Hire Once Hire Right

With Nancy Slessenger and Marketer Perry Marshall

In this webinar hiring expert Nancy Slessenger discusses how to avoid the biggest hiring mistakes: –

  • – Not being clear on what you really need
  • – Writing an ad that shuts down your campaign
  • – Using resumes
  • – Not using application forms
  • – Asking really bad questions

This webinar was hosted by Perry Marshall and presented by Author and Hiring Expert Nancy Slessenger of Vinehouse Hiring.

If you’re thinking of hiring, or need help, come join our Hiring Advice Forum either on Facebook or LinkedIn

Five key steps to a successful hiring and recruitment campaign

A vital recruitment tool that you need to be using is a task-based assessment that is not only a barrier to poor candidates, but is a great way of highlighting a really good candidate. But it’s not that simple. Before you even get to that stage there are a number of steps that you must follow to design a successful recruitment strategy.

Here are the five key elements:

1. DEFINING WHAT YOU NEED – Clear objectives, a job description, a person specification that defines the person you need in the role, including their profile, to get everything achieved in the way you need it to be done.

2. RESEARCH– Information specific to each post that tells you if the kind of people you need are available, where to find them, what package they need and any specific issues you might have filling this post in your location.

3. ADVERTISEMENT – An advertisement that only attracts the kind of people you are looking for, not hundreds of unsuitable candidates. Even adverts can be designed to attract candidates that have the right characteristics and deter those that don’t. Pretty neat,huh?

4. LOW OR NO EFFORT FILTERS –Ways of filtering your candidates that require little effort so not searching through mountains of resumes and CVs, making it as easy as possible to identify good candidates quickly and early in the process and reject the poor ones.

5. CANDIDATE ASSESSMENT– A method for assessing candidates objectively against all your criteria (which could be 50 or more). This needs to be easy and quick to do so you can tell at a glance which candidates meet your criteria and which don’t.

The core purpose of a hiring or recruitment process is to find new employees who will achieve the objectives and goals you have, in the way that you need them to be achieved. In other words, to do exactly the job you require.

Remember, when you use all of these five steps all of this is done before you even see the candidate.

Using an effective process it’s quite possible to filter out most of the poor candidates very early on, so you can focus on a small number of promising applications and be very thorough in your assessment of them.

I would put money on the fact that anyone who made a bad hire wasn’t using a thorough process including all the steps I’ve listed.

“How is this better than picking people out from their CVs like I’ve been doing for years?”

To give you something more concrete, here are a few examples of how modern hiring and recruiting is being used to find the right candidates with less time and effort than it often takes to get the wrong ones (notice how these examples are not limited to particular roles or steps in the process, they cover a wide range of tools and jobs):

A poor candidate applies and is directed to your web-based assessment. He or she does not even bother to fill it in because he or she can’t answer the questions, so is immediately eliminated with no effort from you. In fact you are not even aware it’s taken place because it’s completely automated. (NO EFFORT FILTERS)

The results of a web-based assessment from a good candidate with the skills you are looking for arrives. You quickly scan the table of the results that includes 20 other candidates and can instantly see the candidate with the best answers. Notice you have not had to trawl through any CVs or resumes trying to work out which is the best.

Three candidates move forward to an audio interview. You get a table of the results which have already been assessed for you. You merely have to confirm which candidate you would like to take to final interview, the rest is automated.

You have a candidate for a receptionist post. As part of her final interview, you put her on the desk for half an hour. During that time she sells £400 worth of products (absolutely true story). You now have some really useful and reliable evidence about her sales skills.

Instead of a pile of resumes and CVs from people who only vaguely seem to meet any of your requirements, you get the details of a small number of candidates with clear evidence on how they match up to your agreed criteria.

If I haven’t convinced you that this is a better way then I wish you the best of luck. If I have convinced you and you would like to know more about how to do this then I’ll see you soon!

To your success,

Nancy Slessenger

Should you ask all candidates the same questions?

My very first job as a school governor (equivalent to a school board member) was to recruit a new deputy head.

It was quite clear who the best candidate was and I can say, without doubt, that we recruited the wrong candidate. I arrived at the meeting and was given a piece of paper with my question on it. I had to ask all the candidates this one question. My other eight colleagues had their own questions, which they also put to each candidate.

The candidate was sat on a chair in front of the long table where we all sat.

I could not believe that people were still using this process.

When I asked the other governors about their method they told me that this was ‘fair’ and we had to treat all candidates the same. This is to completely misunderstand the whole recruitment process.

