Last time, we covered the first part of hiring good people. You can read the post here. Here’s the bottom line – you first need to fill your team with people who are aligned with your organization’s values. If you’ve ever heard the cliché “hire for attitude,” this is essentially how it’s done.
Though hiring people who align with your company values is absolutely necessary, it’s not enough. You’ve got to hire people who can do the job, and do it well.
The second part of that old cliché is “train for skill.” Though this isn’t untrue, it does present some challenges.
One challenge with the “train for skill” approach is that it assumes that it’s impossible to find someone who is right for your company and has the skill to do the job. Another challenge is that it assumes that you have the time, energy, and money to train well. Finally, it assumes that the person understands that they need to be trained, and that they want to be trained.
For most of our clients, these assumptions are rarely true.
Really, there are three requirements to making sure someone is the right fit for a role.
Do They Understand the Job?
Your job candidate has to truly understand the role. In order for this to happen, you need to provide a great job description.
Most companies build job descriptions backwards. They start with the job title that they think best fits what they are looking for. Then they cut and paste a job description using a document that already exists in the company, something provided by their employment agency, or something they find online. Hopefully, the hiring manager’s expectations are contained somewhere in there. If you’re not the hiring manager, and you’re really lucky, the hiring manager’s expectations are the same as yours.
The way to write a job description is to begin with the 3-5 accountabilities you need someone to look after. The accountabilities should encompass the results that the role must deliver. You and the hiring manager should agree on these completely before moving on. Don’t rely on the hiring manager to put this together alone.
Once you have the accountabilities agreed, describe the skills and responsibilities that are required to deliver the results.
Be open to the possibility that you may be wrong about some of these things. Part of your interview process should include discovering if your candidate knows different and/or better ways to achieve the results you’re looking for. In fact, hearing suggestions from candidates will help you determine whether or not they truly understand the role in question.
Once you have the accountabilities and descriptions, create a title for this role. If it’s important to your new hire, it’s nice if the title aligns with industry practices. In practice the title should be as negotiable as the salary – maybe more so.
During the hiring process (or evaluation, if you’re reviewing performance of someone already doing the job in your company), make sure the person really understands the role. Ask them to explain the job in their own words. Make sure they don’t leave anything out or describe accountabilities that aren’t relevant.
Do They Really Want the Job?
Once you’re sure your candidate understands the role, you have to make sure they really want it.
Ask people directly if they want to do the job. New hires are likely to say, “yes” even if they don’t really want it. Look for body language.
It’s just as important to stay on top of long time, loyal team members as to evaluate new hires.
Existing employees might find themselves in roles they don’t want. Particularly in growing organizations, people take on roles out of necessity that they wouldn’t have taken otherwise. Sometimes people just get tired of their jobs.
Ask both new hires and current employees what they like to do, what they’re good at, and what they don’t like to do. Answers to these questions can give you valuable insight into whether or not they really want to do the job in question.
If you find someone aligned with your values, and who understands and wants the job you’re offering, then you can think about “training for skill.” Values, understanding, and desire aren’t negotiable.
If your employee or new hire doesn’t exhibit adequate levels of these, no level of skill will help. You’ll both be frustrated for the duration of their tenure.
Can They Do the Job?
Only when values, understanding, and desire align can you make a meaningful decision about investing in skills training.
Obviously, you’ll be interviewing for job skills. If you keep the job accountabilities and required skill set in mind, you can ask meaningful questions about experience, knowledge, and skill. Pay attention to what skills might transfer from previous roles.
If you’ve been clear about the job accountabilities from the very beginning, odds are you’ll find someone with at least 80% of the required skills. At this point, if you decide that someone is worth training, you can train for skill. You’ll find training and developing good people delivers a quick and significant return on your investment.