Are You Hiring Game Changers?
The following article was written by Randall Birkwood, owner of Ascendant Talent and a good friend of the PACE Staffing Network. We think Randall’s list of changes we should be making to the hiring process in order to hire Game Changers is must reading for Hiring Managers and HR/Recruiting professionals.
You have staffed your team with all the right people: they graduated from top universities, worked at leading companies, stayed at each company the requisite length of time, and exuded intelligence in the interview process. Yet you see other companies with far less surface talent achieving incredible results and outstripping you. Why is this?
The most likely reason your company is failing to progress is that you still hire based on standard interview processes that have been followed for decades. You focus on qualifications only, and ignore focusing on the individual attributes that will help you find the game changers.
A game changer is a person who thinks outside the box and approaches problems differently from the rest of us. They approach problems with passion, a unique perspective, and their thinking inspires others to build on their ideas.
With game changers on your team you can move from average to an industry leadership position. Good examples are Apple and IBM, which transformed themselves from fading brands into dominant positions by adopting the ideas of leaders who were game changers. Three football teams have had great success this year bringing in game changers. The Seattle Seahawks (Russell Wilson), Washington Redskins (Robert Griffin III), and Indianapolis Colts (Andrew Luck) have seen vast improvements after they drafted rookie quarterbacks who have the unique attributes of game changers.
An example of a game changer in the music industry is Steven Tyler. In his entertaining autobiography he discusses how he approaches the four elements of writing a song: melody, words, chords, and rhythm.
He explains, “You know right away if a song has that magic. It has to have those extremes—the one thing it can’t be is okay. Okay is death.”
He adds: “Never mind the melody, never mind the chords—no, no, no. You start with infatuation, obsession, passion, anger, zeal, craze, then take a handful of notes, sew them into a chord structure, create a melody over that, and then come up with words that fit it perfectly.”
His diverse way of thinking is completely different from standard music writers, but as a game changer, his unique perspectives have resulted in incredible successes.
If we analyze the way the majority of companies hire, we see a system that is designed to hire okay performers. We focus solely on the tangibles: the candidate’s job history, education, and interview performance. We ignore the game changing intangibles like diversity of thought, work ethic, intelligence, and common sense.
As an example, diversity of thought means approaching challenges using varied thought processes based on personal creativity and different life experiences. If you can combine diverse thinking with a strong work ethic, intelligence, and common sense, you have a game changer. The results of game changers can often transform the way we do business.
To hire game changers, you will need to make modifications in the following areas:
- The job description. The hiring manager and recruiter should schedule an hour meeting at minimum. Focus on listing what the new hire will successfully achieve in the first year before there is any discussion of candidate requirements. Then list minimal technical requirements and the personal attributes needed to be successful. You will likely discover that there is a far wider gamut of backgrounds that fit your position than you did prior to the meeting. The final position description should place more emphasis on what the new hire will do versus just a laundry list of candidate requirements. In fact, make sure you are displaying the minimum requirements so you don’t exclude potential game changers from the candidate pool.
- Attracting game changers. They didn’t necessarily go to the best universities and score high on interview presence. They are sometimes the quiet person who got big results, and didn’t necessarily look for attention. To find game changers you should build recruiting strategies that focus on meaningful achievements at other companies or universities, and then find out who was responsible for them. Many times you will find a game changer came from a small- or medium-sized company where there were fewer resources available, thus the need for more personal initiative. This part involves hard work as you will need to network with your company’s employees, as well as outside contacts—but if you want to improve company performance you will need to take these steps.
- Assessing for game changers. Re-examine your standard interview questions and hiring process. Your focus and emphasis should be on assessing for diversity of thought, work ethic, intelligence, and common sense, and not just work experience and technical skills. Sure, the candidate will need to meet minimum technical requirements of the role, but you will also need to focus on the four areas above. First dig into how they approached specific challenges in the past. (Example. “At your last company, describe something that was implemented primarily because of your idea. What was your role and what was the outcome?”) Learn in great detail how they got from point A to Z. What were they specifically responsible for, and how did they approach each situation? Second, present real challenges or problems in the interview and look for their diversity of thought, work ethic, intelligence, and common sense in solving them. Finally, ensure you include diverse thinkers on the interview team. (You may also want to explore assessments that test for these personal attributes, as a supplement.) With an interview process that focuses on assessing for these attributes you have a much greater chance of identifying game changers.
- Making offers. Game changers are motivated by challenges far more than their peers. Yes, they like to be compensated well. But you know you have a game changer when she has been presented with your challenges, and creatively and passionately digs into solutions — and she doesn’t even work for you! Your best bet is to challenge her and let her know what she will be responsible for achieving when she takes the role. If your challenges are interesting, a game changer will take the bait every time.
- Keeping game changers. Since their main motivation is creatively and passionately attacking challenges, the manager’s job is to keep them engaged in the long term. This is done by keeping them challenged on an ongoing basis, giving them resources, praising and rewarding, and simply getting out of their way except when needed.
Challenge yourself to move beyond traditional hiring methods, looking only for tangibles — and hire game changers who will bring the intangibles. Redefine how you approach the job description, how you attract and assess candidates, and how you hire and motivate, so you are a destination for game changers. You need them, because they will move the dial forward from average to spectacular. Your alternative is being okay, and as Steven Tyler says, “Okay is Death.”
Randall Birkwood is a former director of recruiting at T-Mobile USA, Cisco Systems, Microsoft Corporation, and Intermec Technologies. While at T-Mobile his organization was cited as a top 10 benchmark firm in recruiting and talent management. He has been an advisory speaker at General Electric and AT&T for VPs and HR Directors, and has spoken at a number of conferences in the U.S. and UK. He was the subject of a cover story on the “War For Talent” in Internet World Magazine.