Regina Olbinsky

I have been helping organizations with their people issues for nearly 30 years. Everything from hiring, developing, managing, coaching, and even firing. Organizations from two-member law firms to multibillion dollar international conglomerates.  Guess what? The issues are all the same.

  • Finding great people, with the right skills and values who fit not only the role, but also the culture
  • Keeping great people through development, coaching, good leadership, challenging opportunities, appropriate recognition
  • Developing the good people to greatness through improvement in communication, conflict management, emotional intelligence
  • Removing toxic or bad fitting people with as little disruption to the remaining staff and the organization as possible

Rarely, if ever, do any of these things have to do with whether the person can actually perform the basic functions of the job (regardless of the level or type of job).  The thing that causes the most success or failure (for both the employer AND employee) is whether there is a fit that exists.  It is this sometime illusive fit that causes the most consternation for hiring managers and business owners.

So, at this point, you might be thinking, “If this is so hard, how can I ever get it right?” Well, the answer is nuanced.  You may not be able to get it right all the time – no one does. But you may be able to do it much better than you are currently.  First, the golden rule of staffing: Hire Slow, Fire Fast. It is absolutely true, but most people I know want to instinctively do just the opposite.

In this article, let’s start with the Hire Slow.  Here is my Top 10 list for a successful hire:

  1. This may seem like a strange place to start, but you really need to know your firm’s mission, vision, and values. If you have never gone through this exercise, or it has been many years, I strongly encourage you to go through a facilitated conversation to uncover these. These answers are what will help guide you in getting this people issue right.
  2. Figure out what position you actually need to fill – it may not be the one that the last person occupied.
    • A thorough assessment of who you have on board, their skills, and the functions they perform is a first step.
    • Next, consider how far down you can push work – starting with you and going to the lowest level of competency.
    • Finally, you’ll have insight into where the gap lies (usually, it will be lower level role, but not always).
  3. Once you have the job in mind, you’ll want to come up with a job description that describes the role and responsibilities, but also (and more importantly for the actual hiring process) what competencies and values (based on the above exercise) you need.
  4. Next comes the recruiting phase – getting the word out through your network, online sources, or industry ads.
  5. Screening resumes is for identifying the skills necessary. It will answer the question of “Can they do the job? Do they have the requisite experience and education required?”
  6. Schedule telephone screens first, then in person interviews. Sometimes, it may make sense to have the former done by someone other than you (a trusted colleague or assistant). In smaller firms, that may not be possible. In both cases, you have to look for past behaviors as the biggest predictor of future behaviors AND the intangibles, so asking questions to get at that is key.
    • Their demeanor, professionalism, follow up, responsiveness, how they treat admin folks
    • Do they pass the airport test (would you want to be stranded in the airport with them?)
    • When you ask a question (always open ended), listen for the answer – not what they want to tell you, but what you asked for; and if you don’t hear it, clarify the question and what you are asking.
  7. Make sure all appropriate current employees meet and evaluate any final candidates – their opinion matters – you’re building a team (their team!), they won’t want to bring in someone who will hurt the team.
  8. Check references (including contacting people whom the candidate might not have provided – called blind references). Pay attention to what they say and also what they don’t (you’ll want to ask them similarly worded questions as you would the candidates).
  9. Make the Offer (today’s employment climate discourages asking candidates what their past salary has been because it can perpetuate salary gaps or inequities) based minimally on the Rule of 3 for timekeepers and include billable hour requirements in your conversation.
  10. “Welcome aboard – We’ve been expecting you and are so happy to have you here!” That’s the message every new hire needs to hear AND feel. What you do during your new hire’s first few weeks / months will make all the difference in how well they do (for themselves and you). So prepare!
    • Their space should be ready and comfortable, including designated office, computer, supplies.
    • Business cards / email and phone should be setup.
    • Introductory breakfast or lunch (food is always a good choice for team building) with everyone present – getting to know each other as colleagues AND people.
    • Expectation / Goal Setting meeting with you and a plan on regularly scheduled check ins over the first couple of months to ensure a smooth landing.

There you have it.  But don’t forget that there is another part of the people thing that is critical beside the Hire Slow and Fire Fast – and that is Develop Always.  I’ll cover that another time.  In the meantime, happy hiring.


Regina Olbinsky is an Atticus Certified Practice Advisor, with nearly 30 years’ experience helping organizations of all sizes develop their people and businesses.  She holds an MBA from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University and a BS from The Ohio State University. She is a passionate lifelong learner with numerous certifications in leadership, including DiSC, 5 Behaviors of a Cohesive Team, Emotional Intelligence, Appreciative Inquiry, Human Resources, and Coaching. In addition, she is a business owner and entrepreneur who graduated from the intensive Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program.

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