Hitting Moving Targets

The biggest problem with hiring today is getting the hiring manager, the hiring team, and the recruiter on the same page regarding the actual position being filled. Too many search assignments are started without a clear understanding of true job needs. This adds frustration, wasted time, and inaccuracy to an already difficult process. Under these circumstances there’s little likelihood of finding a top candidate. In an economy when every hiring decision suddenly becomes very important, it’s critical to get it right at the start. Misunderstanding job needs is the classic hiring problem. Ninety percent of most hiring assignments are begun with only the traditional job description as a guide. Am I the only one who thinks that these job descriptions should be thrown away? Never again should they be discussed, viewed, or used as a template to define a job or to find a candidate to fill the role. This list of skills, duties, responsibilities, academics and required experience at best describes basic competency. It certainly doesn’t describe what a person taking the job is expected to do. If you want to hire competent people, describe what they have to do every day to achieve average performance. If you want to hire superior people, describe what superior people do every day to achieve superior performance. Traditional job descriptions are over-weighted with too much emphasis on having skills, experience, and academic training. The best candidates generally have less experience than the traditionalists require – but balance this with an overabundance of traits like insight, leadership skills, desire, potential and ability to learn. While using traditional skills and experienced-based job descriptions will eliminate the bottom-third of the candidate pool, they also unfortunately often eliminate the top-third in the process. Actually everyone knows this, but few recruiters do much about it. Line managers are a little better, but most still suffer using outdated hiring techniques. Some recruiters try in vain to convince their line manager clients that the best candidates don’t need the pedigree described in the job spec, but nothing else is offered as a substitute. The pleadings then go unheard, and the typical recruiter settles in for a war of attrition – knowing that no candidate will really ever meet the spec as advertised. Then it’s just more and more resumes, with the goal of tiring the manager out long enough to eventually settle upon a candidate. The recruiter is thus viewed as a necessary evil – an expensive resource providing a service that is slow, frustrating, ineffective, yet vitally important. There is a better way. It involves asking clients a simple question: “What does the person taking this job need to do in order to be considered successful?” For example, average performance for a typical telemarketing person at a call center is 50 calls per day: convincing 30% to sign-up for the catalog, and getting 10% to purchase at least $100 in goods or services. Superior performance is 50% above this. It’s not 2-3 years of telemarketing experience, good communication skills, and at least 2 years of college. For a developer it’s writing efficient code to create a spider in six weeks – not 3 years of Java. For a CEO, it’s turnaround a troubled division to generate profit in 12 months – not an MBA and five years as a GM or COO in the consumer products industry. Sound simple? It is. But it’s also revolutionary. Give it a try. Who knows – you might just find yourself knocking down more of those moving targets <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007).


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