The purpose of the interview

In this case (because the process was so poor and the interview was the only screening we were using) the purpose of the interview was to identify if the candidate could do the job.

Instead of asking about actual experiences and finding out what the candidate had achieved, we were asking “What would you do if…?” questions whose answers were completely unreliable (this was clear from the performance of the individual we recruited).

How can it be fair to ask different questions?

Your objective in this kind of interview is to identify if the candidate has specific skills and behaviours. To do this you need to employ your investigative skills. Many candidates have excellent experience, but are poor at letting you know. So you have to dig.

Now it may be that you start off with the same question. Here’s a recent example:

Have you made any unpopular decisions?

Depending on the answer of the candidate, you really need to follow this up with very different questions:

Candidate: Yes

Interviewer: What was the most difficult?

Candidate: I don’t think so

Interviewer: What about decisions that your team or boss did not immediately like?

Candidate: Unpopular with whom?

Interviewer: With your team.

Now it may be in this case the interviewer thinks the job is going to involve lots of unpopular decisions because that’s what it would be like if he did the job.

But usually you are asking about unpopular decisions because it is likely to lead to examples of the specific skills you are looking for. These could possibly be negotiation skills, resilience or communication skills.

But let me take you back to some recruitment I did where we were looking for managers with just such skills. My client defined “resilience” and being able to keep calm and to your course of action in the face of hostility. I had designed a very robust process for these candidates.

They had to take part in various activities and role-plays while we observed them. Every now and then we would see candidates where we could find no examples of resilient behaviour through the entire day. Not because they weren’t resilient, but because they were such good negotiators that they never encountered the hostile behaviour that other (often more argumentative) candidates seemed to attract.

So a really skilled candidate would have found ways to make “unpopular decisions” palatable and may not even see them as “unpopular”, which would mean you would not get very useful evidence from this question.

Different questions

You need to have a selection of questions so that if you do not get examples of the behaviours and skills you are looking for from the first question, you have plenty more areas to search in. This is not cheating and it is not treating people unfairly.

When I prepare lists of questions for clients to ask their candidates in the final interview, I make sure there are alternatives if first one doesn’t give you the information you need. This is much fairer to the candidate who just hasn’t had the experience you are asking about. It’s also fairer to you, because it means you are more able to find the candidate you need.

What happened to the candidate who should have got the job?

In case you are wondering about my original example here, the candidate who should have got the job, Liz, was already head of science at the school. She didn’t get the job because she was “too good in her current role, we can’t afford to lose her from that”.

Of course we did lose her – she went to another school as their deputy head and I’d be very surprised if she didn’t go on to be an excellent head teacher. She did well but we lost a very good member of the team.

How To Find Out What People’s Values Really Are

Values tell you how people are likely to behave

When I am working with clients on objectives, it often helps to clarify the difference between Values, Behaviours and Objectives:

  • Objectives are what you need to achieve
  • Behaviours are how you do it
  • Values are why you do it that way

Know what their values are

When we are recruiting or dealing with new people it can be very helpful to find out what their values are. The key is to ask the right questions.

Just ask the right questions

Most people will happily tell you if you just ask. This is because we all tend to think that our values are right and are shared by everyone else.

How to ask questions to discover values

Get the individual talking about something they have done, preferably in a difficult situation. Then ask them why they did it that way. It’s a very useful interview technique.

An example of how to find out values

I once observed a candidate, a woman called, Esme, doing a role-play, a task that formed part of an interview process. She wore a bright red suit and matching stilettos. She was playing the role of an administration manager dealing with a surgeon, Dr Kildare, her task was to persuade him to meet the new targets.

Within a few moments she was shouting and screaming at a surprised Dr Kildare. Then she lifted him up by his lapels. His feet were dangling in the air.

After the task the director and I interviewed her. Up till this point she had been the leading candidate. I asked her why she had handled the meeting with Dr Kildare as she had.

She would have got the job

Had she responded that she was very sorry for the way she had behaved, she was just nervous and it had not gone as she had planned, she probably would have got the job. However, that was not what she said.

‘You can’t negotiate when you only have 25 minutes with someone.’ She told us authoritatively,

This told us all we needed to know about her values. She didn’t get the job.

Another example of how to discover values

More recently I was interviewing candidates for a client and we asked one of them why they had lied to a client. ‘Well, they’ll never know.‘ She said with a shrug. The candidate who got the job, when asked about her behavior in a rather difficult situation had quite a different response: ‘Once you’ve promised something to someone, that’s it. You must keep your promise.’

