As a Human Resource Director for nearly four decades, much of which was spent recruiting mid and upper level managers and individual contributors, I believe I learned something about hiring and how best to go about it. Some of what is below my go against the grain of conventional wisdom, but it is what I believe will work best.

It is often the case that when an employee leaves the organization or moves out of the department, the manager reflexively calls for an immediate replacement in kind. In the case of an employee moving to a new position in the organization, the reason for the opening is obvious. What is less obvious is the need to replace. So too with the request to add staff. In both cases analysis should first take place that answers the questions below.

  1. What result if the position is not replaced/approved?

In many cases the answer is “nothing”. (How many positions go unfilled for six months or more and yet the work gets done?) What should take place is an analysis of the work heretofore being performed by the departing employee. How much of it simply is no longer necessary? How much of it could be done to a lower level of sophistication? How much can be parceled out to others in the department/other departments? Similar questions should be asked of a request to add staff. The conclusion may surprise: Much of the work very likely could be factored to hire at a lower level or distributed to other team members

2. Who is managing/going to manage the position?

If the decision is to replace the departing employee or add staff, it is not a given that the incumbent manager should be the one to manage the new employee. Perhaps the analysis revealed that the job should be moved out of the department, or that another manager within the department should take on the role and responsibility for the new hire.

3. What is his/her training in candidate selection?

The hiring manager needs to understand the essential elements of the role. At a minimum he/she should have some training in the legal requirements of hiring, but equally important, they need to understand company culture, fit and grit. None of these skills are inherent in managers. As such it is important that a competent HR professional assist in the hire at each step. The operative word in the last sentence is “assist”. The responsibility for the hire must stay with the hiring manager.

4. Who else needs to be involved?

Likely no one, or at most the manager’s manager. Team hires or hiring panels defuse responsibility for hiring and the subsequent onboarding of the candidate. If a manager knows he/she will be responsible for the new hire’s success, he/she is far more likely to both focus on the applicants and stay close to the new hire once onboard. This cannot be overstated. How many managers “fire and forget” new hires after the first couple of days.  

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