A Better Way to Begin Your Hiring Process

Marcianne Kuethen
May 9, 2016

Are you looking for a better way to begin your hiring process? Perhaps you’re having trouble finding qualified candidates. Or your employee turnover rate is high, or your existing employees just aren’t measuring up to your expectations. How would you normally start off when looking to hire a new employee? If you’re like most people, you’d make a job description and create a list of all the skills, experience, and education that you want in the worker who will be doing the job. But if you start and stop there, say some experts, you could actually be creating a false barrier that keeps the most qualified applicants from applying to your open position.

Matching Candidates to Optimal Contexts

Todd Rose, Harvard educator and author of The End of Average, asserts that a mere description of qualifications fails to capture the context in which the employee will actually work. The manager’s leadership style, the company culture, and the work to be done provide contextual details that will actually determine the qualifications your new hire needs to have. Because performance depends on context, recruiting should be focused on matching individuals to optimal contexts, an idea which Rose credits to Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide to Hiring and Getting Hired.

How do you match a candidate to optimal contexts? Adler advises describing the job you want done, rather than describing the person you want. (At Amtec, we help you create a position profile which encompasses this information.) Then your desired skills and qualifications come into play as you convert them into performance objectives that match the context of the job. Adler explains:

For a customer service rep, good communication skills means listening to the customer’s needs and figuring out a course of action. For an engineer it’s working with product marketing and explaining how design specs need to be modified to meet customer requirements. If you don’t have this context, assessing a person’s communication skills is based on the interviewer’s perceptions and biases. That’s how bad hiring decisions are made.

Screening Candidates for Thinking Skills and Comparable Performance

At Amtec, we’ve been long-time fans of hiring candidates with transferable experience, an idea that is even more credible in light of today’s increasing shortage of knowledge workers. If you limit your candidate pool to only those who have specific experience in your exact role or industry, you may lose out on some of the best professionals. Adler holds a similar view, advocating that you should screen for a candidate’s thinking skills and comparable performance, not identical experience. While this approach could require extra training for your new hire to bring him or her to the point of productivity, it may also be the only way to find candidates for harder-to-fill positions.

Onboarding Candidates for a Better Start

Our clients also can take advantage of Amtec’s Great Start Tool, which helps you define step-by-step goals and outcomes for your new hires in their first 30, 60, and 90 days, before they actually start. The information you compile with this tool helps them to start off well and become engaged and productive more quickly. If used at the beginning of your hiring process, it could help you understand even better what kind of professional you need.

In the past, if there’s been a disconnect between who you hoped to hire and the person you ended up with, perhaps you’ll consider that there may be a better way to begin your hiring process. (For a step-by-step explanation of a best practices, solid hiring process, click here.) A generic list of qualifications can only attract a narrow list of candidates. Measuring candidates within the context of the actual work to be performed will help you select candidates who are a better fit.

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