The Nose Knows

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snoutAs animal fosters, our job is to bring dogs into our home and get them ready for their new forever home by loving them, feeding them, and playing with them. It is such a fulfilling and satisfying way that our family gives back. Other people view fostering differently. There was one woman who wanted to volunteer. She stated up front that she would “only foster dogs with a certain snout”, and currently she has never fostered a dog.

I have some people that want to discuss their hiring with me, who present similar requests. They will only work with people who attended a certain university. They will only hire people with a certain GPA. They will only have staff members who are members of certain organizations. And to what avail?

The organization that we foster through has a policy that they do not discriminate against people who want a dog. You don’t have to have a white picket fence and a doggy door to adopt a dog; you just have to provide a loving home. At A-list, we also do not discriminate against candidates – you just have to want to hire the best fit possible or you have to BE the best fit for the job.

The ultimate irony is that I have hired people from 16-85 years of age, each different types of people from varying backgrounds, because we focus on 3 things: working well with others, ability to do the job and passion for the job. Nothing else matters.

And the volunteer who wants only dogs with certain snouts? She probably won’t foster. The employers who wanted certain GPA’s? Statistically, they won’t be happy with their hire. And, I don’t work with people who want certain noses. I work with clients who want to have the best person on their staff and are willing to look past noses in order to find them, because it works.

Making Margaritas

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margsWhen I owned my restaurant, we would have really busy times, and in those busy times, I would jump behind the counter and help my staff serve our customers. I was notorious for making margaritas by the bucket. I would go into the basement, get out the tequila, lime juice, triple sec, and apple juice (our secret ingredient) and literally create buckets of margaritas to serve with our amazing enchiladas and nachos.

While my staff was thrilled to have me help them get our customers served as quickly as possible, it was a short term fix to a much larger issue. When we would get hit with a rush of people, as the owner of the company, my time was NOT best served by helping out my staff in the moment… my time was best served by getting more staff on the floor in order to help the customers get their orders. In other words, I needed to focus on the bigger picture… why we were short staffed at all in that moment.

Three years into owning the restaurant, I quit making margaritas. I refused to step back behind the bar to help, but instead I would begin calling to get more people on the floor. When I hired a general manager, it became his job to make those calls, and my job was to make sure that we had enough staff trained and ready to go for the busy times.

I see this all the time with my clients. They spend their time doing the extra work when they should be spending time looking at the business as a whole. In other words, make your margaritas on Saturday, and focus on your whole business during the week.


A “Normal” Interview at Starbuck’s

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imagesI love it when an opportunity presents itself to listen in on a “normal” interview. Arriving early for an appointment at a Starbuck’s in the Denver area, I was enjoying an amazing cup of black tea as the store manager began interviewing for a potential staff member. As effective interviewing is my passion, I was fascinated by the exchange I observed.

First, the candidate entered the Starbucks as I did at 12:45. She sat nervously waiting for 15 minutes to begin the interview for her next potential position. While the manager did begin the interview at exactly 1:00 (kudos to her) a huge opportunity to set up the candidate for immediate success was missed. An A-list candidate will ALWAYS be 15 minutes early for an interview, especially for a position they are really interested in. If the interviewer actually leaves them waiting for 15 minutes, the candidate only becomes more nervous, thus increasing the chances to blow the interview.

Second, the manager talked for the entire interview, occasionally glancing at the resume of the candidate. The candidate very dutifully nodded her head (she will need a massage after this!) and laughed at all the manager’s jokes. In a truly effective interview, the hiring manager should be engaging in active listening, rather than explaining the position and requirements. If the manager is talking rather than asking questions, the candidate does not have the chance to share skills, abilities, and personality with the manager. By not listening, the manager really has very little knowledge about the applicant or how they can truly contribute to the team.

Third, the manager got up and left the table twice to handle other issues and the candidate was left sitting by herself. Now I realize life can be full of interruptions. However, during an interview, the only focus should be around the task at hand: assessing the skill set and cultural fit of the potential new employee. Continuous interruptions reduce the hiring manager’s ability to determine fit and the candidate’s confidence about the job environment.

Fourth, the manager interviewed this woman in front of an audience of roughly 10 people waiting for their coffee drinks. The interview lasted 42 minutes. So for 42 minutes this candidate was not only vulnerable and exposed to a hiring manager, but to an entire audience of people. Don’t hold interviews in public, high traffic areas. Respect is a cornerstone for any great relationship and public interviews are very disrespectful.

Last, but certainly not least, the manager discussed the highpoints of the candidate with another worker behind the counter, again in front of an audience. Do I really need to point out how disrespectful this is?

