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When hiring, do you go with your gut?

Trish Feinthel, the COO of YMCA of Bucks County, said the No. 1 characteristic she looks for when looking for talent internally is how they make her feel. From there, it’s about demonstration of care, paying attention to the details, etc. But for her, it all ultimately comes down to behavior and if she wants to be in the person’s company.

As for hiring from the outside, a candidate has to have Feinthel at “hello.” Then, if they fail to meet HR deadlines or are late to orientation, she will think hard about stopping the hiring process. “So many times we try to force the square peg into the round hole and our service/brand pays the price,” she said.

But it can be easy to try to make someone fit when you’re down a staff member. Feinthel said aquatics seems to be hit the hardest in this sense. However, making a rash hire doesn’t solve anything. So, when they are down a position, Feinthel will rally her directors for a set amount of time. She will ask them to pick up extra shifts and go the extra mile for four weeks. The timeframe helps them see wins and not lose morale. “When we don’t give them that meaningful timeframe, then you start to gain disengagement of your existing team,” she said.

So, making the right hire is essential. In regards to that, Feinthel gave 10 hiring and staffing tips below:

  1. Skills can be taught, behavior cannot.
  2. Be willing to make a culture shift. Feinthel suggests reading “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath. “There lies so much power in clearly communicating goals, inspiring staff as to why they are the goals and then celebrating when the team achieves said goals,” she said.
  3. Dedicate time and strategic thought to recruitment.
  4. Be wary of internal staff who suddenly “rise up” to your radar once a job is posted. Ask, “Why didn’t they rise up before?”
  5. Onboarding is critical. “If you want the candidate to flourish, you must nurture him/her with over-communication, open-ended questions and a 30-60-90 day plan lead by the candidate,” said Feinthel.
  6. Focus on your high performers. “If you are paying attention repeatedly to the same non-performer, so are other staff, and it is pulling your culture/brand down,” said Feinthel.
  7. Team members should be acting out of what is good for the organization.
  8. Members must be top of mind all the time; how they feel is connected to how they value your community rec center.
  9. All must listen and adhere to the direction of the membership director, a.k.a. your king/queen of culture.
  10. Appreciate your team, especially those in direct services because they have touch points with members daily. “If you don’t feed your staff, they eat the members,” said Feinthel.

In the end, Feinthel said the most surefire tip for hiring is to go with your gut. She has made mistakes allowing others to sway her decisions, and she said if you know it’s not the right fit, trust yourself. “You should get the same wow that you do on a first date,” said Feinthel. “If you don’t have that wow, if you don’t have it on the first date, you’re not going to have it 90 days later. You’re already starting at a low threshold.”


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