This December, the latest installment of one of the most popular movie franchises in the galaxy will make millions of dollars in ticket sales and billions in merchandise. In fact, the “selling of Star Wars” has already begun, with a manufactured “Force Friday” sales holiday in early September. Even the almost universally panned “prequel” trilogy made hundreds of millions for the filmmakers and more for merchandisers, so even the lowest expectations are lucrative.
The phenomenon has been influencing global popular culture since the late 70s and also modern business culture. The company Carbonite protects computer data, “freezing” a copy of it in the cloud, like a certain smuggler in Cloud City. Articles discuss ideas about forging business partnerships, digital marketing, and inbound marketing concepts using Star Wars terminology. People divine business lessons from the series while some treat being “Jedi” as actually divine.
Translating popular culture to the business realm is useful as a tool to illustrate broad principles. When it comes to the hiring process, what can we learn from the Jedi in Star Wars movies that will help us go from “padawan” to “master” of human resources?
Use the Force
Any list that doesn’t put the Force first and foremost just isn’t relevant. For our purposes, it isn’t a spiritual thing, yet we are talking about something that does bind us all together. Wouldn’t you agree that the internet is powerful? If you’re not at least using it to passively search for candidates, you’re putting your company at an enormous disadvantage. The Force gives a Jedi a powerful presence that advertises to those present that they mean (cough, cough) business. The first thing a good candidate will do when applying will be looking up a company’s web presence. If yours isn’t modern, polished, interactive and attractive, the best will look elsewhere.
Wield your weapons well
Along with the Force, a lightsaber is synonymous with representatives of the Jedi order. What “weapons” do you have as a hiring manager that allow such elegance and precision? Pre-employment screening options vary. There are skills tests which can help separate the “stormtrooper clones” from the “Imperial officers” among candidates. Drug testing is a useful safety precaution as well. The most obvious choice as your hiring manager “lightsaber” is probably the interview. It should be an integral part of every hiring process as meeting someone face-to-face can reveal things that a resume just cannot.
You might consider an additional “weapon” to be social media savviness. Like the Force, no HR Jedi should go without mastering it. Lightsabers are meant to use in close proximity. Using Twitter can put you directly in touch with candidates. Use Google+ and Facebook—perhaps even sites like Instagram and Pinterest—as a way to draw in potential employees with a multimedia arsenal. In return, it can keep you up-to-date on the latest trends and work passively to help you network.
Search your feelings
Yoda was speaking of Luke’s “hero journey” into a cave of self discovery. Have you thought about what you really want to accomplish with your next hire? You may not need to confront your inner dark side, but by meditating on your company’s needs, you can create a clear and concise job description. You can’t find the ideal candidate if you’re only bringing in the wrong ones. If you’ve been passively searching and using the internet and social media, you will want to set yourself time to evaluate company needs before beginning an active search.
Competitive compensation makes a difference
Han drove a hard bargain, but Obi-wan was willing to provide the incentive. Sometimes it will be upfront salary and sometimes it will be the benefits of the job that come later. What started off as a simple ride-for-pay turned into earned loyalty that ended up saving the day for Luke on his trench run at the Death Star. You may not have employees willing to risk their ship against one of the most talented fighter pilots to ever turn Sith, but offering more tends to get more.
Finding a good candidate takes time. When you rush the process, you’ll increase the chances that you’ll be hiring an “Emperor Palpatine”. Don’t settle on what only appears to be the safest option because of promises in a resume. No one vetted the new Chancellor from Naboo after Velorum received his vote of no confidence. The eventual evil emperor simply positioned himself to be available in a crisis. If Yoda had spent some time getting to know the real Darth Sidious, maybe he wouldn’t have had to hide out on Dagobah for all those years waiting for Luke to crash land. In other words, hiring a bad candidate could mean more than just going through the hiring process again soon. It could mean costly damage to your company by an opportunist.
Conduct yourself as a Jedi
Be helpful and honest to potential candidates and dispassionate about the process. You’re looking for someone to join the team, fit in, and learn the ways of your version of corporate culture. Know which questions you can ask and which you can’t by doing your homework, because you expect them to be prepared as well. Provide the candidates with an opportunity to ask questions. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Be honest with what you can, but don’t feel like you must reveal company plans to a stranger to be personable. Don’t create an atmosphere of fear, because that leads to anger, which leads to hate, which...oh, you know.
You may have to unlearn what you have learned in order to hire like a Jedi master. The internet is awash with additional suggestions and tips, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t wish you well, so...
“May the Force be with you.”