After my observances, I realized that this is a perfect example of a “normal” interview, meaning that most people conduct interviews just like this and wonder why they can’t hire good people. I honestly do not believe this hiring manager was even aware of her interviewing style and its ineffectiveness towards hiring a great employee. My big question is this: Was this manager really ever taught how to conduct an interview? Did she feel supported through the process, so that she could be successful in her hiring decisions? Did she really have the tools and environment needed to be successful in her decision making process?

Employers who truly desire amazing staff need to support their hiring managers by teaching them how to interview. Give them the proper tools to find the next generation of A-list employees needed to grow the business.  This is the gift that keeps on giving.

“Eds and Ongs”

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When my poor clients have to hire someone, they have what I call the “Eds”:

“The interview I dread

My feet feel like lead

I want to go to bed and

Pull the covers over my head.”

Well, when you bring that type of energy to the interview process, guess what type of person you are going to hire? An “ed”.

My job is to get my clients to the “Ongs”:

“I feel powerful and strong

Even when the process is long

That I will find the one

That truly belongs.”

Are you ready for an “ong”? Then, you are singing my song!

Going Blind

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blindfoldedMy daughter once made a Christmas present for me that she didn’t want me to see. She had me bend down and she covered my eyes with her little hands. We stumbled along until we got to her room, and she pulled her hands away. My surprise was a diorama of Christmas at the Smith house, complete with the tree, presents, the stockings by the fireplace and my kid walking in on Santa going up the chimney. It is the cutest thing, and the detail was something that I never would have expected. It sits out on our bookshelf all year round, and I still remember covering my eyes and going blind in that great surprise.

When I begin working with a new client, I ask them to do something that they have never done before: I ask them to go into an interview with a candidate blind. Don’t read the resume. My client will know the candidate’s first name and that is it.  Why? Because reading the resume before you meet the candidate gives you the ability to pre-judge. It feeds into our prejudices, and when you read a resume, you miss the surprise.

At A-list, we have a person in charge of screening resumes, and he is amazing at it! He developed a process for screening quickly and effectively, all the while, allowing my clients to be surprised by what the candidate brings to the table and checking their prejudices at the door. This process allows for more diversity, more ideas and more creativity in a company.

Next time you hire someone, have someone else screen for you. Don’t look at the resumes: be surprised by going blind into your next interview.

Waterfall of Treats

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boneAs most of you know, we foster dogs through a wonderful organization called PawsCo. Our job as fosters is to transition the dog from a shelter environment, an unfit home or an otherwise bad situation. Our last dog was an adorable little dachshund mix with a blond scruffy coat. She is a lap dog in the house, sweet and gentle, but outside? She turns into Devil Dog. She growls at cyclists, cars wheelchairs and strollers. She is aggressive and threatening when she is surprised by an oncoming object.

At PawsCo, we have access to a wonderful trainer named Megan Hill, who helped us train Chloe by what she calls a “waterfall of treats”. Being outside is very anxious for Chloe, because she was found on a highway wondering around. In order to survive, she had to be aggressive. Our job is to teach her that being outside is fun and safe. So, we go outside and start giving her treats for no reason…just for being outside. Then, we start tapering off, and give her treats any time that we see a car or anything else that makes her growl. All the while, we taper off the treats until she can walk outside without growling and feeling anxious.

The same process occurs when you bring a new employee into your organization. You don’t use treats, you use accessibility. Most of my clients think their job is over when we hire someone, but really, their job is just beginning. You have to teach your employee the job. NO ONE walks into a position and knows how to do it to your satisfaction without your guidance and input. Be available, be accessible, and check on your new employee often. As they become more confident in their role, then you can back off. Simply stick your head in their office and ask how they are. Ask how you can help. Ask what questions they have for you. Your commitment to their training will benefit you in ways that you can’t know right now, but in the future? You have just hired AND TRAINED your a-list candidate: the one that has your back and performs amazing things for you and your company.

As for Chloe, she got adopted last weekend by a wonderful couple in Evergreen. They go on walks with a lot of treats, while she is adapting well to her new environment and loving every minute of it.

And the Smiths are getting the house ready for our next beloved dog. Happy training!

“You’re Fired!”

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fired_stampA few weeks ago, I received a phone call from a frantic client who had to fire someone. She was late, she was dropping balls, and worst of all, there had been multiple client complaints. He tried everything that he could to get her up to speed: he sent her to training classes; he moved her office into his; he wrote list after list of processes so that she could learn… nothing worked. After 2 years, it was time to let her go.

My client was just horrified to take this action. He kept saying how nice she was, what a good person she was, and how much he liked her. Yet, she wasn’t getting the job done. He was doing her job AND his, all the while paying her to do a job not well done.

