Work experience tells us a lot about a person’s skill set. References tell us about their work habits. But how do you know if a job candidate has what it takes to lead your milking team? In a recent Inc. magazine column, Marc Barros, the co-founder and former CEO of hands-free camera company Contour, said he likes to ask potential management candidates about the last person they fired.
If they’ve never fired anyone, that’s a red flag, Barros says.
“You can't build a great team without occasionally deconstructing and rebuilding it,” he notes.
If the candidate has fired someone, ask about how it happened, Barros says. This will help you learn how well he or she communicates. Was the person who was fired surprised? That’s a hint that your candidate did not do a great job communicating with that employee in terms of where he or she stood. And while that’s difficult to do, it’s “awfully necessary,” Barros adds.
If your candidate says the person wasn’t surprised to be fired, then ask him to walk you through the termination process. Was the employee given consistent and honest feedback by your candidate? Then you’ve got a great communicator on your hands — something that every dairy barn needs.
But don’t forget to ask what your candidate did after the employee was let go, as this is an excellent test of their empathy. Did he go out of his way to network for the employee? Or did he do nothing more than the legal requirements? Watch their body language as they discuss tough issues. Are they used to discussing difficult things? Are they comfortable talking about their own and others’ emotions? Are they OK with the fact that things go wrong sometimes — including making a wrong hire?
“Regardless of the process you use to build teams, you should spend as much time talking about what went wrong as well as the things that went right,” Barros says.
Bottom line, he adds, is to look to see if your candidate is self-reflective. You want to hire someone who is able to think critically about the process of management and his role in it. That is the critical component of a good manager.