The leaders that I have the opportunity to visit with each week routinely emphasize to me the importance of hiring great people. Similarly, Larry Bossidy, former CEO of AlliedSignal and author, noted, “I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.” Good to Great author Jim Collins has emphasized, “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.” This all makes good sense. We all want “A” players on our teams. However, too often that does not happen. Particularly for a small business, a wrong hire can have a very negative impact on the company’s performance. I wanted to visit with an expert on this topic to learn more about what companies can do better to make better hires.
Judy Johnson, director of talent acquisition at Bomgar Corporation, recently took time to share with me some principles about hiring based on her years of experience. Johnson, a two-time Mississippi Business Journal Top 50 Leading Business Women in Mississippi honoree, has a long and impressive resume as a leader and developer of talent. Until his untimely death when Johnson was a teenager, Johnson’s father worked at Parchman, so Johnson spent her early years there. After his death, the Linskey family moved to Drew, Miss., where Johnson’s mom worked hard to raise her four children. Johnson’s older brother, Andy, paved the way for Johnson and her sisters to be the first generation to go to college and to enter the field of engineering, which had traditionally been a male-dominated field. Johnson received an engineering degree from Mississippi State University and a MBA from Mississippi College. During her career, she has worked as a leader at Siemens Energy and Automation, Vickers Aerospace and Eaton Corporation before joining Bomgar Corporation.
Johnson shared that the first step in the process to hire a new person is to document the requirements, qualifications and competencies needed and responsibilities of the position. Based on this pre-work, she recommends establishing behavior based questions, and she generally follows a process of phone interviews followed by onsite interviews, followed by second interviews. Johnson said that she generally likes to have “team” interviews with candidates with two interviewers. Johnson also emphasized that she believes in checking references and that too often that step is skipped in the process. Johnson also shared the tip that, “We tend to look to hire a person that has done the exact job they are looking to hire for; however, it is hard to find someone who simply wants to continue in the same role. Instead, look for people who have the skills and fit the culture.” Johnson also looks for employees who are “learners” and thirsty for growth. She also emphasized the importance of making sure that there is a cultural fit with the organization.
As a leader, Johnson believes in giving back. She has worked tirelessly to promote opportunities for women and minorities in non-traditional fields like engineering. She also personally mentors many young people on how to advance their careers. Johnson believes in using your talents and abilities to give back to help others. In 2012, Johnson was honored by Mississippi State University as a Distinguished Fellow in the Bagley College of Engineering. Johnson’s story is an inspiring one and shows how hard work and focus can really make a difference. Her proven methods of hiring top talent have been of great value to her employers and hopefully will benefit our readers through this column.
Up Close With Judy Johnson
Title: Director of talent acquisition at Bomgar Corporation
Favorite Books: Feathers From My Nest (Beth Moore); Business For the Glory of God (Wayne Gruden)
First Job: “After high school, I worked in a seed and feed store where I did the bookkeeping.”
Proudest Moment as a Leader: “I really enjoy seeing people that I have recruited or mentored over the years who have gone on to success in life and business