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Sasha Laghonh, Founder, Sasha Talks

Sasha Laghonh, Founder of Sasha Talks

Can you share a little about your background and experience in hiring and building successful teams?

As a business professional who has contributed to several industries through honoring roles that require teamwork among various members of the organization, I am well versed on how it is to be on both sides of the fence when it comes to being recruited and recruiting others. I was initially introduced to the realm of hiring and managing others over twenty years ago when working for a private organization. It's interesting to see how technology and innovation has influenced the hiring practices when it comes to talent acquisition and talent development over the years.

What are the top 3 qualities you look for when hiring anyone.

  1. Personality. I believe it's important the candidate exhibits a respectable degree of likeability. This individual will be working with people through multiple channels that involve teamwork. Likeability helps others want to get to know their professional peers better which contributes to the quality of working relationships and performance skills. There's a difference between being personable without becoming personal with people. A likeable person is more likely to attract others to listen and engage in work endeavors. This helps with energy flowing freely among positive minded contributors who are acknowledged and heard. This greatly can contribute to the communications and feedback channel when collaborating with others. People work for people. Given such reality on a challenging day, it's the right personalities that help us achieve the finish line.

  2. Communication. This involves exhibiting interest in listening to others. In order for us to be heard, we also need to listen. Communication translates to how one listens, speaks, emotes and exhibits their ideas in their day to day lives. We want to focus on communication skills that align with a healthy mindset, one that knows when to speak up and how to navigate through sensitive matters in the workplace. This can include potential conflict, misunderstandings, miscommunication and aspects of human behavior that we can't control on others. How does this candidate work through their differences on a typical day? On a stressful day? Are they able to communicate accountability? Are they suave communicators only when serving their alleged peers, or are they consistent in treating people (including clients) in an amicable manner? Good manners in a professional environment can take one far in their endeavors because over the years some workplaces have turned into a daycare center pandering to bad behaviors for the sake of political correctness. Real business spaces value sensible characteristics starting from honorable communication. People need to learn how to communicate well face to face, on the phone, in writing and other creative mediums.

  3. Competency. This depends on the role that needs to be filled to honor a commitment. Some roles have very little flexibility when negotiating on pre-requisites needed to work the role. This requires proper vetting. Hiring specific professionals who lack technical skills can result in organizations getting sued by clients when employees are exposed for lying on their credentials. We don't need a mechanic passing themselves as a neurosurgeon who has never attended medical school! Unfortunately there are cases of gross negligence present in different industries. Make sure the candidate is qualified to work the role. The desire to work a role is not the same as knowing how to work a role. Organizations are taking on liability every time they hire, fire and layoff their contributors. Also, make sure the candidate desires to grow within their role because they will be working with others representing different competency levels. They need to genuinely want to apply themselves to leverage their skills, or else they will become the bottleneck that needs to be removed from the working environment.

What are some examples of questions you might ask during an interview to determine whether a candidate possesses these key qualities?

I have a bias for not asking cliche questions because candidates that are heavily interviewing will easily answer these questions with limited reflection. I encourage asking questions that encourage critical thinking which are open-ended questions. Consider asking 'how' questions that lace in hypothetical cases that require a walk through to understand their logic, common sense skills, their ability to justify their recommendations; etc. Remember, it's a conversation, the energy needs to flow among all the communicators.

I recall once being interviewed by a person who confessed they printed out the interview questions from Google five minutes prior to my arrival. (Not a smart move to confess such things). This interviewer read those common-sense questions off the sheet of paper which prevented them from making legitimate eye contact with me. They didn't realize it's more important to engage the person in front of them than solely developing a relationship with a sheet of paper that will fail them when needing to make a sensible judgment. It was the same interviewer who cost the organization money when they needed to off board a problematic hire who posed a safety risk in the work environment. The signs of a bad hire are present at least 80% of the time.

