available positions.

Principle #9 - Measure effectiveness of the tools, techniques, and overall hiring process

The best workplaces have strong feedback processes on all people practices, including hiring. Cadbury has developed key metrics to track the overall recruitment efficiency, quality of hire and the agency and recruitment partner performance. This is part of a monthly scorecard and includes metrics such as turnaround time; fill rates; quality of hire - early exits and performance score; active vacancies and recruitment source efficiency. For example, Agilent’s new candidate and hiring manager survey ensures that each new hire and hiring manager is taken feedback through a survey on the recruitment process. This feedback allows for continuousimprovement inprocesses and initiatives.

Thus, while good workplaces look for people with the right job skills and experience, the best workplaces seem to look for people with gifts and talent to grow in the organization. This leads them to hire from non-traditional sources, focus their interviews on aspirations and values, and work on a hiring philosophy to hire for attitude and train for skills. Screening for cultural fit is of prime importance to the best workplaces and the hiring process is often extensive, involving peers and direct reports at times, and involving employees through referrals.

Prasenjit Bhattacharya is CEO of Great Place to Work® Institute, India. Views expressed here are personal. You can read his articles and blogs at He can also be contacted at

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Topics: Talent Acquisition, #BestPractices

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