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How to Hire Anyone for Any Job

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I received this comment in an email last week from the co-founder of a post-secondary vocational school in the Midwest focused on training students in user experience (UX) design.

We used performance-based hiring to identify our final candidates. In some cases, they had no previous professional teaching/faculty experience but have turned out to be fantastic at their jobs because of their passion for coaching and teaching.

It turned out the state initially refused to certify the school since it required all instructors to have a Masters degree in teaching. The co-founder fought long and hard to override this unnecessary prerequisite. I suspect there are a lot of great people who won’t get hired due to the unnecessary prerequisites listed on the 5.1 million open jobs currently posted on all of the job boards in the U.S.

Long ago I learned that hiring people using a laundry list of prerequisites prevented the best people from getting hired. I put competency models, behaviors and cultural fit factors into the same bucket of non-predictive roadblocks for hiring the best. Not because they’re not important though, but because everyone uses their own personal means to define and assess them. Then they become excuses not selection criteria.

Last week I wrote an article, How to Become 100% at Better at Anything. In the post I contended that it’s easy to become 20% better at anything. You just need to be more efficient. To be 100% better at anything you need to start over, rethinking the problem from beginning to end. It starts by challenging the status quo.

The same is true for hiring.

While I could write a book on how to hire highly motivated and extremely competent people for any job, let me summarize some areas where it makes sense to start over.

First, recognize that job descriptions that list skills, competencies, behaviors and personality traits are not job descriptions.

Most job descriptions aren’t actually job descriptions. They’re people descriptions. Jobs don’t have skills and traits. People do. Jobs are things people do, not things people have.

Second, convert your people descriptions into actual job descriptions that define the work that people need to do.

Here are some simple ways to create actual jobs. I call them performance-based job descriptions:

  • Circle the most important skills, competencies and traits on your people descriptions and ask, “How is this used on the job?” It will be task leading with an action verb like build, design, create, complete or handle.
  • Ask, “What do the best people doing this work do differently than an average person doing this work?”
  • Define the areas in the job that need to be improved or overhauled. Start all of these with an action verb then describe the task to be performed.
  • Define all of the big team-related projects. Again, use an action verb like collaborate, influence and coordinate and describe who’s on the team and the task.

Third, define the employee value proposition (EVP).

If you want to hire a good person with multiple opportunities, you’ll need to understand the person’s intrinsic motivators. To do this you’ll need to answer this question with specific insight, not generic boilerplate: “Why is this job better than similar jobs in competing companies and what would cause a top person to leave his or her current job for something other than money?”

Fourth, create recruiting advertising messages that emphasize the EVP and what the person will be doing, learning and becoming.

For recruitment marketing purposes, deemphasize or exclude completely what the person needs to have. These messages cover email campaigns, voicemail pitches and posted job descriptions. The goal of this approach is to attract the best into your candidate pipeline, not weed out the unqualified people.

Fifth, define your actual culture, not the idealistic one you think it is.

Little about your company’s culture is actually up to you. Most of it depends on the growth rate of your company, the competitiveness of your industry, the company’s strategy, the hiring manager’s management style and content of the job itself. This Culture Builder Tool will help you define your company’s actual culture. Fitting candidates into your actual culture requires every recruiter, interviewer and hiring manager to first remove their blinders and then their biases.

Sixth, create a remarkable Candidate Experience (CX).

The quality of your CX will determine the quality of the people you see and hire. Whether there’s an abundance of talent for your open jobs or a scarcity, build your CX under the assumption there’s a scarcity. This means you show respect every step of the way to everyone, you clarify job expectations up front, you assume every person you meet has multiple opportunities and you conduct an in-depth Performance-based Interview that focuses on the person’s ability and motivation to do the actual work required. You know you have a first-class CX when even those who don’t receive an offer thank you for a remarkable experience.

Hiring better people has an enormous strategic impact on a company’s competitive ability. Achieving it starts by rethinking what you’re now doing from beginning to end, not by being more efficient doing what you’re now doing.