In thirty-seven years as CEO of Micrel Semiconductor, Ray Zinn has done his share of hiring at all levels. In this Tough Things First podcast, Ray talks objectives when interviewing candidates and how to get hiring managers to sing the same tune.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo here once again, your guest host for this edition of the Tough Things first podcast. I’m a writer and investigator in California. Here with me as Ray Zinn, the longest serving CEO in Silicon Valley history. In being invited back Ray, you know it’s always a pleasure. So, I’m glad to be here.
Ray Zinn: Well, thank you, Rob. It’s always good to be with you.
Rob Artigo: In 37 years as CEO of Micrel Semiconductor you’ve done your share of hiring. So let’s talk a little bit about your objectives when you’re interviewing candidates, and then we can talk a little bit about what you tell your hiring managers about their efforts to hire somebody and how to fulfill your objectives through what they’re doing. So let’s start with your objectives in interviewing candidates. When you sit down, and it can be at any level, like I said you’ve so much experience doing this, but what do you go into it focused on? Obviously, you want to get the best candidate, and I guess that’s a foregone conclusion, but there has to be other objectives.
Ray Zinn: Well, the primary objective when you hire people are hire loyal people. Loyal means they’re not going to just be in and out. Micrel had the lowest turnover of any company in our industry. The industry average was [inaudible] north at 15%. We were down south of 7%. And recently we had a reunion where we talked to various ex-employees and asked them what they missed most about Micrel and I think all of them talked about the quality of the, and the environment that they worked in. If I remember right, listening to them, they were always said, oh, it’s just a wonderful place to work. People were very friendly, they were honest, they had good integrity. They made it you feel like home and they really loved each other. That was my takeaway of the number of people that we [inaudible]. So you want to have people who are loyal, who are good people, who they have good reputations, you dig into their background, find out their work history, find out why they left their previous job.
What I always like to find out is if they didn’t like their previous job, they’re not going to Micrel either or when I’m hiring them and so if they talk bad about their previous, oh, I didn’t like my boss, I didn’t like the company, they’re probably not going to Micrel either. So, or like who we were hiring. So the concept here is hire people who are happy, happy people, people who are satisfied with their work, who enjoyed their previous job, who enjoyed their previous boss, because you’re going to have various bosses and if you don’t like. If you can’t work with your boss, because we have issues, we all have our defugalties that are unique to us. And so, we’re not perfect and we make mistakes. But if we can have people who can work together, who can overlook this institutes of mankind then those are the kind of people you want to hire.
So number one, you want to hire people who are happy, who have a good attitude toward work, that intend to stay working, find out why they’re working, what their goals are, what’s your objectives coming to work at my company, and then just look at their previous work history. Find that you like your job. If you did, I’m sure you’ll like our company. If you didn’t like your job, you’re probably not going to like our company. If you liked your boss, you’ll like our boss. If you didn’t like your boss, you’re not going to like our boss. So again, you want people with a great attitude, loyal, good attitudes with no criminal record that these problematic criminal records anyway. And you just want people who are good people.
And so, spend a lot of time, instead of discussing what they know, discuss who they are and how they interact with others. That’s why you need to have them talk to more than one person. I’d have at least five different people interview them so that they can get a sense of that person’s personality. So when we do an interview, when we did at Micrel, we made sure that the interviewers all sang on the same sheet of music. In other words, they were all looking for the same information, but coming at it from a different angle. So that’s how you hire good people is because you’re focusing on their loyalty and their attitude.
Rob Artigo: And when you talk to your hiring managers about this, and like you said, you’ve got, oftentimes you’ve, you want them to be interviewed by as many as five different people in order to draw out those qualities that you’re looking for. And you’ve had many different managers that have worked for you, many people who have had to sit through those interviews and had the task of trying to find out maybe they’ve got a hundred different resumes at first and they get it down to five or six people that they want to interview and bring in because of their past and their record and what people have said about them. But you sit down with a hiring manager, and you want to convey the qualities that you just mentioned, how important they are, and you want to convey that to them. Do you give them anything else to help them understand how to get that information from the interviewee, or do you just leave it up to their own skills and tasks?
