Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

360 degree interviews – the hiring manager and HR perspective

Posted in HR and personnel, social networking and business, strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 6, 2010

I started this yesterday with my posting on 360 degree interviews from the candidate’s perspective but start out here and today by noting that there are some special issues that come up in this when looked at from the other side of the table that do not necessarily come out from the candidate perspective.

I start out on that by pointing out what should be obvious to anyone who has ever hired or managed a hiring process. You need to be consistent and you need to know and understand your benchmarks and how you evaluate your candidates according to them. This has obvious implications where anything like hiring discrimination may arise as an issue but it is at least as important where you need to hire someone who can go beyond the routine to manage complex, less easily specified problems or opportunities where creative approaches are needed. I will add that this also arises where the hiring manager needs to hire outside of their own personal area of hands-on expertise as happens with increasing frequency as that hiring manager advances to higher levels in the table of organization and as the organization itself grows.

On the one hand you need to find and hire, and to cultivate and retain good people with really solid technical skills and really effective interpersonal and communications skills. With the later of these basic core requirements in mind you do want to get an idea as to how any given prospective hire would communicate with and relate to others already on your team. But simply walking around, as an extreme case and asking “did you see the guy who just came in for an interview? What did you think of them?” is not going to work.

The basic problem here is in effectively connecting insight from the range of people who meet your candidates into a process that you can consistently use, and where you really know what this new input means.

Yesterday I cited two CEO’s who turn to their front door receptionists for this type of insight and I repeat one part of that here in this context. One of them chose to do so because he knew the person who ran that front desk knew the company and its history better than anyone else. She had worked in a great many positions in the company and knew its processes and its culture completely. And she did not have a personal agenda when talking about prospective hires and she showed a great deal of discretion in what she said and to whom. The other had a track record for showing good judgment as to character and in evaluating corporate culture fit for that organization. She also showed a great deal of discretion in what she said and to whom.

These two examples may be very effective, and in fact they are in adding valuable insight into the hiring process for their organizations, but

• 360 degree interviewing has to go beyond the ad hoc of special circumstance if it is to integrate effectively into the candidate selection, appraisal, hiring and onboarding process.
• This means really knowing who is sharing input. That means updating and perhaps rethinking performance review and employee evaluation processes to go beyond their performance at their job and include evaluation of their fit and connectivity into the organization as a whole. How good a source of insight do they evaluate as being, and in what contexts?
• That means evaluating employees in how they connect into the organization as a social network and a community of shared goals and purpose – the organizational goals, priorities, processes and strategy.
• Yes, this can only make sense and work as a flexible, consistent, scalable capability for candidate insight if it is done in a social networking context and with the organization as a whole capitalizing on the potentials of social networking resources.

Ad hoc and one off may work but you are more likely to get sidetracked by unexamined bias and inconsistency, and only benefit from extremes in input – the sharing of really unexpected news if you just try to do this that way.

What I am doing in this posting is to hold out a potentially very valuable resource but with the caveat that it cannot be implemented as a Band-Aid quick fix. This one requires and in fact depends on a genuine integration into organizational processes and yes, into organizational culture as well.

So I come to a point as a last thought here that these two postings have led up to, and it is all about organizational strategy. New opportunities and capabilities can sometimes simply be tacked onto the existing structure, but even incremental shifts and changes need to be integrated into your system to really offer sustaining value. More fundamental changes, tapping into new and emerging opportunity can require more extensive rethinking and even significant strategic realignment from the start. Effective businesses need to be able to adjust as necessary and even where that means a significant shift in direction and basically on the fly. The potential of business social networking and the view of organization as community fits into this and for many organizations that would mean a more fundamental reorganization to stay competitive, and certainly in the face of those next generation product and service, and business model startups.

How does something like 360 degree interviewing fit into this at this level? Any new and emerging capability or resource that can help you to more effectively find and hire the best available employees will add competitive value and strengthen your organization. This requires integration into ongoing processes and it has to connect into and support, and even help to define ongoing strategy. In this case that means reconsidering the organization, and how communication does and does not happen along and across the table of organization.

I am going to pick up on this again in at least one future posting as I have started a number of threads of thought with this and yesterday’s.

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