People shouldn't discount the importance of interviewing. Don't be dismissive but don't take it too seriously either. From observation, some of the best candidates that were hired by competitors ended up being looked over because the wrong interviewers were obviously not aligned with the talents. It's important the interviewer is qualified to screen the candidates. On rare occasions, their insecurities and lack of experience can cost a company a good hire.

If you had to assign weightings to the above qualities, which would get the highest weighting, and why?

Personality - 30%. This will ultimately be assessed by those who will be closely working with the candidate on day to day / regular basis. Some roles are more interactive than others.

Communication - 35%. This will also be addressed by the key contributors partnering with the candidate. If the person is evasive when interviewing, or appears a clear mismatch then they should be passed up. Don't try to fit a square mold into a circle. Mismatched hires can end up costing the company more money. Questionable communication skills will demand more time and energy among people to get the job done. Small oversights add up over time. Don't welcome frustrations down the road.

Competency (context matters) - 35%. This is dictated by the type of role and the constraints the role presents in the context of the organization. Some roles have bandwidth to welcome training once the candidate is hired. Other roles demand the candidate to hit the ground running from day 1 of hire. Examples - A good percentage of lawyers specialize in various niches of law. Some skills are transferable among industries, some aren't. Past performance heavily matters when hiring for intermediate and senior roles in the market. Anyone that is a self-proclaimed senior professional may require more vetting than others who already host a vetted record.

How do you assess people for qualities like adaptability, resilience, and a growth mindset during the hiring process?

I believe in simply asking them. Be clear and up front about these questions because a candidate, once hired, can later claim there was misrepresentation present in the hiring process. These things need to be addressed explicitly in the hiring process because good candidates are weighing their options based on what you're selling to them.

Ask the candidates if they are perceiving the role to be a milestone, or a stepping stone in their professional journey. It's important to remind them there are no right or wrong answers. When there's an air of uncertainty in such screenings, people will say and do things that typically they don't mean later in time. Employers also do that without being mentally present in the hiring process.It's not a good path to travel down because personality assessments, business cases, panel interviews, multi-round interviews and third party interviewers can also help alleviate some of these risks.

The goal is to make an optimal decision when hiring. There is no such thing as a perfect hire.

How do you balance evaluating a someone's technical skills with their soft skills and overall fit for your team and company culture?

I believe it's best to integrate a few personalities / professionals who will work directly with the alleged candidate in the hiring process. It's better to have a few ears and eyes observe by engaging the candidate themselves. A candidate may be more expressive with some professionals versus others due to their comfort level and affinity for having a conversation with them. Comparing notes among all the interviewers can paint a fair picture of whether the candidate is a viable contributor in their organization. It will grant them clarity on their communication skills, emotional intelligence, maturity, creativity, alleged work ethic, personality; etc. On the other hand, if it's a role working for a specific personality hosting very distinct preferences for their hire, then it's important that hiring manager should have the final say in the decision making process.

Is there one particular source you tend to find the best candidates?

No. Actually that is the best part! Sourcing candidates can come through word of mouth, networking offline and being open to attracting the right people. Sometimes the cliche channels recycle the candidates and common conversations that lead to no great finale. I believe in getting creative with the sourcing and hiring process. It depends on whether it's a very standard role needing to be filled, or a custom role that welcomes a creative profile to initiate a business conversation.

What advice would you give to someone who is just starting to build a hiring process?

Remain flexible with how you go about it. Planning is fine but execution will let you know what parts of the process can be refined through candidate and employer feedback. This will safe you time and energy in the long run. Before acting upon the process, make an effort to understand what roles need to be filled and what attributes are needed in the right candidate.

I have fired a lot of recruiters and professionals along the way for their poor initiation and management of the hiring process. If they become the bottleneck, or exhibit the lack of interest to refine their skills, there's no point of carrying a headcount that is delivering a poor or no ROI. The hiring process requires good listening, ethical, confidentiality, communication and management skills. There's a reason why organizations would rather take their time hiring the right candidate than rushing through the process. There's wisdom in such practice.

Where should people follow you to find out more about your work?


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