Hiring Well: Tips from Fervor Chief of Staff Lori Zehr

As Fervor’s Chief of Staff, I know winning inside first is the best way to serve our client partners well. And assembling a stellar team is how we do it. If we can fill our ranks with Culture Creators and Culture Keepers, we’ll create an organization that both grows and maintains a healthy culture.

That’s why hiring well is so important. It’s the initial step to winning inside first. It’s absolutely critical to take all the time necessary to cultivate a team of strong professionals who live by the same cultural values. Of course that doesn’t happen overnight!

Our interview process usually takes more than a month. But we work hard to communicate every step of the way. We’ve all been there: You send in your résumé, and then you just wait. We want people to know we care about them, whether or not it’s a good fit, and we want them to know what’s going on throughout the process. So we respond quickly, but we take our time finding the right person.

Where do we find them? We post jobs in all the normal places, including on our website and LinkedIn. But often, our first step is to reach out to our extended Fervor family. We consistently receive referrals from the people who know Fervor best. And because we consider them family, we deeply value those connections. Referrals are the best type of hires because our extended family knows us intimately, so they will suggest people who fit our core values. From the get-go, we’re talking the same language!

Our Interview Process

A book that transformed both our interview and internal assessment processes is Patrick Lencioni’s Ideal Team Player. We read this book as a team—all of us—and it was incredibly fruitful. Lencioni outlines the three tenants to an ideal team player: hungry, humble and smart.

In interviewing, you’re usually looking at a wide variety of qualifications and characteristics, but this book narrows it down to the three most important things—the same three things we’re asking our existing employees to be. Hungry. Humble. Smart.

That helps align our team: They know what our hiring process is and the expectations for anyone new we may bring in. They can feel confident when we do hire someone, they will work with the same passion, persistence and humility that they do.

Driving Toward Hungry, Humble and Smart

The book includes suggested questions that drive you toward understanding if the candidate sitting in front of you is hungry, humble and smart. Those are hard things to get to in interviews! When we’re interviewing, we share what we’re looking for in our candidates—so they know what the expectations are upfront. It helps them understand our process and the value we place on hiring the right team members.

  • For example, for humble, we might ask, Tell me about someone who is better than you in an area that really matters to you.” There’s no wrong answer, and you always get a good one. Sometimes people will tell you personal stories, and sometimes they’ll give you professional examples.
  • For hungry, I like this question: “Did you work hard when you were a teenager?” Usually, interviewers will only ask about what’s on your résumé, but this gets at their early work ethic.
  • Smart looks to discover whether they are resourceful and emotionally intelligent. This is a good one: “What kind of people annoy you the most, and how do you deal with them?” That question will reveal people who can recognize a personality conflict and figure out how to overcome it.  

Aligning Values

In addition to telling candidates we are looking for humble, hungry and smart, we are also clear on what we stand for as an organization. We share Fervor’s core principles with our interviewees. We want to find people whose values align with ours.

For example, one of our values is that we’re not afraid to say “no” when we think something isn’t in our client’s best interest. We want to steward our clients’ resources wisely. If a client wants to go in a direction we know won’t be effective, that’s when we need to say “no.”  

One of the common things I’ll ask interviewees is to tell me a time they’ve had to say “no” and how they handled it. We want to find people who say “no” not as a power move, but because they see a better option. More importantly, we want team members who can say it with kindness and grace.  

Hiring Slow

This slow, intentional, values-based hiring process strengthens us all the way around. It helps our team to know new employees will come in with the same values and expectations. And it helps that new person know what they are walking into—and understand our expectations even before their first day on the job.

Which brings us to the last step in hiring well: setting them up to win. We not only want to make sure they are a good cultural fit, but that the role meets their talents and current experience levels. When those two things come together, we know they’ll be able to hit the ground running.

Want to build a better team? Create a lasting culture? Our brand impact assessment can help. Let’s talk!