Here is the bottom line: if someone isn’t successful in their job, they aren’t happy. If they aren’t happy, they aren’t successful. They have to LOVE their job to be good at it. If they aren’t good at it, then everyone loses. Your job as their boss is to recognize when someone isn’t being successful, and do everything that you can to help them be successful. Then, if that doesn’t work, you need to let them go. You deserve an employee who loves working for you, and your fired employee deserves a chance at happiness. If it isn’t working for you, then it isn’t working for them either.

What I really appreciate about this client is that he isn’t excited about firing this person. He isn’t making this decision lightly, and it doesn’t feel good to him. This time, we will hire the right fit by going through the A-list Interviews 7 Step Process, so that this doesn’t happen again.

“It Only Hurt Once… From Beginning to End”

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJames “Doc” Counsilman, swim coach to the great Mark Spitz, was the oldest person to swim across the English Channel at the age of 58. What makes this story so remarkable? He had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 4 years before that swim. In order to prepare for that amazing swim, he sat in ice cube baths to prepare for the cold water. When reporters asked about his pain level upon his completion, he said “it only hurt once… from beginning to end.”

Last week, I finished a job and hired a fabulous candidate for my client. We interviewed 38 people, had over 100 applicants, then we ran into wall after wall. We had multiple no-shows, offered the job to someone who couldn’t take it, and had someone walk out without shaking our out stretched hands. Upon our glorious candidate accepting the job, my client turned to me and said “Is there ANY way you can make this process less painful?”

The simple answer is no. I wish I could. Frankly, this process is not the most enjoyable business activity. Hence the reason businesses often put it off until the need for someone is so great that they have to begin the interview process. There will be days when you truly despise the process and even me as your interviewing coach. What you will get when you work with me is that I make your life so much easier after you go through this process and after we find the A-list new hire you are seeking. You WILL be able to take days off, you WILL be able to rest, you WILL be able to trust that things get done, and you WILL hurt a lot less once you swim that channel. And just like Doc said, “It will only hurt once…from beginning to end.”

When you know it’s a No

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not hiringI always find the hiring process fascinating, especially when I begin working with people who have had employees on staff for an extended period of time that are not a good fit. They almost always report to me “I knew it was not going to work out” after we get to a place where we are going to let go of an employee and begin searching for the perfect candidate to hire.

As many of my conversations with new clients go, I met with a potential new client who began the conversation with “You have to know that I am BAD at hiring.”

I said, “How do you know?”

He said, “Because I just fired the worst hire EVER.”

I asked, “When did you know that this employee was the worst hire ever?”

He said, “I knew the first day. I just KNEW it was not going to work out. And I have known that for 2 years.”

Now two years maybe somewhat extreme but I hear many of my clients report that they hired someone, knew they were not going to work out almost immediately, then leave the person in the position
for months of not years just to avoid having to interview again. Instead I challenge you fellow business owner to hire differently by really listening to the candidates during the interviews. They will tell you if they will not work out. You just have to listen.

For example, last week, I interviewed a candidate that my client really wanted to hire until we started talking about the language that this person used in the interview. It was always someone else’s fault, they didn’t get enough training, and the traffic was always terrible. The client looked at me with this hang dog look, like I had just burst his balloon. I commented “Do you know this one is a no?” He said “Yes. But I don’t want to know that it’s a no. I want a new employee!” This is the absolute most difficult part of the interview process. You are tired, you need help and you want this person to work out SO bad! But as another client of mine said, “When you shorten this process, you pay the piper.’ And he’s right. The price is an employee who you knew from the start would not work out. Then you have to go through the pain of firing and hiring all over again.

I encourage you to listen to yourself and the language of your potential new hires. You know when it’s a no. Wait until you know it’s a yes.

Rejection is Protection

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rejectionRejection comes so often as business owners. We are often told people are not interested in our products and services. Typically we shrug it off and begin the pursuit of someone else who may really need our offerings. Yet, when we are in a position to offer a new employment opportunity, we are shocked when we receive a no thank you from a candidate.

For example, I was so excited for one of my clients last week when we extended an offer to a candidate. I was equally excited for another client when we invited a different candidate back for a third interview! Both candidates declined which tossed both of my clients into a bit of depression. Imagine how disheartening it was for them both to be so excited about a potential new hire only to have the candidate demonstrate that they are not excited about the position.

Many of my business clients are stressed out, overworked, tired and sometimes completely panicked as they are hiring for a new or vacant position. My best advice is that Rejection is Protection and actually something to be very excited about. If someone does not want to work for you and they tell you that BEFORE you hire them, you win! You are protected from poor quality work, absenteeism, and unsatisfied clients, because when someone LOVES their job, they perform. They give it their all, and both of you are happy.

So, when you feel like you have been punched in the gut after a candidate rejections your position, learn to be grateful. Turn that negative into a positive. Turn lemons into lemonade and get ready to serve that lemonade to your new A-list candidate who is walking your way right this minute.

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