How Great Managers Hire: Fit, Role and Relationship

Dear Manager,
How do you recruit, interview, select and hire (RISH)?

You have a position to fill, and I assume you’ve done your prep work well: You have seized the opportunity at hand to re-evaluate the vacancy completely, whether adding to your team or replacing someone. You’ve played devil’s advocate, asking yourself why you need to hire, and why this particular job is mission/vision/cause-critical: The job is worthy (it’s important) and worthwhile (it’s desirable).

All of that defines the job at hand, but it doesn’t necessarily describe the job-holder. Not completely. When Alaka‘i Managers select someone and hire them, they’ll be hiring for fit, role and relationship.

Hire for the future, not for the past

In my early days of being a manager, I would conduct hiring interviews as most rookies do. I’d look over their job application or resume as the candidate sat in front of me, and I’d ask whatever clarifying questions came to mind, without understanding my first mistake — hiring from their point of reference instead of mine.

It wasn’t until a considerable amount of trial and error, selecting three poor gut-choices as my interview questions for every shot-in-the-dark fortuitous one, that I realized something that would forever change my approach: The fine details of a person’s past experience was not as important to me as the likelihood of what they would do going forward, having the benefit of retaining that experience.

What had they learned, and what would they now do with their most valuable lessons? What would they do with me, and with the job I offered them? How could I imagine the job getting further defined with their personality and character (their Aloha), their signature Ho‘ohanohano distinction, their ideas and probable growth (‘Imi ola)?

Within my interview process I had been filling in the blanks of a candidate’s past. What I eventually learned to do instead, was fill in the blanks of their most probable future, a future I would have a role in. [For more in that regard, read The Role of the Manager Reconstructed].

When the interview was over, there was really only one question I needed to have an answer for: If I hired this person, what was I getting myself into as their manager?

Try This - 1
Try This - 1 by Lululemon Athletica on Flickr

Would this person be self-managed? Would they be a star, comfortable in their own skin, yet eager for more learning, and possible change? Was this person ready for leadership in whatever circumstance the world would place them in, or would I as their manager be required to work with them in their self-leadership arrival process — and if so, to what degree?

Could I feel their energy? Would we constantly be forging a partnership we were likely to both flourish in?

Most managers learn these lessons eventually, but RISH is one of those areas in which you really want to speed up the learning, for mistakes are costly. Trial and error is a lousy way to learn how to hire. So reflect on your own hiring process, and if you manage other hiring managers, have the talk story to help them prepare well, and make better hiring decisions:

  • What is FIT all about in this particular position? We’ll often cover teaming concerns when we first answer the FIT question, but what about values? Values will be the primary behavior drivers.
  • What will be the ROLE of the person you hire, and what then, will your ROLE be as their Alaka‘i Manager?
  • What is the RELATIONSHIP you are expecting to have between you, and how will it evolve in the time they are part of our workplace culture? Will you both be open to welcoming change when it must happen? Will this be a person you will constantly look forward to having conversations with, eagerly giving them your Daily Five Minutes?

Then before you make your final decision and get ready to extend a job offer, ask those same questions of the candidate, restating each to frame their expectations. Do they demonstrate a commitment to deliver on your shared expectations?

When all is said and done, it will be their job, not yours.

Aloha! Just joining us?

Talking Story is the blog home of those who are learning to be Alaka‘i Managers — those committed to managing and leading with Aloha. Read a preview of the book which inspired this movement, and visit our About Page.

Talking Story with Rosa Say


  1. says

    Many people have trouble with hiring people they like instead of what is best for the company. It really takes a good leader to understand.