lucy-dunnBy Lucy Dunn (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) | 2 October 2014

Following on my last article, Employers are from Mars and Employees are from Venus, I promised to look further into the often-overlooked criteria for hiring stellar performers.

What is needed by your company can be very different, depending on if you are “new kid in the block” or a smaller organization, where bringing in experienced people might not be exactly helpful. Employees who have proven they can do the job you need filled, can bring in connections and a set of work protocols which can round out and shore up smaller or newer companies. The opposite may also be true for larger company where the challenge here is to stay relevant and inventive to grow.

It has always been true, most organizations struggle to find good-fit candidates. From a 3rd party point of view, I believe most organizations would do well to be more creative and proactive in their hiring process. I do not mean that you should go spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on new IT or CRM/talent management systems, which while they help, do less for your organization than you think. Instead, why not take a fresh look at how you manage your in-house talent as well as how rigidly you define roles and new hire search criteria. Whether you are doing the annual evaluation of a current employee or trying to interpret candidate profiles as they land on your desk, maybe I can be so bold as to suggest looking beyond expectations and sometimes even the first impression to really look at the potential.

Most of us humans fall into a trap called the confirmation bias, which is seeing things in data which confirm our existing perceptions. With recruiting, that can equate into only “looking for a match”, for example, if a candidate is now a key account manager in your specific vertical, it is hard not to automatically assume that he/she is most likely a good match at your company. However, many of these candidates won’t be a good match with your company’s culture and now that they are a proven entity they will be looking for more money for doing the same job, or are looking for a step-up from their current position. So these candidates that look like a natural match on paper will only come at a higher price and often become bored quickly. The real value in taking a different approach and looking for individuals that will be a good cultural fit and have the basic skills you need vs. are already doing a job like the one you want to fill, is that you can find that gem in the rough just waiting to be discovered or shown an opportunity. By hiring a person who can grow in the job you have to offer, you are building loyalty (because you gave them the opportunity to grow and learn) and drive (because they know they have to step their game up a notch to meet the expectations).

What are some of the ways you can spot these “gems”? Many great managers, think sports or any other fields, say one secret to their success has been the ability to be creative in finding talent in unusual places. Candidates who persevere and spend a long time perfecting any discipline, whether it be work or hobby, can be showing you that the have that drive you are looking for to deal with difficult professional challenges. Commitment and the drive to excel in a sport may also be a more important and a more accurate indicator on how the individual will perform at work than solely their past job titles.

Another way to not miss a “gem” is by bearing in mind that the younger generations, who have had a different collective experience and conditioning (or lack of) than you as a manager, will have a different (not better, not worse, but different) sets of priorities, desires, and values. That means be careful to not let the fact that someone loves travel set you thinking that they won’t be committed or stay around, it may only be an indication that they love new challenges.

Having said all of the above, no matter how good you are (as a hiring manager), the average statistics shows that at least 1 in 5 new hires do not work out. Having done all the work to build a stellar team, you don’t want all these team members to leave. Look after them, understand what they are really successful doing and excited about. Present them their next move within the company, so that they don’t have to look outside.

We live in a dynamic society, things change for both employers and employees, and it is always helpful to keep an open-mind perspective. If you practice being creative, open and humble to learn, there will always be many possibilities.


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