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[ Do You Need A Hiring Mulligan? ]

golfer How to Ensure You Won’t Need a “Do-Over” When Hiring Your A-Team

For my fellow golfers out there, proceed to the next section, you won’t want to be reminded of this next part.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score liberating act we call ‘taking a mulligan’, let me explain it to you.

It’s the first hole of your round. You have grand aspirations to shoot your personal best and overcome all those stupid mistakes you know you shouldn’t make. Next, you tee-up your ball and line-up the shot down the middle of the fairway… game on! You hear the loud ping of your club hitting the ball and the whistle of the ball rocketing away from you. You look up with hope and find your ball soaring away from you. It’s going straight! Straight into the woods.

The new feelings that over-whelm you are those of heart-break. What was sure to be your best round ever is now ruined and you just started! The next four hours of your life will now be spent trying to recover from the mistake you made on the very first tee.

Wait a minute. . . What’s that you hear from your fellow golfing partner? “Hit another one!” You’ve just been offered a free pass. You snatch the generous offer and make the appropriate adjustments to ensure you don’t do the same thing. Your mulligan shot is perfect and your feelings of despair are long gone.


As a business leader, I’m sure you’ve made your share of mistakes. We all have. If given the chance to do those things again, you’d make adjustments and do it differently… you’d take a mulligan.

If you’re like me, a lot of those decisions make their way back to who you’ve hired along the way. The right people can make or break your success faster than any process improvement or new piece of equipment ever could.

That’s why there is nothing, I repeat, nothing more important than hiring the very best people.

This sounds obvious and many companies attempt to hire the strongest candidates for top leadership roles or when the position demands a high-level of compensation. Unfortunately, most companies don’t follow this practice when hiring for managers, supervisors and front-line employees. They think they can’t afford that many “A” players or they don’t have the time to devote to finding them.  Wrong and wrong! Having a team comprised of “A” players in every role is possible. Here are five critical components to making it a reality.


#1 – Define your job in the highest of expectations

Think about the kinds of statements that exist in your current job descriptions. For a Supervisor you might see things like, “meet daily production goals”, “enforce team safety standards”, or “effectively solve problems to minimize downtime”. Don’t these statements inspire great performance (sarcasm intended)? It’s no wonder job descriptions live in dusty HR files never seeing the light of day.

Most leaders miss the opportunity to set high expectations right from the start. Instead of putting thought and passion into how a new team member can help us achieve our goals, we do the bare minimum and create some forgettable list of things we want the role to satisfy. Think about your very best team members and what makes them so great. Isn’t that the kind of person you want to fill this role? Shouldn’t we define the job in that manner? For that same Supervisor job we mentioned earlier, set expectations like the image below.

Define these expectations be-fore you even post the job. Using this newly defined list of expectations as your hiring standard will help to ensure you don’t accept mediocrity.

#2 – Hire for attributes

Scan one of the job sites and see how many leadership jobs require a specific type of industry experience. My guess is that most of them will have a requirement like that. With the exception of highly technical job functions, that type of experience is valued excessively in the hiring arena. Think of it this way, are you more likely to teach a strong leader to learn the industry, or an experienced industry person to become a strong leader. The answer is obvious, strong leadership requires many attributes that cannot be learned, where most of the industry skills can be learned with the right training. For your next hire list out all the skills, behaviors and attributes that the specific role needs to be successful. Don’t just think about the duties of the job, you also need to consider the culture of your business and the relationships this new person will need to have. Once you have this list, look at each item and determine if it is something that is easily learned or something that needs to be inherent in the new hire. Those inherent attributes need to jump to the top of your list.

#3 – Hiring Teams

There was an interesting dynamic at play during my early years as a Plant Manager. I would hire a new front line employee and within hours I knew whether or not they’d be successful. That wasn’t be-cause I had some keen eye that allowed me to pick it up after watching them work. The group of front line employees they worked around had the keen eye. They knew instantly if this new person would fit in, if they would produce good quality work, if they’d be fast enough, and ultimately if they wanted to work alongside them.

So why did I wait until I made the hire to find this out? What if we involved this group of employees, before the hiring decision was made?

The concept of hiring teams is exactly that — a designated team of your best employees who do the jobs every day, making the hiring decisions on new employees. This concept is ingenious. Not only does this group of employees know exactly what it takes be successful in the job, but now they have a vested interest in making these new employees successful. Just like anyone conducting interviews, this group will need to be trained on how to interview. Once they are you will see dramatic improvements in the metrics impacted by new hires.

#4 – References

Hiring Manager: “I was wondering if you could provide a reference for Johnny Newhire?”

Former Employer: “I’m sorry, but I can only confirm the dates of employment.”

This kind of exchange has led to the demise of an invaluable tool known as the reference check. We all know that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Having invested so much time in a candidate, we are even reluctant to hear that there may be some concern. Time spent doing detailed reference checks can be just as important as the interview.

dontgiveupYet, we still give up so quickly. Getting references is invaluable and you have to get creative in order to get the information you need. Setting the expectation up front with the candidate on the importance of references is the first step. They will play a valuable part in getting others to take your call, and if they cannot deliver then that probably tells you something right there.

Of course the names you get come directly from the candidate, so you’d expect to get glowing reviews, right? For the most part yes, but you’ll need to pull out that creativity again to generate questions that will tell you more about the candidate than what’s on the surface.

Finally, don’t stop at the list you get from the candidate. Before you hang up with the hand-picked reference, ask for with them. These additional references can be a great source of information on your potential hire.

#5 – You don’t save money by paying less!

Compensation is never more highly scrutinized than during the hiring process. Which makes it that much more critical to ensure you remove that element from being an issue. That doesn’t mean you pay the highest, but is certainly means you don’t pay the lowest. Make pay a non-issue for your business by conducting competitive wage surveys for each role, and setting the wage at the competitive average, or slightly higher. Then you and the candidate can let the other parts of the job take priority.

This applies to every role in your business. We find it easier to pay the star sales guy or the new executive, but for some reason that extra dollar per hour on the front lines doesn’t seem worth it. Paying competitively means paying fairly at all levels so that the employment relationship begins based on mutual trust and respect. Starting out this new relationship under any other terms is certain to lead to lower performance and turnover.


Hiring the very best people takes a lot of hard work. This article lists the critical steps selecting those great people. Unfortunately, very few organizations put this much energy into their hiring process and others quickly veer from that process when things get busy.

As you look at your hiring process, think about how much simpler and more successful you would be if you could guarantee the very best employees for every position you have. Execute your process to that standard every time and you’ll never need to use your hiring mulligan.

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