The One Thing You Must Do First Before You Can Hire a Great Person
IMAGE: Getty Images
To be 100% better at anything you need to start over, rethinking the problem inside-out, upside down and backwards.
A few weeks ago I received an email with this comment from the co-founder of a vocational school focused on user experience (UX) design.
We used performance-based hiring to identify our final candidates. In some cases, they had no previous professional teaching/faculty experience but have turned out to be fantastic at their jobs because of their passion for coaching and teaching.
As I learned later the founders of the school were reluctant to use traditional hiring methods based on years of teaching experience. Instead they wanted to hire people who could coach students one-on-one in actual design situations whether they had teaching experience or not. However, the Midwestern state initially refused to certify the school since it required all instructors to have a Masters degree in teaching.
The co-founder fought long and hard to override this unnecessary prerequisite. Five years later he now runs a highly-regarded school for designers that's getting accolades from the companies that are hiring their students.
Overvaluing skills and experiences is a core problem in every company. As a result, there are many great people who won't get interviewed or hired because 90% of the required prerequisites listed on the 5.4 million open U.S. jobs are unnecessary. This is a national problem that gets little notice.
Earlier this year I wrote an article, How to Become 100% at Better at Anything. In the post I contended that it's easy to become 20% better at anything. You just need to be more efficient. To be 100 percent better at anything you need to start over, rethinking the problem inside-out, upside down and backwards. But even getting to this point starts by recognizing that being more efficient doing the wrong things won't yield the right solution.
This is especially true when it comes to hiring. While I could write a book on how to hire highly motivated and extremely competent people for any job, let me summarize how to start over.
1. Recognize that job descriptions that list skills, competencies, behaviors and personality traits are not job descriptions.
Most job descriptions aren't actually job descriptions. They're people descriptions. Jobs don't have skills and traits. People do. Jobs are things people do, not skills people have.
2. Convert your people descriptions into actual job descriptions that define the work that people need to do.
Here are some simple ways to create these performance-based job descriptions:
- Circle the most important skills and traits on your people descriptions and ask, "How is this used on the job?" It will be task leading with an action verb like build, design, create, complete or handle.
- Ask, "What do the best people doing this work do differently than an average person doing this work?"
- Define the areas in the job that need to be improved or overhauled. Start all of these with an action verb then describe the task to be performed.
- Define all of the big team-related projects. Again, use an action verb like collaborate, influence and coordinate and describe who's on the team and the task.
3. Define the employee value proposition (EVP).
If you want to hire a good person with multiple opportunities, you'll need to understand the person's intrinsic motivators. To do this you'll need to answer this question with specific insight, not generic boilerplate: "Why is this job better than similar jobs in competing companies and what would cause a top person to leave his or her current job for something other than money?"
4. Understand your company's actual culture, not the idealistic one you think it is.
Little about your company's culture is up to you. Most of it depends on the growth rate of your company, the competitiveness of your industry, the company's strategy, the hiring manager's management style and content of the job itself. This Culture Builder Tool will help you define your company's actual culture. Fitting candidates into your actual culture requires every recruiter, interviewer and hiring manager to first remove their blinders.
5. Create a remarkable Candidate Experience (CX).
The quality of your CX will determine the quality of the people you see and hire. Whether there's an abundance of talent for your open jobs or a scarcity, build your CX under the assumption there's a scarcity. This means everyone, including the hiring manager and every interviewer, shows respect every step of the way to every candidate, you clarify job expectations up front, you assume every person you meet has multiple opportunities and you conduct an in-depth Performance-based Interview that focuses on the person's ability and motivation to do the actual work required.
You know you have a first-class CX when even those who don't receive an offer thank you for a remarkable experience. Hiring better people has an enormous strategic impact on a company's competitive ability. Achieving it starts by starting over, not by being more efficient doing what you're now doing. And starting over is what you must do first.