Nepali Times
Strictly Business
Hiring hows


Every company needs to hire good people. A manager gets better at hiring the right people through practice: by making mistakes and learning from them. Even then, it's safe to say that many hires do not work out for various reasons. Sometimes, the chemistry is not there to allow smooth collaboration. At other times, the job is too vague for the person. Still, as so often happens in Nepal these days, even when there's a severe shortage of good people, the person you end up hiring turns out to have wanted the long-term job for a short-term duration while he privately waits for a student visa abroad.

How then does a manager go about hiring correctly? There's no exact answer, but there are ways to reduce hiring errors.

Results matter. Most managers first put together a generic vacancy ad, then wait for candidates to show up. This is the traditional way of finding people. What is likely to work better is to first visualise what the job demands in terms of specific actions and results, think about what personal traits and strengths are needed to produce those results, and then draw up the characteristics of the person who can best fulfill that role. This way, the role gets filled explicitly for results, and the ad focuses on the results that are to be delivered. A generic ad is only helpful to the headhunters who can cursorily sort and list applicants without having to think about how non-traditional candidates could add value to their clients' organisations.

Broad interviews. At most Nepali companies, it's the head of human resources or senior managers who conduct the interviews. They do so because they are the decision-makers. What they often miss is that once the person is hired, she will work primarily with colleagues at her level, who may or may not like her, and not necessarily with senior managers. If the chemistry is not there, most new hires end up not performing well, and may leave the company. Such an action costs the company time, money and morale.

One way to preempt this is to involve prospective colleagues in the first-round interviews so they can assess the candidate for an interpersonal fit. With this freedom, the manager needs to ensure the hiring process does not degenerate into like-minded staff hiring clones, thereby reducing staff diversity.

Experience and intangibles. Except for high-level precision work such as brain surgery or low-level clerical work that involves stuffing printed matter into envelopes, most jobs require a mix of experience and intangibles. Too many years of experience in one specific domain can be a hindrance to performance for most candidates. In these fast-changing times, stuck in their old ways of doing things, staff may fail to respond to new ways of conceptualising their roles, their company and their industry.

Print journalists with years of experience, for example, may forever reminisce about the good old days while failing to adapt to the challenges posed by digital media. Similarly, retail bankers may be stuck on chasing the same old high net-worth Nepalis while being clueless about how unassuming small business owners and rural landowners could be an untapped source of revenue. As for intangibles, social traits such as curiosity, drive, an eagerness to learn quickly what one doesn't know and an ability to share what one knows with others ultimately beat, at the workplace, symbols of respected but lonely achievements such as superior academic achievement.

Good employees take a company to greater heights. Finding them is a process of trial and error. The best that a manager can do is to minimise the usual hiring errors so the chances of finding the right people go up.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)