This Leadership Style Fosters More Consistent Hiring

Creating greater standardization helps ensure a fairer, more effective hiring process.

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Jul 31, 2023

As if there weren’t already enough challenges in making great hires, a new study titled “The Worker Shortage Is Partially Self-Inflicted” reveals that 62% of HR executives believe that their hiring managers interview candidates inconsistently. And 68% think that their hiring managers are inconsistent in how they evaluate candidates.

Not only does this add complexity to the hiring process, but add enough inconsistencies together, and you’ve got everything from staffing shortages to poor employee retention to low-quality hires. Plus, when the quality of hires varies wildly across departments and managers, it’s difficult for any company to achieve consistently high performance.

Fixing this problem requires that your hiring managers understand and adopt a particular leadership style. Giving hiring managers a bank of interview questions, for example, might help a little, but if they don’t understand the leadership rationale driving the need for consistency, they’re unlikely to adhere to your process.

The Steward leadership style embodies stability and calm within an organization. Steward leaders prioritize rules, processes, and cooperation. They firmly believe that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and thus, they ensure that every component is moving in sync.

Their approach stems not from rigidity but rather from an intention to create an efficient and consistent process. Stewards aim to create a well-oiled machine where security, consistency, and cohesion are highly valued.

While free-flowing and creative leadership styles are appealing, especially in dynamic and innovative companies, the consistent and process-oriented approach of a Steward is especially suited to hiring situations. The hiring process, by its nature, necessitates a level of consistency and standardization to ensure all candidates are assessed fairly and equitably. A free-flowing, creative approach could potentially introduce variability and subjectivity, leading to inconsistent outcomes.

On the other hand, a Steward’s structured methodology provides clear guidelines and criteria, allowing for a uniform evaluation of candidates. This ensures a fairer, more objective assessment, enabling organizations to hire the best-suited candidates based on merit and fit.

The report “Six Words That Ruin Behavioral Interview Questions” asked over 800 hiring managers whether they could identify problems with a series of interview questions. Frighteningly, fewer than 20% could correctly spot the flaws. Clearly, leaving hiring managers to improvise each interview is far from ideal.

Now, the Steward style is far from the most common leadership approach. Research shows that only about a quarter of leaders adopt this approach. In HR, for example, only 21% of managers and executives employ a Steward style.

While it may not be every leader’s natural approach, convincing hiring managers to give this style a fair shake is well worth it. Here are some arguments that often work to convince managers to alter their approach.

First, it’s fairly obvious that one leadership approach does not fit all situations. If an executive is typically a warm and friendly consensus builder, would that style work if your office building is on fire and there are mere seconds to exit? Of course not. A dose of dictatorial order-giving to avoid the elevators and walk down the stairs would be a far better choice. The same thinking applies to hiring. Improvising each interview is a recipe for inconsistency and all the attendant workforce and legal risks.

Second, following a regimented process in hiring makes each interview far less mentally taxing for hiring managers. Rather than having to create new interview questions or alter the script on the fly, with a Steward approach, hiring managers simply follow the plan. Interviews still require deep listening, of course, but they shouldn’t take much creative thinking.

Third, no professional sports coach would send their team onto the field without a well-designed plan. There’s a reason that NFL coaches spend the week before games crafting specific plans for their opponent; there’s no way to adjust quickly enough when the team is on the field. No coach thinks better in the middle of a game than they do with days to prepare, and no hiring manager thinks better in the middle of an interview than they do with a well-designed script written in advance.

Transitioning hiring managers to a Steward leadership style is a strategic shift towards standardization and consistency. While it may take some time and patience, the long-term benefits for the organization are well worth the effort.

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