Ray Zinn: No, we discuss how to interview. This is not a casual thing. This is something we do training wise to get people to do proper interviews. And so, we’re not just, you’re not just hiring somebody with knowledge, you’re hiring a person, a human being, a father, a mother, a husband, a wife. You’re hiring real people and so you know, just like your own children, you want the best for them. And so, you want to convey as the interviewer, you want to convey that you care about them, that you are interested in them. And so you don’t want to have a hostile interview. You want to be pleasant, friendly and joking and just make them feel that you’re happy. Well, I love my company, I love working here and so you want people who come across as just you come to work at our company, you’ll never want to go anywhere else.
We had the lowest turnover in the entire industry. And we also had over half the people that left our company came back because they found out that the company, they left our company for wasn’t near as friendly, wasn’t near as good a place to work. So, while the money may be important, and I’m not going to deny the money is important, it’s not the most important. When we interviewed people that left our company, the primary reason they left is because they didn’t like their supervisor. So, you want people that you can work with, and that’s why I said, you got to find out did they like their previous supervisor. If they didn’t, you don’t want to hire them. They have to like their supervisor and people who can get along. So that’s the primary thing, you’re building a team, you’re not just hiring a body, you’re not robots.
Rob Artigo: Yeah, you have a, you’re of course, your team, your hiring team is out there doing that work trying to find these folks. And you said that you had, I think they call it the bounce rate where people are coming back. It’s a-
Ray Zinn: Boomerang.
Rob Artigo: Boomerang, there you go. Boomerang rate. I make my own words up here, but… I guess I’m entitled to make my own definitions every once in a while. But the fact that people came back definitely is a testament to how well they were treated when they got hired and had the good experience that wasn’t just a bunch of fluff in the interview to get them to come to work for them, but in fact, Micrel lived up to the challenge of, hey, this is a great interview. I expect it to be a good job and it turned out to be, for most, a good job.
Ray Zinn: Yeah. You know we’re not perfect. We don’t hire, not a hundred percent of our people stay, but 85% or 93% remained with the company and that’s a pretty good rate. And so just make sure the people you hire really want to come to work for you and really want to have that more home experience that where you really love each other and you can tell when you’re interviewing somebody whether or not they have that personality, whether they’re going to get along with people.
Rob Artigo: Did you have people that, in your experience, and you don’t have to give me any specific stories or examples, but did you have times when a person got through the interview process and you were absolutely certain that, that person was going to fit in and had the right character, the right personality traits, the right attitude, and then after they come to work and started working you found out that they were really just a great interview and not that great of a performer?
Ray Zinn: Yeah, of course you have that. I mean, that’s kind of endemic. People are people, they do change. And so, the person may have come across good and maybe they start out good, but they’re not good finishers because either maybe the divorce or some other situation came up in their life that caused them to change. Maybe they’ve just lost interest in their job. Maybe they developed some bad habits. Yes, we would lose a few because they just didn’t work out. But we tried to work with people realizing that they have problems and difficulties at times, and you have to help them work through it, then they know that you’re willing to stick with them and if you’re willing to stick with them, they’re willing to stick with you. So, we do have problems. We do face challenges in our daily lives, and so, you don’t want to just throw them out just because they’re going through a trial.
Rob Artigo: Right, the hiring process is tough and demanding and difficult to navigate, but if you have the right attitude going into it and you’re honest about what the culture’s going to be like and what you are willing to do, like you said, if you’re telling people the interviewee that hey, we want to take care of you, we believe in you and we’d like to hire you, and then that person comes aboard and they find that’s true, that there’s a lot of reason to stick around in a company like that. Not one that just has fluff. I mean, if you have a ping pong table and free pizza or something like that at your company that might seem appealing, but if your culture isn’t there, if you don’t, yeah, if you don’t have that environment that works right, you’re just going to have a bunch of people sitting around eating pizza and playing ping pong.
Ray Zinn: Right. Exactly.
Rob Artigo: Yeah. All right. Well, you can join the conversation at toughthingsfirst.com. Your questions and comments are always welcome there. You can follow Ray Zinn at Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn, and of course you can pick up Ray’s books, Tough Things First, Zen of Zinn 1 and 2, and soon to go to print Zen of Zinn 3. You won’t regret it. Ray, thank you very much.
Ray Zinn: Thanks Rob.