Get Shorten: hiring tips from the Labour leadership contest
The Labour party just hired a new leader. For those of us who have to hire people – and know it can be a haphazard process – what hiring tips can we learn from their innovative vote off between Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten?
My speciality is decision-making, and when it comes to people decisions, there are 2 things I think you could copy from the Labour party process, along with 2 things I think you should try and avoid doing.
Good: canvas diverse perspectives
Labour had their 87 MPS vote, and for the first time also their 40,000 party members. In fact, you could say they crowd-sourced their leader. The idea of having multiple people get involved with hiring is an important one, and not one which every company follows. Using Google as an example, they are famous for having at least 4 (sometimes 8) different interviewers including peers, clients, managers and also people from completely unrelated functions. This diversity of perspectives means that there is less chance of undue bias coming from the hiring manager, who may for example be in a rush to fill the role.
Good: use a Real Job Preview.
This is where you get the candidate to actually try the job for a while, and they see if they like it, and you get to see if they perform well. In the Labour process, both candidates effectively spent a month doing some of the functions of the Labour leader, particularly the media interviews. The idea of the Real Job Preview for you in your company is to give candidates a real flavour for the job, which lessens the need for candidates to guess what on earth the job is like from a two dimensional job description (usually one of the world’s most useless documents, let’s face it).
Bad: no probation period
The current Labour rules, recently put in place by Kevin Rudd, state that the leader can’t be stood down unless 60% of the caucus and party members vote for a spill. Now, that kind of defence of the incumbent wouldn’t work in your firm. However, even though firms do have probation periods, in my experience they are rarely used effectively. This is often for one of two reasons: either the manager hasn’t obtained enough evidence during the probation period to make an informed decision, so defaults to letting the employee stay on. Or the hiring manager has gained some evidence, but wants to ignore it, as they don’t want to admit they got the hire wrong or they don’t want to go through a new hiring process. So they cross their fingers and hope the person comes good.
An example of good use of probation is Zappos in the US, who openly offer to pay new employees $4000 if they leave during their first 2 weeks because they want people who really want to work for them and not people who just want money.
Bad: Too many hypotheticals
The Labour leadership process focused on what the prospective leaders would do in the future, and not on their track record. The crux of good interviewing is to ask for specific examples of work they’ve done – and ideally to check them with references. Asking hypotheticals is almost worthless as a predictor of future success. You can dramatically improve your hiring process by using behavioural interviewing, i.e. asking for examples of specific behaviours and projects, and having a consistent scoring system for candidates – not just giving them a vague good or bad verdict at the end.
Hiring tips for Microsoft, and to you
There is another powerful leadership position going at the moment, CEO of Microsoft. They have a 10 person committee doing this, and are considering a wide range of candidates. My hiring tips to them, and to you, are:
- focus on past behaviours and examples,
- allow candidates to try the job out for an hour or a day,
- have a shortlist of 3 good candidates to choose from after a couple of interviews, never recruit from a pool of one
- set clear criteria and scoring scales for interviews, and to reference check as widely as you can, ideally not just the first two references they provided
- have a clear plan on using the probation period, don’t wait til you’re 1 day out to gather feedback and make a decision
Written by Rob Pyne