This is the first installment of a series on “best hiring practices,” and as such, it probably makes sense to start at the beginning. The real beginning is making the decision that you need to hire someone, but for this purpose, we’ll assume you’ve already done that and that you now need to take the first step in a “hiring process.” That first step is writing a position description which is critical to a good hire . . . and a step that many hiring managers get wrong. For more on this, please read below.
Writing a position description is tedious, isn’t it? So some hiring managers will give this critical step short shrift or skip it altogether. But why is this step critical? Because, when done correctly, it forces the hiring manager to think carefully about all aspects of the job and all the things a candidate will need to be successful. Besides, there may be more than one person involved in the hiring process, so a written position description insures that everyone has the same understanding of the job requirements.
The problem is, we tend to get too focused on the skills a candidate must have.
• The candidate must be able to type 60 words per minute and must know this programming language or that.
• The candidate must have at least three years of experience selling in our industry.
• The candidate must have prior C-level experience.
• Etc., etc., etc.
And that makes sense, doesn’t it? I mean, without certain, specific skill sets, the candidate can’t possibly succeed in this job, so we need to make sure we get those right. So where’s the problem?
The problem is behaviors. We get so focused on getting the skills right that we pay insufficient attention (or no attention at all) to the behaviors a candidate will need to be successful. It’s axiomatic in HR circles to say, “We hire for skills and fire for behaviors.” And that’s true. So we need to think carefully about the behaviors a candidate will need to be successful in this specific job. For instance, for a high-volume, fast-paced sales force, we’d probably be looking for a high-energy person who runs around all day with his hair on fire. On the other hand, if we have a product with a long sales cycle, we’d probably be looking for a salesperson who is patient and persistent.
But there’s also your organization’s culture to consider. What behaviors do we value around here?
• Do we want people who will challenge us?
• Do we want people who will march in lock step with us?
• Do we value the tortoise or the hare?
• Do we want a team player or a lone wolf?
So we need to consider both. What behaviors will the candidate need to be successful for this job, and what behaviors will he or she need to be successful within our organizational norms? And both need to be included in our written position description.