Recruiting a Great Manager Part 2: Finding The One

Missed Part 1 of our series? Check out Finding the Talent Pool for Your Tribe.

If you consider your people one of your business’s greatest assets, then finding and retaining exceptional managers is a very high priority for you. Those who achieve success in this quest acknowledge that:

  • a great manager will pay dividends for many years, and
  • finding a great manager is a time consuming process.

You need to devote an appropriate amount of time to your recruitment process.

Recruiting Best Practices Continued

Don’t Build a Stepford Management Team

The last thing you want is a team of managers who are just like you. Build your business on a foundation that supports people sharing multiple, competing perspectives and implements the best ideas from among them. Yes, you want a great fit, but a great fit can come in all different shapes and sizes – and the more variety, the better. Look at your existing team and try to fill the gaps – do you have anyone under 35? Over 60? Diverse ages, cultural backgrounds, education levels, and industry experiences should all be represented on your team.

These varying perspectives require you to act as a strong leader, setting clear expectations of the type and quality of communication in your organization. It’s up to you to make sure the new hire complements your management team – particularly if your team has been together for a while.

Ask Great Follow Up Questions in Interviews

There are many books that list thousands of interview questions and we’d be happy to point you to a few of the best. Whatever questions you use to open the conversation, it will be the follow-up whys that break through the superficial answers and tell you what kind of person you’re really dealing with. Consider the standard questions:

  • Why did you leave your previous position?
  • What is your greatest weakness?
  • Tell me about a time when you failed.
  • What was the first car you ever owned?
  • What is your biggest accomplishment?

Any decent candidate has these answers well polished. You need to dig. Ask why. Then ask about that answer. Then ask why again. And ask why to that answer. The rule of thumb is, five whys will get you to the real story. Try it right now. The results are immediate and deep.

Test for Adaptability

You run a small business, which means your management team members must be nimble. They need to learn and adapt to changing conditions, multiple client types, supplier types and employee types. Previous experience offers some hints, but how do you know how managers will respond to changing conditions? The answer is to test them.

Ask a question like, “Pretend I’m downtown. How would you give me directions to City Hall?” There are two basic ways to answer this question:

  1. “Take the Granville Bridge, turn left on 12th, and it’s at 12th and Cambie.”
  2. “There are 3 bridges you could take. Burrard would probably be slower because they just installed that new bike lane, and it can be tough to get to the Cambie Bridge with all the one ways and construction, so I think I’d take Granville. Of course, you might want to take the Fir off-ramp. It will take you past Broadway – you’ll know it because there’s an Earls right on the corner, and then go up to 12th….”

Each answer is accurate, and the one they give doesn’t really matter. Just ask if they’re open to feedback.

If they answered the first way, tell them you want more detail. See how they respond. Do they describe some landmarks? Draw a map? If they gave the long answer, tell them to pretend you’re an impatient person, and ask how they would respond in that situation. Give them feedback on their answer and see if they are able to change their approach. Someone who bristles at the feedback or has trouble adapting their style in this simple example is less likely to be adaptable in the workplace.

Learn From Someone Who’s Seen Your Candidates at Work

Once you’ve narrowed your choices to the top three candidates, don’t be shy about calling their references. Write down the top three things you love about this candidate and your top three concerns, and ask about those specific things. Ask follow up questions and request examples. The value of the reference checks will be proportionate to the quality of questions you ask. Also ask the references if there is anyone else they think you should talk to about the potential hire.

A formal background check (not just a Google search) should also be a standard element of your recruitment process. Most people have nothing to hide, but the ones who do have learned to be very good at keeping secrets.

All Aboard!

Recruiting a manager is extra work crammed into your already bursting schedule. It’s also work you do infrequently (we hope), meaning you may get rusty between cycles. Most people have great intentions when they start recruiting, but the process can be draining. When fatigue sets in, remind yourself of the goal. Recruiting takes a few weeks, but a great hire will be with you for years. Don’t rush it. As with any new relationship, you want the honeymoon to last as long as possible – maybe forever. It’s your job to find the right person first, and then set them up so that initial excitement lasts well into their tenure with the firm. The final article in this series delves into the onboarding process and describe things you can do in the first six weeks to set your new manager up for success.

Stickiness – The Lessons Learned

  1. Seek Diversity: Develop a management team with a variety of perspectives. Look for people with different educational backgrounds, personal histories, cultural backgrounds, age, etc.
  2. Ask Great Questions: This is your chance to find out whatever you want to know, so don’t let politeness win over clarity.
  3. Hire Learners: Test your candidates’ abilities to incorporate feedback immediately.
  4. Trust Experience: Never, ever hire anyone without thoroughly checking references.

Bellrock is a management consulting and change management firm where remarkable is expected. If you found this article valuable, don’t be stingy. Share!

Written By:
Tara Landes

Tara Landes is the Founder and President of Bellrock. She has spent over 20 years consulting and training in small to medium-sized enterprises. A sought-after speaker on a wide range of business topics, Tara has delivered workshops and seminars at conferences and industry associations across Canada. Tara obtained a BA (Honours) in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and earned an MBA from UWO's Richard Ivey School of Business.

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