Chuck Blakeman

Author, speaker, and founder of the Crankset Group.



How & why to get people to quit before you hire them.

Quitting process, not hiring process.

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This article was published on June 18, 2011. So far, 8 people have left their thoughts. Share your own thoughts.

How companies hire people is largely broken. We turned our hiring process into a quitting process. It works a lot better that way. We believe great people stay for what they GIVE and Industrial Age “employees” stay for what they GET. So we make them give a LOT before we hire them to ensure we have givers, not getters.

Problem: The Industrial Age taught people to get jobs, not do work.

Effect: BlessingWhite’s Employee Engagement Report 2011 says only 31% of employees are engaged – want to be there regularly, while 17% are totally disengaged. Another report said it more clearly. Companies would make more money if they paid 1/5th of their work force to stay home every day!

I believe only about 20% of possible employees are saying “Bring it on. Where’s the work? I want to be and do something significant. I’m having a blast here.” We have to find THESE people. Or get them to find US. To do this you have to weed out the 80% who largely just want to go to work, by making them quit before you ever hire them.

Solution:

1) Stop interviewing. OK, not really, but almost. Stop doing the traditional 1st round, 2nd round, 3rd round interviews where you sit around and talk with people about their resumes, which I call tombstones – edifices that tell what we used to do in the most glowing terms possible.

Why do we think TALKING to people about work, and looking at a tombstone full of their own opinions on their past, actually tells us anything about how they would work for us? NEVER LOOK AT RESUMES IN THE FIRST ROUND, ALMOST NEVER IN THE SECOND ROUND!

2) Design unique hiring processes for each job. Don’t sit across a desk from a boiler tech talking. Go to the boiler room, break something and have them fix it.

3) Hire for culture, never for skills. That’s why you don’t need a resume in the first few rounds. The first rounds should ONLY be to answer the questions 1) does this person fit in here 8-10 hrs a day? and 2) do they really like to work? Until you answer those two questions a resume is worthless, and will actually improperly color your interviews (I WANT this person to fit because I like their resume). HISTORICAL BIAS is very strong when you’ve already looked at their resume before the 2nd or 3rd round.

4) Make them work HARD before you hire them. Create whatever environment they will work in (stressful, customer-oriented, phone work, sales, etc.) and have them do projects instead of interviews. If they need to be highly independent, create a hiring process that gives them very little guidance and see what they do with it. If they need to be highly detailed, hide details in the process and see if they catch and follow them.

Now is the easiest time to fire them or have them quit – before you hire them. And people who just want to GO to work will drop out very quickly in this kind of process.

How we did it

For our last hire (Chief Results Officer – half marketing, half administrative, half event management, and half leadership), we did a four and a half page ad on Craigslist (where the hiring folks said we should never try to find someone). We told them all about our culture, the result we would want from them (not the “processes” they would do), and asked them not to send a resume, but answer seven questions about culture, life, ambitions, motivation, fun, etc.

We were told we would get 300+ resumes in an hour, but most people quit just reading the ad (we were clear in offering no benefits, no work hours and no vacation time – be adults and take off when you’re work is done). These quitters saw they would have to WORK to answer questions instead of clicking and sending a resume. We only got 135 responses in one month. And we were able to delete 45 of those immediately because they didn’t pay attention and sent their resume along, too.

We had them do two rounds of projects, which made another 50+ quit, and then we asked for resumes from the final 40. We asked 18 of them to do another project and come in for a 10-minute interview, and that made another 7 quit. I did 10-minute interviews with eleven people and the final three were sent to others in our company for 30-45 minute culture-fit interviews (to answer the question, “Can you guys see yourself working with any of these folks?”)

Results? We found the pearl among the pebbles – a life long keeper who finds work extremely fulfilling, is self-motivated and fits in like she’s been with us from the start.

