The Art and Science of Hiring with Steve Lowisz, Ep. 29

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On today’s episode of Just the Tips Dean and I welcome, entrepreneur, speaker and “people person” Steve Lowisz, to talk about one of the biggest roadblocks for entrepreneurs out there: HR and recruiting. Steve is one of the great, leading-edge thinkers when it comes to hiring and managing people, and the insights he gives here are so critical to a growing business’s success. Steve has the methodologies down, and cuts through all the cloudy thinking around hiring to give you precise tips on how to improve your HR function. As he says, “I’ll know it when I see it,” doesn’t cut it, and if you want to improve your hiring, you’ll have to listen to this episode.

When you need to hire a hiring firm

Dean and I were surprised to learn that Steve actually started out as an architect. But when he began looking around for more, he joined the sales team of an office supply company where he lives in Michigan and was put in charge of hiring some new employees. Without knowing what to do, he hired a firm to make the hires, and as he says, his boss told him “great job,” and then sold the business. So Steve took a job with the firm he actually hired, and from there has loved what he does. If you think hiring and HR is a nightmare or something you’re hesitant to tackle, then listen to this episode of Just the Tips to pick up advice from a guy who eats, sleeps and breathes this stuff.

The three keys to successful hiring

I asked Steve whether he mostly focuses on recruiting, retention or managing and developing, and I was surprised by his answer. Steve told us that ultimately all three of those aspects are just one thing you have to get right. So if you define your needs in a candidate, you use those same aspects to help develop them, and then you retain them until they’ve developed so far that you have to let them go. As Steve says, “We get it wrong, because we separate them too much.” But as Steve tells us, it’s often defining that need where entrepreneurs go astray.

The baker’s dozen of questions you need to ask

Steve has what he calls the “baker’s dozen of questions” to get at the heart of what an entrepreneur needs in a new hire. A lot of the questions are fairly direct and simple, he says. Questions like: “What’s working for you right now? Where do you want to go? What are your obstacles?” He says the process is a combination of art and science. The science is running through the questions, but the art is in teasing out what’s behind the answers. He also has some fascinating insights about assessments, and tools for assessments, that I think buck the common wisdom. You’ll want to hear what he says about the “thumbs up/thumbs down” approach to assessing performance.

The “core four” in the science of hiring

When Steve says he has hiring down to a science, he has it down to a science. He told us about his sets of “core four” principles. One set revolves around production, can the person do what you need them to do. Another set revolves around purpose: Is the candidate aligned with what you’re trying to do, and with your culture. These are often very squishy terms for entrepreneurs, but Steve has such a clear-eyed view of what they actually mean that you’ll be surprised by how you can put them into practice. If you’re even thinking about making a hire in the near future, you can’t miss this episode of Just the Tips.

Outline of This Episode
  • [3:50] Why Steve got into the people side of business
  • [5:53] Steve’s hiring horror story
  • [8:09] The three keys to HR
  • [9:23] The baker’s dozen of questions
  • [14:04] Assessments and the “core four”
  • [17:16] What culture really means
  • [27:43] One last nugget from Steve
Resources & People Mentioned

Music for “Just The Tips” is titled, “Happy Happy Game Show” by Kevin MacLeod (http://incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

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