You ever wake up one day and suddenly have a clear answer for a challenge for which there seemed like there was no answer? Well, I had that experience a couple of weeks ago about the interviewing and selection process. You know the challenge – you design the “perfect” system to select only the right candidates for your company. You’re feeling good until you make a hiring mistake. So you tweak the system, come up with new questions to ask, create case studies or make them do some kind of scenario. And it still doesn’t work so you repeat the process again and again until revamping your selection process becomes an annual HR goal.
But in my moment of clarity it’s now it’s now clear to me why: we’re running our selection process in the wrong order. If I look back, the best test of a candidate is how they negotiate their compensation since it’s the only time in the whole process that their true colors only come out. Because it’s real and not concocted like the rest of the process. So I propose that every company should start their selection process by negotiating with the candidate. It will tell you all you need to know about a candidate in a fraction of time. Here’s my quick guide for what you’re likely to see:
The Yes Man: Before you’ve even finished making the offer the Yes Man has accepted it. No questions, no thinking about it, and no negotiating. He just accepts it. Really? This drives me nuts! Whenever this used to happen to me I would immediately worry that I just hired someone who was so desperate for anything that came along. Now, I refuse to accept a yes on the spot. You have to at least hang up the phone and call me back to accept.
Page 2, Paragraph 3, Line 4: These people are so far in the weeds they might was well be the soil. They negotiate every inch of the offer in a way that makes you want to scratch your eyes out. Yes, I’m happy you actually read through the offer but you know, we don’t even read that far into the offer letters. These guys are focused on the little details that in the grand scheme of things don’t really matter.
And Another Thing…: The candidate tells you exactly what they would like to see changed in the offer, you agree to make the changes (often after a lot of internal work). You call the candidate back confident their acceptance is a formality and all the sudden there’s one more thing they’d like to see you change. And it goes on and on…I never know if people do this because they haven’t thought through all the alternatives or if they think this is how they’re supposed to negotiate. Either way it’s excruciating.
Let Me Talk with my Manager: You know this process – you go to buy a car and every offer you make has to be discussed with a manager who you can’t see and maybe doesn’t even exist. You make the candidate a good offer, they’re excited about the offer and tell you they need to talk it over with their family. Fine. They call you back and say something like “I’m ready to accept the offer but my husband/wife/family want me to ask for X and you know, I have to make sure they’re on board with this move.” In some cases I make the change and the process repeats – they have to go run the offer by their “manager.” Geez.
I’ve Gots Bills to Pay: This is my favorite. You make a competitive offer. You know it, they know it. But then the candidate calls to tell you about their bills, in some cases they detail their every monthly expense – mortgage, car payment, daycare, credit card bills and drinking money. They build it from the bottom up and ask for enough to cover their bills. So let me get this straight – I have to up the offer because you decided it was a good idea to buy a new car and put it on your credit card?
And we could go on.
The point however, is that in each of these cases I’ve learned something about how a candidate is going to act once they have joined my company. The trouble is generally by the time you make an offer and see some behaviors you’re not thrilled about it’s too late. It would be pretty tough to take back an offer at that stage of the game. So move it. Invite a candidate in not for an interview but for a negotiating session. It will save you a ton of time!
Andy Porter is Chief People Officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, MA which means he works with some wicked smaaht people. Some days, he indeed does wear short shorts around the office(call it a morale booster) but it really just makes people uncomfortable. Other days, he spits some mad game on cheese. No really – he’s somewhat of a cheese aficionado. But more importantly? At Broad he gets to his small part to help change the world of healthcare.