Yes, But Can the Candidate Actually Do the Job?

We’ve all been there: we find a great candidate, but down where the rubber meets the road, that candidate’s talents finally don’t match up with the job we’re being paid to fill. Wouldn’t it be neat if there was a fast, virtually foolproof way of measuring a candidate’s competency for a particular job? Help is at hand. I’ve developed a quick system that allows me to better match critical job needs with the abilities and underlying motivation of the candidate. It begins with the principle that the work which motivates people to perform at peak levels can be broken down into four basic categories:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 for open positions. This is where idea 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. Work-type matching is a better alternative.) Once you’ve prepared a performance profile this way, just 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. As you collect examples of the candidate’s major accomplishments, categorize each of them into one of the four work-type categories. Pay specific attention to examples based on these questions:

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  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. (Selling is 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. <*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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