6 Must-Do Steps to Hire the Best Talent

Published October 15, 2019


Human ResourcesLeading Organizations

Organizations that invest a lot in the culture understand that people decisions are the most important decisions a leader makes.

That is true whether we are selecting an employee, a business partner, a mate or a friend. Who we decide to take on the journey with us can ultimately determine our success in business, marriage and relationships. Wise choices in the beginning provide a better chance of success in the end. In an organization, these people decisions include who is selected, how employees are trained and developed, how they are compensated and what benefits are offered. They also include deciding which performance management and leadership evaluation systems to utilize to grow the next generation of leaders.

Outstanding companies are created by selecting extraordinary talent. To achieve really outstanding performance, select people who practice excellence. In order to create, strengthen and grow a remarkable culture, focus on every people decision, ensuring that each selection matches your culture and organizational goals. These WHO decisions determine your ability to achieve your mission and execute your purpose.

When I think of selecting talent, I think of quality. What are the unique skills I need to serve my guests better, and does this candidate bring those skills? Which candidates bring something more to the role and demonstrate the capability to grow within the organization? That’s talent!

Excellence attracts excellence.

Selecting talent moves my thinking to, how can I steward this valuable resource to grow both the business and the individual?

Talent identifies sales or service opportunities, exceeds guest expectations and creates memorable experiences. When selecting talent, the questions asked focus on the unique skills and abilities the applicant might have to meet the expectations of the role. When you are selecting talent who will represent your brand, find people who possess the caliber of character and comprehend the level of high expectations that are part of the organizational culture. Those companies with exceptional service have taken the extra effort to select the absolute best talent—even extraordinary talent.

We hire people for jobs. We select talent to grow our leadership bench and prepare for the future. People and talent are both trained, but talent is developed and nurtured.

People will stay with you to make a living, but talent will stay with you to make a life.

Consider these 6 Must-Do Steps


1. Carefully craft the profile of the role you wish to fill on your team. Take the time to create clarity about exactly what you are looking for in candidates. Recruiters are much better equipped to search for candidates and can do so much more quickly with a thorough and clear

Identify the key skills and experience needed to be successful in the role. Think about the future of the role and skills that might be important later and include those in the profile also. Consider current strengths, weaknesses and staff to the gaps. Use every selection as a chance to make adjustments to your team to maximize everyone’s talent.


2. Cast a wide net to search for candidates. Source potential candidates from different networks to generate a diverse candidate pool. Differences can energize a team and introduce new ideas. Sometimes fresh ideas from different perspectives can stimulate a breakthrough to a new level of team performance. Internships can create a pipeline of diverse candidates to fill future roles.

Many successful, talent-rich organizations begin recruiting their A-players for entry-level positions as soon as they enter college. Leaders often tell me they have difficulty locating talented candidates. Over the years, I have witnessed both those who complain about a lack of candidates and those who have more quality candidates than they can possibly bring into their business. Those who have more quality candidates than they can use have developed relationships with potential candidates even when they don’t have a job opening available.

Great leaders of talent are always recruiting.

They create a pool of potential candidates through the top employees they already have on board. Remarkable cultures have great reputations in the job market, and that reputation drives candidates to the organization. Like attracts like.

Find some extraordinary talent, and they will attract more extraordinary talent. One of my favorite leaders to partner with was a marketing executive who was a magnet for talent. Wherever he went, he was always presenting opportunities to potential candidates and developing relationships; when an opportunity became available, he had a ready-made talent pool. Over the years, I observed him in action, and he was always able to attract and select great talent and build a bench full of future leaders for his organization.


3. Prepare for the interview with behavioral-based interview questions. Ask questions that cause the candidate to reply based on how they have performed in the past. It is a good indicator of how they will perform in the future. Avoid situational questions that ask the candidate, “What would you do if…?” That is hard to know without actually experiencing the situation. However, asking the candidate how they managed a situation in the past should provide valuable insight.

Behavioral interview questions start with phrases such as “Tell me about a time when you…” or “Describe an experience you have had with…” and “How did you manage…?” Train all interviewers on how to properly conduct an interview. It will yield better results and also help you avoid legal difficulties in the hiring process.

One of the practices that I taught my staff was to “go three questions deep.” In other words, when the candidate answers the question, ask a follow-up question to the answer and then another follow-up question. The most valuable information about the candidate is usually found in the answer to the third question. The exchange might look something like this: “Tell me about a time when you were recognized for superior performance.” The candidate responds with an example. My next question might be, “Who helped you achieve that goal?” They, in turn, talk about the leader or team who was part of the achievement. My next question is, “How would that person or team describe your contribution?”

I also taught my staff to “pull the loose threads.” If they heard an answer that seemed incomplete or maybe even seemed like a false answer, then ask questions until it’s resolved. If they saw something on the application, like a long gap in employment, “pull the loose thread” and put the whole picture of the candidate together.


4. Thoroughly check references. When properly conducted, reference checking can be the most valuable tool in the selection toolbox. It has been said, “Past performance is the best predictor of future performance.” If that is so, then fully understanding someone’s past performance gives you great information to choose the best candidate.

Don’t just verify employment but interview the reference and ask for specific behavioral examples of the characteristics used to describe the candidate. Invest the necessary time to gain this helpful insight. A thorough referencing interview can easily take forty-five minutes or more to conduct.

More of my hiring decisions have been based on references than any other part of the process. Be sure to garner the right references. Ask the candidate to provide contacts of people to whom they have been accountable, not just people with whom they worked.


5. Encourage the candidate to make their own careful evaluation before joining your team. The best people decisions are the ones in which both the candidate and the team are certain it is a great fit. It is not enough for the leader to make a good decision to select talent.

For long-term, successful relationships, the candidate must be sure it’s the best choice too! Be sure the candidate gets an inside look at your organization. . . the good, the bad, the successes and the failures. Then, try to talk the candidate out of joining your team. If the potential team member can be talked out of it today, that is better than six months from now, when you have both made significant investments into forging the new relationship.

When selecting talent, focus on the 3 Cs: character, competency and chemistry, in that order.


6. Commit to success. Once you have decided and the candidate has accepted, commit yourself to the candidate’s success. Do whatever is necessary to leverage the investment you have made throughout the selection process.

Implement a development plan for the new employee that leverages strengths that help the team succeed. The development plan should include opportunities to grow and maximize strengths, not just improve weaknesses. Both team development and individual development improve performance. Revisit the plan often to ensure that changes in the employee’s work are factored into that plan.

Surrounding ourselves with talented people whose character matches our own, whose competency matches our need and whose chemistry matches our team not only sets us up to win but makes the endeavor much more enjoyable.

Excellence attracts excellence.

When selecting talent, focus on the 3 Cs: character, competency and chemistry, in that order.


Excerpted from Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture that Wins the Hearts of Customers by Dee Ann Turner. Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Baker Books. All rights reserved.



About the Author
Dee Ann is a 33-year veteran of Chick-fil-A, Inc. Prior to retirement in 2018, she was Vice President, Talent and Vice President, Sustainability.

Dee Ann Turner

Author; Speaker; Former Vice President of Talent and Sustainability

Chick-fil-A, Inc

Dee Ann Turner played an intricate role in creating and growing the incredible, influential culture at Chick-fil-A. With 30 years of experience developing corporate talent, she served as Vice President of Talent and later Vice President of Sustainability. Turner’s insightful knowledge is revealed in her book, Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture and Win the Hearts of Customers. She is now CEO of Dee Ann Turner, LLC and shares her knowledge with clients globally. She serves on several boards and frequently participates in mission projects throughout the world.

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