Wouldn't it be wonderful if there was a system that allowed a recruiter to match critical job needs with the abilities and underlying motivation of every qualified candidate? As it happens, I've been using just such a system for years. It's a fast, virtually fool-proof way of measuring a candidate's competency for a particular job.

First, you have to realize that the work which motivates people to perform at peak levels can be broken down into four basic categories:

Technical - These are candidates who enjoy being involved with details, analysis, or implementing technical (or administrative) processes. They take great pleasure in understanding what makes something work. They usually can get into the details of an issue, and they sometimes can talk at length once you get them talking. In fact, summarizing issues is sometimes a challenge.

Managerial - These people are good at managing and organizing teams to implement results. They like to upgrade and improve existing processes. They might not be technically superb themselves, but they can get great results by building a strong team.

Entrepreneurial - This group likes a fast-paced, challenging environment. Sometimes they make quick decisions without all the facts, but they get things done quickly, often under pressure. Sales people often fall within this category.

Visionary - These are the creative or strategic thinkers in an organization. They come up with lots of new ideas, and can set the direction for a team or a company. They sometimes aren't very practical, and occasionally lack managerial strengths, but their ideas can often create great companies.

Once you understand these distinctions, you can use them to better match candidates with open positions. This is why the notion of preparing performance profiles for every job is so important. I advocate preparing job descriptions by focusing on what people need to do to be successful, with less reliance on what they need to have in the way of skills, experience, and academics. (While these are important, quantifying them usually leads to trouble. You might over-specify years of experience or academic requirements, even competency level. This ignores those people with the potential to learn and acquire these skills. Our best candidates seem to have about half to two-thirds of the required skills and experience, but offset this with desire, potential, and motivation. You lose this group as a potential source of candidates if you over-rely on skills-matching.)

A good performance profile (see the POWERHiring.com web site for examples, where there's a Wizard in the Online Coach program that will walk you step-by-step through the process of creating them) needs to cover all the important job issues, including key objectives, management and team issues, typical problems, and technical objectives.

Once you've prepared a performance profile this way, categorize each of the performance objectives into one of the four work-types I've described. This will tell you what type of profile the ideal person needs to have to be highly motivated and successful in this particular job.

Part of the POWER Hiring interviewing approach is to get lots of examples of the candidate's major accomplishments. As you collect these examples, categorize each of them into one of the four work-type categories. Pay specific attention to examples based on these questions:

  1. "Please describe your favorite work experience." This is a great way to find out what type of work motivates a candidate to perform at peak levels. If the work-types match, you'll probably find a candidate who'll put in extra effort on similar projects and assignments.
  2. "What kind of problems do you like to solve?" Get lots of examples to validate this. Also, ask for examples if the candidate tells you she's a "problem solver." Categorize these examples into work-types to see if there's a strong fit.
  3. Ask for examples of work that the candidate has excelled at over longer periods of time. Determine if the work-type has changed over time. For example, you'll be able to observe a technical person's progress into management.

The whole purpose of this work-type matching is to prevent hiring the right person for the wrong job. High achievers tend to under-perform when the work they're asked to do isn't what they enjoy doing. If you use this approach, you'll stop hiring a person for a sales manager's job when what they really like to do is sell - which is basically entrepreneurial. You'll also discover that the engineer who is above average technically might also be a superstar manager who can build and manage teams of exceptional talent. And that articulate MBA with the pedigree degree might be great for the strategy job, but inadequate for putting the detailed budget together for the five divisions.

The simple process of work-type matching can prevent these common hiring problems. It all starts with a performance profile and an understanding of work-types and personal motivation. Providing people with challenging work that fits their interests is the key to great management. This is a great tip for hiring top people, and for motivating your current team. You'll move the group up to another level of performance, and reduce turnover in the process.

As a recruiter using these techniques, you'll discover that you'll be able to close assignments more quickly - without compensation becoming the overriding issue. Your clients will view you as a top recruiter, as a person who brings value-added competency to the search process. As a line manager, you'll be able to quickly discover what types of work motivate your staff. For new hires, you'll be able to get them up to speed more rapidly, while minimizing turnover.

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