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The Art & Science of Hiring Superior Performers

Most discussions about hiring people focus upon the candidate credentials and resumes.  This is neither an Art nor Science relative to hiring Superior Performers – which should be the objective of any organization that is hiring people in our competitive global economy.

When reflecting on the reasons for high turnover, low morale, unengaged employees and low standards of performance, you can usually look no further than the hiring practices within your organization.

There is an Art and a Science to finding, interviewing and selecting the best possible candidates for a job position – with a higher probability of superior performance. So, let’s look at how to apply both the art and science into the hiring process.

The Science of Hiring

First, we will look into the Science of Hiring - which relates to having objective information about the candidates. Too often organizations skip this part of the process believing they know how to connect the dots between the resume and the interviews.

Skipping the objectivity piece of the hiring process is a highly risky activity. Many times a person has a great interview and is hired on the spot. Later, the real person shows up on the job and the difficulty begins. Why? People are both learning how to interview and are being trained in the interview process by the employment agencies as well as other public assistance agencies.

When you bring in the science piece of the hiring process, it should encompass both the job position and the candidate. This is a process designed to identify the best candidates for a particular position within your organization.

Let the Job talk first. By doing this, you reduce the influence of personal bias from the hiring managers and use a consistent process involving stakeholders of the position itselfresulting in a clear picture of the traits needed for the job. Job assessments are designed to reduce or eliminate the biases, incorrect assumptions about the job, personality preferences and lack of an understanding about the objectives of a position.

When executed properly you will end up with a Job Benchmark. This benchmark usually provides the hierarchy of personal traits needed for the job to be successful, a list of actionable traits (helpful for job descriptions) and behavioral interview questions for validating the experience level of the candidate.

When candidates apply for the job position in addition to the resume, references and certifications, you want to have them take an assessment. This assessment should be compatible with your job benchmark for comparison between the job and the candidate.

Then using a GAP Analysis you can easily determine how well a candidate “Matches” your Job based upon the job traits identified for superior performance.  Your goal is to be in a position to hire people who “match” the job traits – Naturally. When you do, you get high energy, highly focused, high performers for the position of need. Thus, your culture has a built in high energy, engaged employee who enjoys their job and can bring higher performance, since their skills and personal traits match the needs of the job.

The Art of Hiring

The second part of the hiring process deals with the art of hiring. This one is a little more on the qualitative side of the hiring process. Yet, this is the part that separates the good hires from the bad hires. The key to success in the Art of Hiring is Focus.

The hiring managers should be focused upon three elements.
1. The purpose of the position being filled
2. The outcomes or results needed from the position
3. Knowing what Superior Performance looks like on a daily basis
With these three elements clearly in mind, the art of hiring can begin. Interestingly, experience can be helpful or a hindrance to the hiring process. If the hiring manager has “healthy” experience, they will use this knowledge or wisdom to watch for the signals or traits found in high performers. If the “reaction” experience factor is used – meaning little thought or preparation involved – this hiring manager will probably make some poor judgment calls.

Examples of poor judgment calls are…
• Hiring someone who has the same behavioral style as the manager
• Lacking knowledge of effective changes to the position’s future
• Personal agendas conflicting with the direction of the organization and the job
• Hiring someone only because of a referral by someone they know
• Machine Age mentality – any person can be hired and if they don’t work out we can fire them and replace them with someone else.
In addition to the clarity of focus on what the job needs to be successful, there are other key screening activities thatcan be used – based upon the job requirements. Here are a couple of examples…
• The job calls for phone interaction with customers – have several phone interviews to test the candidate’s professionalism and mastery of purposeful conversation.
• If the job calls for interaction with key executives – include executives in the interview process to get feedback on their confidence level.
• If the job calls for a lot of group or committee actions - have the candidate involved in group interviews whereby the candidate has an opportunity to present themselves.
When you combine the Art and the Science of Hiring, your ability to find and select Superior Performers is greatly improved. It is your job to hire more high performers to successfully compete in our new economy. If you would like to know more about hiring high performers – email me at and request the white paper on Selecting Superior Performers.

-- Voss Graham

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Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

Sales & Small Business Ownership
Voss W. Graham is CEO and Senior Business Advisor for InnerActive Consulting Group Inc. He is known by his clients as "a knowledgeable partner who helps our team achieve business growth." He provides practical experience as a small business owner for over 29 years, yet is often engaged with Fortune 500 companies in the development of their people and business strategies.

Public Relations
Several professionals and strategists from the local Obsidian Public Relations firm provide excellent advice on everything from research to media relations to event planning. They believe that all companies, no matter how big or small the company or its budget, should have a public relations plan driving how they manage their relationships with key stakeholders. Public relations is an integral part of doing business the right way.

Human Resources
Joel Myers is a career Human Resources professional, with over 40 years in the field including 26 years in consulting.

Small Business Advice
Tom Pease is a small business owner of an office equipment dealership called e/Doc Systems, Inc. He has also owned a full-line Kawasaki dealership as well as a document shop. He used 30+ years of experience in owning a business to author two books, including: Going Out of Business by Design: Why 70% of Small Businesses Fail and Small Business Survival 101. He also has published 85 columns in The Memphis Daily News as the Small Business Advisor.

Marketing & Public Relations
Lori Turner-Wilson is CEO and Founder of RedRover Company, a sales development, marketing and PR consulting firm. Lori works with companies large and small, from start-ups to mature organizations, to help them improve the productivity of their sales force and the return on their marketing investment. Lori writes a weekly syndicated column for the Daily News, Memphis News, Nashville Ledger, and Desoto Times, among others, titled “Guerrilla Sales & Marketing,” for which she won a 2011 Summit International Award and 2012 International Communicator Award.

Design and Digital Strategy
Founded in 1999, inferno provides brand development, advertising, public relations, design and digital marketing services to clients across a broad spectrum of industries. Headquartered in Memphis with a satellite office in Kalamazoo, Michigan, the award-winning firm produces results-driven work by passionately combining strategic thinking, creativity and culture to ensure the success of its clients. For more information, visit

Labor & Employment Law
Fisher Phillips attorneys are ready to help you take a stand: in court, with employees and unions, or with competitors. Fisher Phillips has the experience and resolve to back you up. That's why some of the savviest employers come to the firm to handle their toughest labor and employment cases. The firm has 350 attorneys in 32 offices, including Memphis. For more information, visit

Since its founding in 2005, Paragon Bank has maintained a solid focus on the community and customer service. For more than 10 years, Paragon has delivered innovative products and financial expertise, convenience, and a deep understanding of what both businesses and individuals need from a ban, in order to provide solutions that make a difference. In the areas of business or personal banking, lending options or wealth management, Paragon delivers cutting edge technology, an experienced team and the most service-oriented staff of any community bank.