Look For The Motivated Candidates

These are some of the questions I’ve been asked recently:

  1. “How come I hire so many candidates who are competent and appear motivated during the interview, but are unmotivated once on the job?”
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  3. “How do you get candidates to be more realistic about their expectations?”
  4. “Why do managers exclude candidates because they seem overqualified, when they’re not?”

All of these questions are really about motivation. Self-motivation is the core attribute of success – yours, the people who work with and for you, those you hire, and those you refer and place. Yet motivation is usually poorly addressed in the job description (“Must have initiative”), and is inadequately covered in the hiring process. We don’t source candidates based on it, and we simply assume (often wrongly) that all energetic candidates people have it. The common core trait of all top performers is personal motivation: going the extra mile, doing more than required, taking the initiative, self-learning. Every manager wants to hire these types of candidates. If you’re a manager, this is extremely important, since you can leverage yourself 3-5 times if you can build and manage a motivated team. If you’re a recruiter, your goal is to find candidates like this. Some managers have the natural ability to motivate others to excel, regardless of the work. This is rare. More often, the best motivators are just astute managers who hire people who are motivated to do the work that needs to get done because they like to do it. Finding and hiring people who want to do the work that needs to get done is the key to hiring great people. To build a bigger pool of motivated candidates, you must first describe exactly what the person will do if they get the job. People who are motivated to do this type of work will respond. “Help us design super complex circuits that others are just dreaming about” is a much better draw than “Must have 3 years experience with FPGA design, and a BSEE.” Write ads that focus on what people will learn, do, and become – not ones just highlighting what skills they need to have. Include a minimal list to filter out the really weak, allowing the best to apply. For example, “An MBA would be great, but we really need someone who is challenged by launching a product line in record time.” You can define the deliverables for any job this way, from janitor to chairman. Ask candidates to describe examples of work they accomplished that meet this requirement. Spend ten minutes on each accomplishment. Find out the results achieved and the process used to achieve the results. For entry-level and lower level positions, get examples of initiative. Get examples of work that the candidate enjoyed the most, where they were motivated to exceed expectations because they liked it. Spend ten minutes on each of these. By clearly knowing the work the candidate has enjoyed the most, you’ll better understand their true underlying motivation. Hire only those people who have shown motivation and commitment to work that is similar to what you need done. Many candidates over-inflate their job needs. While they appear to us as unsophisticated and egotistic, I believe it’s their inability to clearly define a job that is motivating. Since they don’t have a realistic way to define the work they want to do (just like most managers), they come up with inflated titles and roles. As a solution, just ask the candidate what type of work they enjoying doing the most. Then ask them if they would consider a job that is challenging and provides them a chance to do some of the things they find motivating. This process uses the performance profile as the common language of describing work. By getting everyone involved in the hiring process onto the same page, reason, not emotion, guides the selection process. Also, don’t be too quick to ignore candidates that appear overqualified. While some candidates might on paper seem overqualified compared to the traditional job description, because of years of experience or too many credentials, it’s a bad comparison. Spend time understanding what motivates these people to excel and work at peak levels. If the candidate has a series of recent accomplishments or jobs that clearly provide evidence that they are motivated to do the work you need done, you’ve found a star where others see only a problem. Traditional job descriptions don’t focus on either success or motivation. They don’t define jobs, they define average people. Although they can filter out the weak, they also filter out the strong. So let’s break some rules. Define success first. Use this to source, filter, interview, and close candidates. You’ll hire a better class of candidates as a result, and in the process you’ll increase motivation and retention. The best people deliver the desired results and enjoy doing it. The people who can deliver these results have all the skills and experiences and academics you’ll ever need, but they won’t be what you find on the traditional job description. <*SPONSORMESSAGE*>

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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