3 Interview Tips From a Hall of Fame GM

As the NFL season is knee-deep in the playoffs, several teams are looking for a new head coach. Of the 5 current openings, my beloved Indianapolis Colts are looking for a new leader. As the interview process is in full-swing, I read this article with former Colts General Manager, and Hall of Famer, Bill Polian. I could just stop this post right now and have you reference Bill’s advice for hiring in your organization, but what fun would that be? Polian’s advice should be the playbook every organization uses in assessing and hiring talent. Here are 3 interview tips from a Hall of Fame GM.

When hiring, most organizations are looking for the “A-Players” from other organizations. We spend time looking for the pro-bowlers and all-stars of other companies and try to woo them to our organization. We make promises and paint a picture of a culture that may be more aspirational than realistic. We do this because we read about what all the “best places to work” are doing. While these are great stories and these companies are successful at attracting top talent, it’s not a one-size-fits-all game.

Have a Blueprint

I love this quote from Polian:

You’re picking the best person for you, based on your parameters, based on your needs, based on what your blueprint is. Nothing else matters.

How much time do you spend assessing the needs and “blueprint” of your organization? Spend time learning about what it takes to be successful at your organization. What are your plans for growth? Be honest in this assessment. Just because your competitor is hiring a certain type of individual or looking for a specific profile doesn’t mean it’s right for your organization. What are your short and long-term goals and what skills and behaviors do you need to accomplish them?

We become obsessed with shiny things. We look to mimic what other “winning” organizations are doing and we ignore what’s truly best for our own. This is a huge mistake.

Make a List

Do you have a wish-list of the top talent in your industry? Have you even identified the high performers in your organization? If not, start there. So many times, the best person for the job is already at your company, but the leadership development programs are missing the mark in identifying and cultivating top talent in the company.

Polian says every GM should have a list of the future coaches they would want to hire. Every leader should have this same list. Leaders should spend 46% of their time proactive assessing and identifying future talent. Spend time at external networking events to get to know others. Volunteer time and expertise to local colleges and universities. Speak on panels and apply to be a speaker at events in your industry.

Host coffees and brown-bag lunches in your organization. Make it a point to get to know the people in your company and the work they do. Find out who really put together that presentation you had to sit through. Who is that person behind the details? Get to know them.

Detailed Interviewing

How much time do you spend interviewing a candidate? Are 30 minute interviews really enough time to evaluate the right person for your team? Don’t skimp on the time and don’t apologize for the length of your interview process. As long as you set expectations for the process, the candidate will not be dissatisfied with it.

I love Polian’s view on holding the interview in the workplace. His coaches would spend 99% of the time at the facility and he wanted to set that tone. Eliminate all distractions that a coffee shop or restaurant will provide. Make the person comfortable in your setting. And be thorough. Ask detailed questions and set clear expectations. If you have to schedule more time, do it. You are going to be investing a lot of time and money into this person and you want to make sure you’re making the right decision.

Hiring and retaining talent is one of the most costly activities for an organization. The amount of time, money, and resources needed to interview and onboard someone. Data shows the average cost per hire is roughly $4,000. That’s a lot of money. So why do we want to rush the interviewing process?

Take a page out of Bill Polian’s playbook when it comes to hiring for your organization. Build a blueprint tailored to your company. Make a list of prospective talent. And have a thorough interview process. Following these steps can put your company on the road to Super Bowl success.


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