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A couple of years ago, I interviewed a candidate for a key leadership position that would help our company scale and grow. During our “cool-down” on the candidate – a meeting in which everyone involved in the interview process comes together and provides insight on the candidate from their unique perspective – there was ambiguity and mixed feelings.
One person made the comment, “He may beable to build the kind of team we need to scale and grow the operation.”
Another person had concerns that the candidates responses may bea little too rehearsed and lacked the kind of depth that experience brings.
And another pointed out that the candidate had a track record of job hopping and may bea flight risk if we hired him.
Some justified “yellow flags” and seemed to be talking themselves into the candidate. After all, he certainly had a resume that qualified him for the position and we had an immediate and big need.
While no one was an outright “no”, no one was a “yes,” either. The consensus was: “Maybe” this candidate would be a good fit.
I don’t like those odds. I’ve seen this before (I’ve done this before!) and as soon as I recognized what was happening, I called a time out. I reminded the team that no one who has ever done anything great at our company was a “maybe” in the interview process.
I’ve made the mistake of giving candidates a pass and it’s never ended well for me or for them. I’ve learned that it’s easy to justify “yellow flags” when there’s an immediate need to fill a position and it’s easy to talk oneself into a candidate. I’ve also learned that a cool-down, or a meeting where everyone has an opportunity to provide their feedback and perspective on a candidate, with clear standards, has been a necessary and critical part of our talent acquisition process.
I’ve learned that the best candidates – the ones I want to build our company around – are the ones who were clearly and definitively a “yes” during the cool-down.
In my two decades at Service Express, we’ve grown our company from 35 employees to almost 500, and as I look at the talented people who make up our growing organization, I don’t see a single “maybe” among them. I remember the excitement and energy their leaders had when they talked with me about them during their interview process.
With the help of my executive team, I’ve learned that, when there’s doubt or ambiguity about a candidate, we don’t hire.
Our rule of thumb is this:
A “no” in the cool down, is a “no” for the job offer!
A “maybe” in the cool down, is a “no” for the job offer!
A (clear and definitive) “yes” in the cool down, is a “yes” for the job offer!
It’s a standard that has served us well.
As you’ve already guessed, in the end, we declined to hire that candidate. He may very well have come in and done a fine job, but the odds were against that based on my experience.
We continued to interview for that position and, a few months later, we found a candidate who excited us. In the cool-down, we couldn’t stop talking about the various pieces of his experience and background and how it would help our company scale and grow. Characteristically, he was exactly who we were looking for when we created this role.
Today, that leader has accomplished more than what we hoped he would. He’s built and developed his team. He’s brought in systems and processes that have helped our people become more efficient. And, yes, he’s helping us to continue to effectively scale and grow our company.
The next time you have a role to fill, I encourage you to try a cool-down and adopt the standard that a “yes” means yes, and a “maybe” means no. It may bring clarity to a foggy situation!
January 11, 2019 at 05:45PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs