GUEST BLOG | Describe Success First, Hire Second.

We’ve all been there…  we start our recruiting process, sourcing candidates based on a vague job profile we’ve gotten from HR that is supposed to reflect what we (or they) think we need. Or maybe we just dusted off one we’ve used before based on what we’ve always hired in the past. Frankly, more often than not, we’re already desperate for the resource before we open the job so we don’t have a lot of time for analysis paralysis over a job description. “Just start sourcing!” we tell our recruiting partners. “Find me another Bob!”

And the search begins. Our recruiting partner starts talking to target candidates about our need. Our employees start talking to people they think might be a fit.  Even we start pinging our network for leads. Before long, resumes start coming in, interviews start to be scheduled, and the selection process is in full swing.

We pick 2 or 3 candidates to meet and bring in our top candidate for the first interview. We are pleasantly surprised to find that they have almost every skill we were after. Jackpot! Then this funny thing happens. We bring in our 2nd pick candidate and when we meet candidate “B” we find that although their skills aren’t as close a match to the job description as our first pick, they have a few skills we hadn’t thought of.

Really interesting skills so we say “add them to the job requirements!” and suddenly candidate “B” moves into the top slot. Then candidate “C” comes in and has skills that are a stretch from the newly revised job profile so we initially think they’re not a fit.  But then another funny thing happens. Candidate “C” has another set of skills we hadn’t thought of that we decide are absolutely essential to the job. Your recruiting partner is frustrated, the selection team is confused, and you yourself no longer feel sure about the fit of any of your top candidates.  It isn’t long before our original job description is tossed and we’re on the hunt for something completely different. Is that so wrong? Not always. Ineffective? Almost always!

This is a classic example of Cart before Horse. As hiring managers, we should thoroughly understand our need before we start our search, not come to that understanding during the interview process. If we don’t, we end up using the skills of each new person we meet to introduce a new flavor, which begins an endless cycle of job profile revision that will confuse your recruiting partners, your employees, your interview team and, even worse, confuse your candidates in the talent market.  Inevitably, you’ll be sending the message to everyone that you don’t know what you’re looking for.  And that would be pretty close to the truth.

There are a lot of reasons why it’s worth taking the time up front to create a success profile before launching your search. Here are two that stand out in particular:

  • Targets your search profile to close your capability gaps. Understanding where your team or your organization has high vs. low capability in the competencies most important to your business helps you to target your job profile toward those skills that help to close your capability gaps. The alternative? You risk creating a profile that serves to duplicate your strengths.  Ok, not the worst thing in the world. But don’t forget there are two sides to duplicating what you already have. For every strength you duplicate, you are likely duplicating just as many weaknesses!
  • Aligns your selection team for effectiveness. Taking the time to create a common understanding among the selection team about the capability you are looking to bring on and why creates the alignment necessary to enable success across the entire process. Similar to any team sport, making sure all the players understand the goal and how they contribute toward it will eliminate the confusion and insecurity that comes with lack of clarity. Everyone will be speaking the same language.  Commitment to the purpose of the role will increase. Assessment of talent against the requirements will be more accurate.  Consensus on final selection will be far easier to reach.

Whether you create a formal job description, a job profile, or a competency score card, you are effectively describing what success looks like in the role you’re seeking to fill: success for the role individually, success for the role as part of a team, and success for the role as part of a larger organization. The format matters less than the accuracy and clarity of the description and the understanding and alignment among your selection team.

Hiring is a highly strategic activity for companies of any size. Every hire your team makes is an investment in the future of your organization. Knowing what your capability is today, where you need to take it tomorrow, and what the gaps are between the two is a critical component to creating a robust and effective selection strategy as well as aligned momentum for everyone involved in the selection process.

Article written by Guest Blogger Jasmine Jeske.

Jasmine Jeske specializes in Organizational Excellence, helping her clients assess organizational and talent capability and design targeted initiatives in the areas of talent strategy, organizational design, change, alignment and culture.