Is Hiring an Art or Science?

 Do you hire based more on information or on gut feel?

The easy answer should be “both.”

Hiring is both an art and a science. Irrespective of how many hires you’ve made, and how much you’ve honed your expertise, hiring is tough. It’s one of those management functions where you can do certain things to improve the odds, but you can never be perfect.

5 Tips for Success
Hire for hunger
. The person must be insatiably hungry for something – that something could be commissions or career progression, learning or growth or something else. Ultimately, it’s essential that they’re hungry for something that will benefit the business.

Hire for intellect and an intense desire to learn.This is a requirement in most companies today, and especially for start-ups. People talk about “drinking from the fire hose.” In most start-ups, given the amount of continuous change, an ability to drink from the fire hose is table-stakes. It is required, but may not be sufficient.

Hire for competence. The key question here is, all things being equal, can they do the job? What accomplishments do they have that make you believe that they can do the job? What specifically was their role in it, and what impact did they have? Determining this could be considered more science than art.

If they don’t have demonstrable past accomplishments relevant to this job, ask yourself if they have the knowledge, skills and temperament to do this job, even though they haven’t done it before. Understanding this – and extrapolating it to your current job opening is much more art than science. While understanding the information is science, extrapolating it and making an assessment becomes more of a gut-feel because of the unknowns involved.

Hire for fit. The vast majority of people are suited for some job in some company. The challenge is to get the match right. This is definitely an art. The key question here is whether you like working with the person. The other question is – who is this person going to be working with the most? What are their personalities? What is the philosophy and culture of the team and company? Will this person fit into that mix?

Interviewing is a two-way street. Provide a meeting ambience that encourages the candidate to interview you, as much as you interview the candidate. This helps you present your company and yourself and helps them assess whether they want to work there. In addition, how a candidate asks questions and what questions they ask reveals a lot.

How Do You Interview?
It’s best if the interview is structured as an informal or semi-formal conversation rather than an interrogation session. It is essential to have a two-way, honest discussion so that both parties ultimately benefit.

Be sure to ask open-ended questions that spark thought and discussion:

Why are you a designer?

What do you like about sales and why?

As an engineer, how are you different today than three years ago?

In hiring, more than most other things, perfection is not the goal – the pursuit of perfection is. Continue to refine your approach; it must be fluid or you’ll end up no closer to perfection…  or the right hire.

Navin Nagiah is the President and CEO of DNN, producers of a commercial suite of content management and community engagement applications.