Put them through the wringer – throw everything at them they will experience when working with you. Make them work hard before they are hired so you know it’s not about the money, but because they find it incredibly fulfilling. Look for perfect cultural fits who have a passion for what you do.

Make your entire “hiring” process into a “quitting” process and you’ll get the right people.



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Bernd Nurnberger

06/19/11

Lovely approach. Reminds me of reading years ago how Sony in Japan hires design engineers. Part of the interview are creative tasks, like: “Here is 1 meter of rubber hose. Write up 21 products you can make out of it.” Try it as an exercise.

Related, Seth Godin today wrote about coordination: “Our economy is almost entirely based on a Darwinian competition—many products and services fighting for shelf space and market share and profits. It’s a wasteful process, because success is unpredictable and unevenly distributed.” He mentions the method residents are assigned to hospitals after med school and aims at creating value by making coordination easier. http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/06/coordination.html


Chuck

06/19/11

Bernd,

Thanks for the Godin reference. The Darwinian thing is based on the assumption of scarcity – I need to get mine before they get theirs.

We either live in a world of abundance or a world of scarcity. Whichever one we choose affects every decision we make. Even in hiring.


Tatiana

06/21/11

This is really interesting. It would definitely weed out the people who don’t have any interest in working there!

I’m curious – do you know of any current companies that have policies similar to yours?


Chuck

06/21/11

Tatiana,

I know of a few smaller ones. O ne in particular gets down to two people and then have two separate happy hours with the whole company (100+), then the company votes on which of the two gets the job, not the dept. head. Their interview process starts with spending an hour with the receptionist to see if the receptionist would feel comfortable referring people to you, etc….

Best Buy, IBM and a few other giants also have no vacation policy or business hours – just get your work done and go home.

GoreTex even 20+ years ago had a dramatically different hiring process. Any person on a team could sponsor someone in to the team. The team then voted to see if that person should be hired, then the team decided on their responsibilities and their salary and informed HR of the deal. They also reviewed each others salaries and responsibilities each year and the team could vote someone off the team – firing them (maybe that’s where the TV show Survivor got its start). :)

I have a number of clients who have followed this hiring process (or a variant of it) themselves with good success as well.


Jeanne Male

07/06/11

Sheer genius, Chuck! I have always used a highly rigorous and unconventional interview process and you’ve taken it to the next level. People would actually ask me why I was trying to get them to quit before they started. I would smile and reply that getting them to quit was not my intention but rather that I have a “no surprises” policy. I love surprises, just not bad ones so it was in our mutual best interest to suss out the good, the bad and the ugly upfront.

Leaders and line managers often consider themselves too busy for sourcing and hiring details and jettison the responsibility to HR. Worse still, they continue to use tired past performance and targeted selection processes with a small selection of candidates identified by harried HR practitioners. The bottom line is that most HR recruiters (even if they have a list of competencies) don’t don’t have intimate understanding of the job capabilities needed drive the business and at the end of the day, they don’t have any skin in the game.

Bravo, to you and congratulations to your Chief Results Officer. I’m sure you will make amazing things happen and enjoy the ride!


Mike Frommelt

07/06/11

Chuck,
I agree completely with your post – especially the opening statement “How companies hire people is largely broken”. I also really like the process you built a to weed out poor candidates and find those who will truly fit.

However, I would say there is one piece of a great recruiting process that is missing here – the sourcing component. The very best candidates for any position are generally putting their nose to the grindstone for someone else. Therefore, they are not looking/responding to ads on Craigslist, or anywhere else for that matter. The great majority of the best candidates still need to be contacted one on one to be made aware of an opportunity and why it may be a fit for them. Unless your company has an exceptionally strong brand as an employer (like maybe a zappos or Google), you will not be able to draw in the very best candidate pool with a passive method like a job ad. It sounds like in this case you ended up with a great hire which is wonderful, but I have to say the statistics are just not in your favor when only using ads to generate candidates. My guess is there were many very strong candidates who never knew about the opening.
I know this sounds biased, being that I own an executive search firm, but this is the very reason our industry continues to exist. On the flip side, our industry has not done a great job of vetting candidates after finding them (or taking responsibility for their success or failure) so your suggestions here are great ones.
My firm has been implementing some of these practices (especially the hire for culture piece) since our founding 10 years ago, but you have given me some great ideas on other things we can do for our clients.

