Hiring people… are we asking the right questions?
On January 15th, 2009, Captain Chesley Sullenberger made an emergency landing of his 50-ton passenger aircraft, US Airlines Flight 1549 – softly gliding it onto the Hudson River in New York City, saving the lives of all 155 people on board.
What he did was not only a feat, but also a testimony to his on-the-job skills, dedication and passion. Plain words would not suffice to express the feat of Capt Sullenberger.
What are the odds that you and me, as hiring managers, will find our Captain ‘Sully’ Sullenberger? .
For most of us in the corporate/human resources space, the formidable challenge is to get the star hired out of the lot of candidates out there, be it a CXO or a frontline sales foot soldier. This singular ability to identify and hire individuals, who can excel at work, and beat the market – the raison d’etre of any winning organization!
The trick is probably looking at the candidate’s core competence and also what he is passionate about, at work or otherwise. Picture this: If you were the guy in charge of hiring pilots for US Airlines, how would you have identified Capt Chesley Sullenberger from the whole lot of aspiring and young pilots?
Or rather how would you not at any cost miss out on hiring the handful of Capt Sullenbergers from a thousand aspirants.
While there are surely many proven models on ‘how to hire the right person for the right job’, the most simple and cost effective way is to factor a few simple questions as a part of the hiring discussions.
In today’s rapid fire hiring processes, it is competency assessment on the basis of standard question templates that dominate rather than a few rudimentary but revealing questions.
One such rudimentary question is: What do you do in your spare time? What are you passionate about?
When Michael Balboni, New York State’s deputy secretary for public safety, thanked Capt Sullenberger for a job done brilliantly, he responded “That’s what we’re trained to do.”
But that was humility at its best, a singular hallmark of passionate leaders.
In an interview like situation (hiring), only a probing question on the Captain’s hobbies, life likes and passion would have revealed this:
When most friends were getting their driver’s licenses, he got his pilot’s license. For fun, he flew glider planes, which is what he did when he landed in the Hudson River with no engines. Extracurricular activity? An accident investigator for the Air Line Pilots Association and work with federal aviation officials to improve training and methods for evacuating aircraft in emergencies. This explains why he walked through the cabin twice, making sure no one was left behind before he escaped the sinking plane himself on that day over the Hudson river!
This might seem eccentric and obsessive to quote from what I read somewhere: “Obsessions are one of the greatest telltale signs of success. Understand a person’s obsessions and you will understand her natural motivation. That one thing for which she would walk to the end of the earth.”
Well, we are not hiring for those who would be willing to do that long walk, but only those whose probability of success on the job is above average, at least and excellent, at best.
So, are we ever looking for that little obsession for job-related skills – a receptionist excels in greeting people with a smile, and has to like doing that and being hospitable, a sales guy needs to be passionate about people and how the product and services benefit the customer, a recruiter is passionate about helping people shape their careers, a doctor is passionate about saving lives… this list is just endless depending on who has to be hired.
Puttting it in a nutshell, only the right and simple questions throw up our ‘Captain Sullenberger’s!!
Are we ever asking the right questions while hiring?!