In my opinion more time is wasted talking to candidates who aren’t seen or hired by their hiring manager clients than any other recruiting activity. And even when these candidates are seen, hiring managers need to see too many before pulling the yes/no hiring trigger. Worse, some of the best people opt-out long before ever getting an offer so you are back to square one. It’s like doing the same search over and over again.

The primary reason for this problem is the lack of alignment between the recruiter, hiring manager and candidate regarding the actual job needs. Solving this problem will increase recruiter productivity by 100% by not having to present more than four candidates to get one person hired. Bottom line: Recruiters will be able to do one search once rather than sending an endless stream of candidates to get one moderately qualified person hired.

The 3 questions you should ask to align around actual job needs

To help you understand what it takes to align around job needs, I will share with you a project I am working on.

One of our medical device clients is planning on hiring 100 sales representatives during 2016. In 2015, using a list of skills, experiences and competencies as their selection tool, the company hired more than 60 reps. As of December 2015, more than half are underperforming. Worse, to hire the 60, they interviewed hundreds and screened more than 500. To prevent this problem from ever recurring I suggested their sales managers answer the following questions:

1. What are the 2-3 major objectives a person in the role needed to perform over the course of the year that you’d all agree defined on-the-job success?

It was easy to get agreement on “Make their quarterly and annual sales objectives,” as a starting point. But getting agreement on the major objectives on what needed to be done to achieve this overriding objective took hours. For this we came up with these three big objectives:

  • Maximize territory performance and growth.
  • Use advanced solution selling to develop an account-by-account calendared plan.
  • Project manage the entire territory sales effort to leverage the company’s internal resources of technical, marketing and sales support teams.

2. For each major objective, what are the one or two subtasks the best people do differently to ensure the major objective is met?

I call these the deal-breakers. They’re the tasks or abilities the hiring manager shouldn’t compromise on. After a few discussions these turned out to be: 1) conducting detailed discovery to identify real buying needs and create demand for the company’s solution, 2) being able to prioritize accounts based on size and opportunity and 3) being able to meet the key influencers at each account long before too much effort was invested in the project.

3. What are the most important skills, behaviors or competencies essential for success in this role?

When asked, most managers describe generic terms like drive, problem-solving ability or team skills. The more important question is, “How does the person use this ability on the job?” Unless you know how the skill is used on the job too much leeway is left to the interviewer on how to assess the skill. However, for example, when “problem-solving skills” gets converted to “develop a territory strategy that ensures even quarterly sales growth,” it’s easy to ask candidates to give you examples of doing this.

Final thoughts

Most jobs can be defined by 5-6 performance objectives developed using this simple questioning technique. I refer to these as performance-based job descriptions or performance profiles. Before sourcing and presenting candidates, recruiters need to first get agreement that the hiring manager will see 100% of the people who have achieved comparable results even if the person has a non-traditional mix of skills and experiences. Then when it comes to assessing candidates everyone on the hiring team needs to agree to these objectives and their order of importance. This is how you get internal alignment around real job needs.

Getting alignment with the candidate starts by suggesting that in order for the job to represent a career move the person needs to get a 30% non-monetary increase. This consists of job stretch, job growth and an increased mix of more satisfying work. Tell candidates up front that you’ll be using a series of exploratory meetings and discovery interviews to determine if this can be achieved.

By getting alignment around real job needs and as long as your candidates have done comparable work your hiring managers will only need to see four candidates to get one person hired. And if the job represents a true career move, you’ll hire one of them on fair and equitable terms. This is how you stop doing the same search over and over again.