Thank you very much for a great post.


Chuck

07/06/11

Thanks, Jeanne – I know you’re one of the heros (heroines?) out there working to change this and get people to see “recruiting” in a whole different light.

Thanks for being the real engine driving these kinds of things!


Chuck

07/06/11

Mike,

Great comments on needing to source great candidates. I didn’t say everything in a short post, but definitely should recognize that great people aren’t usually looking for a job.

I think I was posting from our own company’s experience. We believe we are a mini-Zappos and that the right people are lining up to be part of our young company. We believe the best recruiting is to have a great company culture.. So we’ve filled all but the Chief Results Officer position this way – with people who showed up and said they were compelled to do this above anything else. But I think realistically we will likely at times need to proactively go get the right person.

My Chief Results Officer was gainfully employed and just happened to browse the ads. When she saw it, she told me she said to herself “This is my position. It is who I am. I already have this job.”

But idealistic is just that – idealistic. If the right person didn’t show up and we have an unfilled position, we’re going to go find them. Sourcing the right people is part of the mix! Thanks for the clarity on this.


Kevin Cullis

07/06/11

Chuck,

You have a broken vocabulary. Good people don’t want a JOB, they want to WORK. Your idea about resumes is good, but resumes are for PAST work, not for what someone wants to do in the FUTURE. Organizations need to hire people for their strengths, not because they’re “well rounded.” Check out the books Drive or Strengths Finder and you’ll get further insights.

Now from my personality point of view, getting me to “quit” shows me a lack of “inspiration” from the leaders, so your method has holes in it as you’d probably hire all “driven” workers, not motivated ones, if that’s the culture you want. Reminds me of a certain Fortune 500 company that wants all hires to “fight” for everything, not every organization needs to be a “fight club.”

Most of what you said, though, was a better choice than most hiring processes.


Chuck

07/10/11

Kevin,

I’m not sure I understand your post.

You said “Good people don’t want a JOB, they want to WORK.” I agree to the tee, which is why we need to figure out how to find the 31% who want to be there and actually work, not just come to work. Seems like we’re in full synch there, yes?

You also mentioned that resumes are for PAST work… not FUTURE, and that we shouldn’t hire someone just because they are well-rounded (which we learn first from their resumes). Again, I think we’re in total synch, which is why I recommend not looking at a resume until very late in the process.

And you’re “driven” vs. “motivated” escapes me – how does the above hiring process weed out motivated people and stick us with driven ones who want to create a fight club to beat each other?

Seems like finding “driven fighters” vs. “motivated contributors” is simply a choice based on the culture you already have and want to continue to build. Microsoft’s #1 Management Principle is “world domination”, and ours is “Live well by doing good.” No matter which process the two companies use, Microsoft will look for and find driven fighters who want to conquer everyone else, and we’ll find people who want to live well be doing good. Just one more reason why we need to know what culture we’re building before we start hiring.


Kevin Cullis

07/10/11

Chuck,

Yes, we’re in full sync with wanting to work rather than just performing a job. But I was trying to get your terms in synch with your efforts. Imagine if I came to you and said, “I’m looking for a job” versus “I’m looking for work,” how do the different terms present themselves to you or those that are reading this post? Your hiring process works, but I was adding some value to it by tweaking your terms some to match your process.

I’m in agreement with most of your thoughts and your hiring process is much better than nearly all that I have come across.

