Never discount your intuition: Trust in it, and groom it

2010 Update: I made the decision to bring Say “Alaka‘i” here to Talking Story in late May of 2010 when the Honolulu Advertiser, where the blog previously appeared, was merged with the Star Bulletin (Read more at Say “Alaka‘i” is Returning to the Mothership).

Therefore, the post appearing below is a copy of the one which had originally appeared there on January 25, 2009, so we will be able to reference it in the future when the original url it had been published on is no more…


Never discount your intuition: Trust in it, and groom it

Welcome to Sunday Koa Kākou. Sunday is the day I answer questions you send to me. If you have a question connected to management and leadership, leave a comment here, or email me.

From the Say “Alaka‘i” mailbox:

I’ve been reading your job hunting and RISH postings with great interest because ours is a firm which is hiring, and we need to fill a few positions. However RISH can also get harder when unemployment rises like this, and people are so desperate to get a job, and any job. Hate to say it, but people lie a lot, and it seems the white lies in interviews get bigger and bolder. I am very wary of people who interview well, but really just want to get a paycheck again, and so they seem to be “gaming it” in our conversation. So I was wondering about adopting a more scientific system: How do you feel about those talent assessment programs you can purchase, where behavior-based questions are specifically designed for a company’s needs?

I’m not a fan of them, and I think you’d be better off spending your money in another way right now. Talent assessment programs are generally very expensive when customized (essential, if you purchase them at all), and their results are not completely satisfactory nor pleasing to me.

A quick sidebar: We’ve devoted a good amount of blog space to job-hunting and hiring lately, and I’ll index the posts this emailer refers to as a footnote below.

Buying a fish, or learning to fish?

I first used one of those “talent indexing” programs years ago while with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and at the time I felt very fortunate because we were taught how it was constructed, and how to interpret the results accurately: It was learning I have since used repeatedly and built on. However since then, the newer systems I’ve learned about keep much of that back-story and analysis as part of their proprietary information ”“ and that doesn’t help you. To paraphrase an old parable: You are buying a fish, but you aren’t learning to fish.

A second drawback is that over time the questions became rote and boring to interviewers, and appear very detached and impersonal to candidates (something we learned quickly at The Ritz-Carlton hotel I was then associated with). Those “canned questions” can possibly be effective when they are part of the screening process in the HR office of a very large company looking for a few basic competencies and consistencies, or in a mass-hire situation where they are highly preliminary, in that (and only if) they are always followed up by another more personal interview/conversation by the hiring manager ”“ who should be the person they will directly report to.

Frankly I don’t care for them very much then either, for they don’t give the greatest first impression I would want a potential candidate to have of me or my company. Canned processes don’t sync well with my Aloha, Ho‘ohana and Ho‘okipa value system.

Relationship should trump process

You are starting a relationship when you interview, and no canned process can do that as well as you being willing to personalize your conversation with a candidate one on one. And yes, that includes separating the good candidates from the not as good ones.

Your question tells me that your intuition is kicking in when it needs to, and though it takes time, I feel that grooming your intuition continually by merit of both your hiring failures and successes is a far superior idea, one that will serve you well tenfold.

Let’s look at a couple of those RISH questions again, and from a different standpoint, that of a manager’s personal intuition, something no assessment program will ever duplicate for you. The ones connected to Recruitment are in italics, and I’m going to add a bit to them;

Who are you seeking?

  1. What does “the best possible person” for a position mean to you?
    What kind of relationship will you want to have with this person if you hire them? How often will you converse, and about what kinds of things, and how important will it be that you both communicate well, with full trust and understanding? Are you already having that kind of conversation right now, or will it take considerable more work?
  2. What combination of talent, skills and knowledge and industry/position competencies is most desirable, and what values are you hiring for?
    Think about how these things will be received by your customer, and by your vendor partners as well: Will they enjoy a relationship with this person too, feeling they are authentic in sharing your company competencies and values? In addition, will this person be part of a team? What are the strengths and weaknesses already present on that particular team: Will this be the person to successfully fill any gaps?
  3. What do you consider “ready to hit the ground running” to mean? Conversely, how much training are you willing to give someone, or might you even prefer to give them?
    And let’s think about both orientation and training for a moment: How much of it will be a natural for this person, and how much might be a fairly strenuous shift for them, where their results will be staged at best? What kind of learning are they looking for, and can you visualize they’re growing with you as their mentor? Will you enjoy teaching and coaching them?

I have yet to find an assessment tool which can answer most of these questions better than a hiring manager can, even one fairly “green behind the ears.”

Make the best of every conversation you have

Don't just go through the paces. Switch gears if you have to. For remember this: There are tons of different relationships you can have!

If you are in an interview and your intuition kicks in, telling you, “this is not the person I am looking for in filling this position,” ask yourself this: “So, who can they be? What kind of relationship could we still have?” Are they potentially a customer for you? Could they be a well-connected ambassador of your company? Could you personally strike up a good friendship, or network in a different way? Once you have made your decision in an interview not to hire them, these questions are not a conflict of interest.

Seek to optimize the best possible result of every interview you do.

Most jobs turn out to be temporary; we want people to continually learn, and grow into meeting bigger challenges. On the other hand, our relationships generally last much, much longer serving us in multiple ways, and looming much larger than company boundaries, something particularly true in our island communities.

Footnote: These are the past postings I believe this reader and hiring manager was referring to: