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“The role of a leader is not to change someone, but to enable a person to achieve and to perform. You have to manage to people’s strengths – not try to change who they are.”

Leslye Schumacher launched TalentQ Consulting to help companies assess the talents and strengths of their employees (and potential employees) and to coach managers on how best to develop and retain those employees by utilizing strength management principles.

Leslye applies her “real life” experience as well to help her clients. She has been an advertising salesperson, a media director, and a marketing director for Fortune 500 companies as well as the owner of her own franchise business and now as the owner of TalentQ Consulting.

MO: What are some tips for getting real information from candidates references?

Leslye: I’m continually shocked by how many times I come across managers and owners who hire new employees without doing any reference checking. People spend more time researching and checking on a car they are going to buy than they do on a potential employee! I can guarantee you that hiring the wrong person will cost your company a lot more than buying the wrong car. One of the easiest and most effective ways to do reference checking is using an online reference checking service. You decide how many references and what type of references (i.e., 2 former bosses, 3 clients, etc.) you want the candidate to invite to participate. The references go online and answer a questionnaire about the candidate. The questions are tailored to your open job position and the information that is important to you. The job candidate is required to sign an online consent form and a release of liabilities form. The references responses remain anonymous. This allows references to give their true opinions and gives you more specific information about the candidate.

If you don’t want to pay for a service and are doing reference checking yourself (or your HR department is doing it) there are a couple of things you can do to make sure you get better information. Ask for clients, former co-worker, and former boss reference. Don’t just go with what is on a candidate’s reference list. Ask for names of people they have mentioned in the interview when giving you examples about their work. Then have the candidate set up the call times for you so that you aren’t chasing down the references. Also, you should have every candidate sign a reference check consent form waiver. Having this is critical to getting reference participation, because you can then tell references you have this waiver and can email it to them. This enables references to feel more comfortable in being candid about the candidate.

MO: Why did you craft the Onboading Programs and what are some of the advantages of implementing one?

Leslye: I started to realize the importance of having a structured onboarding program when I started seeing a pattern in why some new employees weren’t panning out. These were employees that had been carefully interviewed, reference checked, and gone through talent assessments to make sure they had the skills and talents to do the job and that they were a good fit for the organization. When I would talk to clients about the difficulty they were having with underperforming new employees it became apparent to me that the one thing they all had in common was their company either didn’t have a structured onboarding program or the one they had was ineffective. I started to do some research on onboarding.

For example, I found out that it takes a new salesperson in a company without an effective onboarding program 51% longer to generate the same revenue as a new salesperson in a company with an effective onboarding program. Another research study found that 86% of new hires decide to stay or leave a company within their first six months and new employees are 69% more likely to stay longer than three years if they experience well-structured onboarding. So, clearly onboarding gets people up to speed and productive sooner and aides in retention, decreasing cost turnover.

MO: What are some tips for hiring people with the right talents for the right job and then managing to their strengths?

Leslye: To paraphrase management guru Peter Drucker, the role of a leader is not to change someone, but to enable a person to achieve and to perform. This means you have to manage to people’s strengths – not try to change who they are. Quite simply, you can not manage to a person’s strengths if you don’t know what they are and you can’t know for sure what a person’s strengths and weaknesses are (as they pertain to your job) by only interviewing the person.

The most important thing a leader can do before hiring someone is to have that candidate take a talent assessment which outlines if a person’s natural behaviors as well as skills match those that are needed to be successful in the position. The assessment should be customized to your company and the specific position for which you are hiring. Yes, I am biased because I am a talent analyst! But, even when I was out of the business and running my own company I did this. To make a hiring decision solely based on interviews is a huge and unnecessary risk.

Research shows that when you hire someone based only on interviewing, the likelihood of the person being successful in the job is only 14%. Yikes! But when you use a validated, predictive assessment (NOT a personality assessment – those are different) along with your interviewing information, that number can zoom to 85%!

MO: What are some ways that you help educate leaders about how to manage to people’s strengths in order to maximize results?

Leslye: Once you know what a person’s strengths are as they relate to the job, you can begin to tailor the tasks you assign that person. Even more importantly, you can individualize your coaching and feedback to play to that person’s strengths and make him or her grow and develop even stronger in that area. When you coach a non-strength a person can get about 10-20% better in it if you continue to focus your coaching in that area. But when you coach in an area of strength the person can get 10 times better! That is where you get the biggest bang for your coaching buck. Focus your feedback and coaching on a person’s strengths and they will far surpass your expectations. Only deal with weak areas if they are getting in the way of performance.

MO: Do you think that asking more behavioral questions during interviews can predict a candidate’s success better than traditional questions? If so, could you provide an example or two?

Leslye: As important as having a talent assessment is, it doesn’t mean interviewing isn’t still extremely important. But traditional interview questions just aren’t effective. Traditional interview questions are ones where the candidate can have a rehearsed answer to a typical question or one that asks about a hypothetical situation and how someone would handle it versus a question that asks for a specific example. A traditional interview question might be “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” The answer may give you some insight into the career path the person desires but it doesn’t give you any meaningful information about whether or not the person can do this job. Or, “How would you handle an upset customer?” A behavioral interview question would rephrase that into, “Tell me about a time when you handled an upset customer.” The answer moves from the theoretical to the actual behaviors the person took in that situation. And as the old saying goes, “the best predictor of future behavior is past performance.” Asking behavioral questions will net you much more specific and accurate information about a candidate’s ability to do the job and be successful.

MO: How important is it to have a social media strategy in place to attract the best candidates?

Leslye: If you aren’t using social media to recruit you might as well be placing your job ad on the bulletin board at the local senior citizen center. A recent Jobvite survey of human resources leaders and recruiters found that 92% use social media to source talent. Another study of recruiters showed that 50% said the quality and quantity of applicants improved through using social media.

Need more convincing? A Time Magazine article reported that 96% of Boomers, 92% of Gen X, and 95% of Gen Y, conduct their job search online!

Anyone can utilize social media to recruit directly (you don’t need to hire a recruiter to be successful) on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. And the best part is you can do this for FREE by using LinkedIn Groups, status updates, company pages, TweetMyJobs, Facebook posts and creating a Jobs app box on your company Facebook page. You can also recruit by posting the job on your website and adding a LinkedIn apply button, the LinkedIn Company Insider or Company Profile plug-ins. There are also dozens of free-to-post employment websites where you can place your job posting.


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