Find our more about questions and which ones to ask in this booklet:

Questions made easy

The more experienced I get, the more I realize that questions are the answer to most problems and difficult situations. Using questions instead of telling people things is more effective in most communication situations from negotiation to learning, from interviewing to coaching and in virtually all difficult situations with anyone who is behaving badly.

This booklet, for just £6.25, contains my top 22 questions gathered over many years, variations on them and when and where to use them.
Armed with these you can deal with most situations. Some are gems that will work in many different situations (so you will find the same question in several sections); others are for more specific use.

In this booklet you will find:

  • Four questions to help you to identify objectives and goals
  • What not to ask in performance reviews and appraisals (and why)
  • Six questions to ask in performance reviews and appraisals
  • Questions to help you formulate development objectives
  • 31 questions for Coaching & Problem-solving
  • 2 questions to establish training needs and learning objectives
  • The questions not to ask when establishing skill levels
  • 10 questions to find out what someone can really do
  • Questions to help learning including a worked example
  • Questions for learning reviews
  • Questions for  when your mind goes blank
  • Questions for panics
  • Questions for dealing with situations when someone has behaved badly
  • Questions for Interviews to identify skills and behaviors
  • Questions for interviews to identify values
  • Questions for dealing with performance issues
  • Questions for when you need answers, action or help (and what not to ask)
  • Questions to get decisions
  • Questions to persuade others
  • Questions for sales situations (with a worked example)
  • Questions for negotiations
  • Tips on the easy ways to come up with the right questions and get the right answers
  • A summary of the 21 standard questions you can modify to suit your situation

Why you should never use resumes or CVs to sort your candidates

Nine reasons why you should never use resumes or CVs to sort your candidates

This is the method most people use to identify the candidates they are going to invite in for a final interview.

If you’ve ever found it difficult, you may be surprised to learn that it’s not only you – it’s because CVs and resumes just don’t give you information you need to make the right decision.

Here’s why :

  • Writing your CV or resume is a skill not correlated with the job
  • There is often vital information missing
  • Some resumes and CVs are full of lies
  • It’s too easy to submit a resume or CV
  • It may be written by someone else
  • It’s not a level playing field
  • Most are too general
  • You can’t tell how good the experience is
  • You can be too swayed by qualifications

Writing a good resume or CV is a skill

Being able to write a good resume is a great skill. And it’s one that not many people have. The correlation between that skill and being able to the job you want to fill is usually very low. How much do you like preparing your own resume or CV? How good do you think it is?

So people who are good at writing resumes and CVs aren’t necessarily going to be good at the job. Conversely, those who send in poor resumes or CVs could be some of your best applicants.

Missing information

I worked with one client who was asking for help with his resume. We went through the ghastly closely typed lines of the document this amazing software architect had produced. As we did, it transpired that he’d forgotten to mention a project he had initiated and run that had saved his employer £6m a year over 10 years.

I’ve come across many examples like this.


Possibly even worse I’ve come across examples where items on a resume or CV were at best inaccurate, and possibly just lies.

So you can easily end up rejecting good candidates and interviewing people who are very poor candidate but are good at constructing resumes (or candidates who have had their resume updated by an agency).

It’s so easy to submit a resume or CV

Another issue is that many job sites make it very easy for candidates to submit a resume or CV at the click of a button. So they just ‘apply’ for hundreds of jobs. Then you can be left in the position of having to wade through all those applications. How many times have you called a candidate you are interested only to find they don’t even remember your company, or applying for the job?

Did the candidate write it?

Many people don’t do their own resume or CV. There are companies that provide this as a service.

Level playing field

Using resumes and CVs means you are unable to judge candidates on a level playing field, which is vital if you want to find the best ones.

You need a specific set of skills, behaviours and values

Unfortunately candidates tend to use the same resume and CV for every job. It’s a pretty general document and tries to be all things to all people. So it’s hard for you to see if they have the specific skills and experience you are looking for.

Levels of experience

It’s very tempting to assume someone with several years experience is going to be a better candidate than someone with just one year. But this isn’t always the case. Would you prefer the person that had spent ten years doing a potentially poor job, over one that had one years’ experience potentially doing a great job?


And it’s also the same when it comes to qualifications. I’ve seen candidates who appeared to be extremely well qualified turn out to be useless. (Sometimes worse than useless.)

A better way

Far better to design an application form to get the information you need. Yes, it may take a bit more time initially, but in the long run it will not only save you a great deal of time, but will also get you higher quality candidates.