How Companies Identify Talent with Roxi Bahar-Hewertson & Kage Spatz

HR Strategy Series, Real Human Resources

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Highland Consutling Group, Inc. Human Resources Hiring Strategies

Leaders have a huge ripple effect on the day to day lives and well-being of the people in their charge.

As a part of my HR Strategy Series, I’m talking to top experts in the field to teach prospects what hiring managers are actually looking for, while also supporting business leaders in their hiring and retention strategies. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Roxi Bahar-Hewertson.

Roxi Bahar Hewertson is the author of the recently released book Hire Right, Fire Right: A Leader’s Guide To Finding and Keeping Your Best People. She served 5 years as adjunct faculty at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where she received her master’s degree. With a focus on developing high performing leaders for over 25 years, you can find her insights in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc., Chief Learning Officer, Training Industry Magazine, on the stages of TEDx, and more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! First, please tell us what brought you to this specific career path?

My passion for helping well-meaning leaders get better and better has driven my work for the last 25 years or more. I’ve been in a leadership role since I was 23 years old — a scary thought — right? I’ve learned so much from failing, practicing, focusing on what matters, studying, and teaching leadership skills and tools. What I’ve learned over several decades has made me very aware of how much of a difference every supervisor, manager, and top executive makes in the lives of those who are within their “responsibility pond.” My work with leaders is highly rewarding and impactful — that’s why I keep doing it!

Can you share the most interesting or funny story that happened to you since you started this career and what lesson you learned from that?

This story happened early in my career. In a university-wide orientation for new managers at Cornell University, we were invited to hear from the most senior leaders in the faculty and administration. I experienced something like electricity moving through me when the only senior woman, a Vice Provost, spoke to us. She said, “Never, ever let anyone intimidate you — not because of rank, position, education, size, gender, or anything else — because you have as much a right to be here as anyone else, and you have as much to contribute as anyone else — if you choose to do so.” That one sentence shifted my sense of self-empowerment from that day forward. A day later, I raised a question to the Senior VP about the mixed messages I had heard from the faculty and the administration about the university’s main purpose for being. He could not answer the question. At the break, the Comptroller came up to me with his finger-wagging in front of my face and said, “The trouble with you is…” I held up my hand in front of his wagging finger and said, “Hold it Jack — The X said this, the Y said this and the Z said this all in the same day to our group. So who is right — that’s all I want to know.” He backed off immediately, and said, “They did? Hmmm — well that’s interesting.” And then he walked away. Soon he began inviting me to his exclusive financial meetings and never again did he try to intimidate me.

Wonderful. Hiring can be very time consuming and difficult. Can you share 5 techniques that you use to identify the talent that would be best suited for the job you want to fill?

Yes, that’s true, and it’s also true that when we hire too fast, we often make big mistakes. In my book, Hire Right, Fire Right — A Leader’s Guide to Finding and Keeping Your Best People, I offer an entire hiring right search map to get it right the first time. Identifying the right person for the right position is an art and a science. It’s not a simple transaction in any way — it’s all about relationships from the start of the process forward. Here are five key things hiring leaders need to do — and there are many more:

  1. Create a Search Team and train them well. Delegate parts of the process to them. Example: Having invested people’s eyes, brains, and hearts involved in vetting and interviewing adds huge value and spreads out the work and shortens the time required to vet candidates.
  2. Determine whether to post or recruit or both. This decision is key and should be well considered to get the best pool of people to see your position opening. Neither is good or bad — if you have a large pool in a region or nationally where posting/advertising will work, that’s great. If not, networking, using a recruiter, and/or doing both posting and proactive recruiting may be the right option. There is a lot to consider in making this decision and I have provided resources and questions to answer, before you decide, in my book.
  3. Vet resumes blindly with clear, objective criteria — no names or other conscious or unconscious bias related characteristics like hobbies, or even where they went to school or where they live should matter in judging basic qualifications. It has been proven again and again that gender, race, ethnicity, and other non-work related factors showing up on resumes play far too big a part in decisions by hiring managers about which candidates to pursue — thereby risking the loss of diversity and great people that could make great hires.
  4. Require “beyond the resume” written responses to key questions that matter to you. For instance, I always included a question like this: “What do you think would be helpful for us to know about you that isn’t on your resume and isn’t related to work?” Written answers tell us a lot about a candidate — can they follow directions; do they meet our deadlines;can they write/communicate well without grammar and typo mistakes; do they answer the questions well; what examples do they choose to share in their answers, etc.?
  5. Evaluate each candidate on my A-G Factors ( written, in person, or virtual communications), weighing them in importance for the particular position. They are: Attitude, Brains, Character, Drive, Emotional Intelligence, Fit, Gut, and Heart. I explain each of these in my book and offer samples of questions that reveal a great deal about a candidate. Simply evaluating candidates on brains, education, and experience (which is a common hiring habit and trap) fails to produce a better than 50 percent success rate — which is costly, inefficient, and…frankly, very bad business that should not continue to be the norm.

With so much noise and competition out there, what are your top ways to attract and engage the best talent in an industry when they haven’t already reached out to you?

  1. People like to work for businesses and organizations with good reputations. The people you want to hire are savvy and can and will do their research — online and through networks like LinkedIn and professional organizations. So for me, the obvious answer is have a good reputation as an employer in the first place, and communicate the qualities about your business that you’re most proud of in every way you can, certainly on your web site. And speaking of web sites — if yours is unattractive, boring, hard to navigate, hard to apply for a job online, or your mission, vision and values aren’t front and center — then you have work to do.
  2. Targeted outreach– when you have identified the qualities and qualifications you are looking for, do your research and find out where those people are working right now. If you are totally stumped, you may need to hire a specialist recruiting firm that knows where the good players are and what it would take to move them. And…just like candidates, use your networks and professional organizations to share what you want and need and ask them to spread the word.
  3. Get creative — how about an on line job fair opportunity that gets blasted out to your entire industry? If you’re in Higher Education, for instance, you can tap into your alumni and all of their networks to spread the word, or, like many businesses, you can offer employees an incentive for finding great hires from within their networks.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I am using my voice to inspire a revolution in leadership. Leaders have a huge ripple effect on the day to day lives and well-being of the people in their charge. Today, too many of our leaders are ineffective at best, and disastrous at worst. This is my passion — I write about it, teach about it, speak about it, and coach about it. I am focused on changing the world one leader at a time and better yet — through a lot of great leaders at a time!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” and how that was relevant to you in your life?

There are so many quotes I cherish. I will choose Stephen Covey’s, “Seek first to understand, then seek to be understood,” because it’s all about being present, really present, with the person in front of you. It is about deep listening. If you are not listening, you are not leading — it’s that simple. It underscores everything else I teach about leadership, and I do my best to remind myself about this powerful practice every day.

We are blessed to have some of the biggest names in Business, VC, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private lunch with, and why?

I would love to have a private lunch with Oprah Winfrey or Bill Gates — both are highly effective leaders in their chosen fields and very different in their approaches to leadership. I’d value hearing their ideas about how to inspire leaders to really care about leading well, and how we might shift the paradigm within our culture from highly effective leadership being an exception to being an explicit expectation of anyone in such a role.

Thank you for sharing so many fantastic insights with us!

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