My issues with looking at resumes is if people want to change careers or work/life or doing something that fits more in line with their innate talents. A resumé will probably not show this innate potential, but your “projects” exercises does a better job. I was on an executive committee to hire a Director for the non-proft. Long story short, I was severely chided for not following the others processes, but when it came down to the final ten, we were nearly all in agreement, other than the order of the candidates. I find resumés to be almost passé and you’ve shown it to be almost true.

You’re hiring process follows what Eisenhower stated, “Better to have one working WITH you than three working FOR you.” While culture is important, there are problems if things are not addressed early on with culture. Notice that auto manufacturers have hired women for their design teams to give a woman’s perspective on their vehicle designs. Why did it take so long? Culture was the problem. Here’s a great example of where culture has an issue http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/employee-training-advancement-1402/ . Culture has it’s roots in “Do unto others.”

Thanks for the discussion.


Trace

07/12/11

I loved this article! I am a job-seeker, and it is frustrating to go into an interview room where the person interviewing me has a list of questions, and they go…"let’s see, I’m supposed to ask you this one. They never really do in-depth about my accomplishments, or want to hear about how I helped streamline a process that saved time and money.

Instead, they expect a certain type of response based on a question, and that is how they hire people. If Interview Subject A says such and such, consider them. If they say such and such, don’t.

Yikes. They miss out on the fact that at my last company, I suggested that they put some company FAQs on the intranet to cut down on mistakes, and the company eventually did. That helped save time and money. But when they ask what quality you liked in your previous supervisor, it kind of moots the whole “can they really do the job well” purpose of being interviewed.

It gets frustrating to say the least.

I recently interviewed at a company where the interviewer was late. I had to wait in the lobby a half hour. The receptionist was on the phone planning a party and getting pricing for food and equipment. When a customer did call in, she was not able to tell them the cross streets of where their company was located. Her excuse was “I don’t really know the area.”, and the other receptionist would take the call and help the person.

But when I was interviewed by the hiring manager, it was questions about what programs I knew, and if I was a team player. I thought about the receptionist…she knew programs and was probably a “team player”, but she really didn’t work. At least not in my opinion.

Employers seem to forget that anyone can look good on paper. My references are all professional people who will be honest in stating my work performance, how I handled crises that arose, etc., but they never bother to email or call them.

So when I interview now, I play the game of playing up the “skill set” of programs and using “buzz words”, because that is what interviewers have been trained to ask. And they expect responses based on that that mindset of thinking. Which gets them employees who can’t tell a customer what the cross streets to the company they are sitting and working at.


Chuck

07/12/11

Kevin,

Great response and clarifiers – thanks.

Trace,

Sounds corny, but be true to yourself in the hiring process. Don’t play their game. He who makes the rules wins, and if you play by fake rules, you’re possibly going to get hired by some company that is completely out of sync with your own personal culture.

Stay in the game as “Trace”, not as “buzz-word Trace”! :) Don’t let the stuffy people mess with who you are. It will work out better in the long run.


David Sandusky

08/17/11

I’m amazed more don’t take this or their own version of approach. I take that back, I know why. Most hiring managers and prospective employees are in the room based on the wrong fear. “I need a body” on one side of the desk and “I need a check” on the other. As a result, interviews don’t have an environment of asking real questions and literally working together to determine if they can work together when it all matters…during challenging situations.

Real situations are not offered for discussion out of fear we may not actually close the deal. Based on your philosophy which is like mine as best I can see, I want to know if my hire is excited or scared by my problems. My hire wants to know if I trust them to work free and hard because they want to experiment towards significant things. I like to scare people…the right person looses sleep over the prospect showing off they can solve a real problem. No surprises. Lets get to work! Now getting my clients in executive recruiting to operate this way takes some shifting. One at a time as I see it ;) Never posting jobs is the beginning of this shift…


Chuck

08/18/11

David,

I hadn’t thought of the fear factor from both sides, but that has to be a big piece of it!

Agreed – stop posting the jobs – great place to start!




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