I've been a very successful recruiter, a reasonably successful trainer, and a middling author for the past 25 plus years. Early on, I came up with a new way to take search assignments, by first asking my clients to describe what successful people doing the work required did differently than average people. My objective in asking this question was part of a youthful and dubious goal of doubling my search commission income while cutting in half the time spent on any search.
The answer to the question got me over halfway there. Once I knew what the best people did differently, only two things were left to do: 1) get everyone on the hiring team to agree to use this instead of the standard job description, and 2) find people who were good at doing the work described.
The reason the "What do the best people do differently?" question even came about was the obvious fact that traditional hiring, recruiting, and interviewing practices were largely unproductive -- too many candidates needed to be seen; consensus was hard to reach; and often the best person wasn't hired.
Since I only sourced passive candidates, I got to know the needs of this group pretty well. Top performers have their own unique demands that had to be met to get them into the game, keep them playing, and get them hired.
Over the years, here are some things I found out about recruiting and hiring top-performing people. The list below will seem familiar to those of you who source and recruit high-performing passive candidates:
Without getting into all of the details, the authors (part of Gallup) interviewed tens of thousands of managers and staff and came up with two big lists. The first list was what top managers know to be the truth about their team members, and the second was the things that great managers do to maximize their team members' performance.
The first list basically concluded that good managers know that people don't change too much, so it's best to hire top people who are highly motivated to do the required work. The second list can be summarized with the general idea that top people want their managers to first clarify expectations, then they want the tools and equipment needed to do the work effectively, then they want the support and encouragement of their manager, and finally they want to work on stuff they like to do.
This leads to a pretty basic recruiting principle: Define what you want done, and then find people who want to do it. Traditional job descriptions do not meet this need. They are neither sufficient nor satisfactory. Furthermore, they're counter-productive.
One reason is that the work is described in terms that are too general, like "responsible for order processing." Surprisingly, the skills and experience requirements are described in excruciating detail, such as "Five years of ASIC design with two years of Verilog in combination with VOIP industry experience."
The whole idea of writing job descriptions this way should be turned on it's head. Be more detailed when describing the actual work required, and more general when describing the skills required. For example, we might transform the above description into: "Use your ASIC and Verilog experience to lead the design optimization and layout of our new VOIP chip."
When you write job descriptions that describe primarily what people need to do rather than what they supposedly should have, everything changes. For one, this way meets the underlying criteria of top performing passive candidates to begin consideration of your opportunity.
Here are some other things you'll notice:
Then ask the big question: "What does the person in this job need to do to be considered successful?" Get a list of five or six things. Next ask, "What do the best people do differently than the rest?" Then go find some people who are talented and motivated to do this type of work.
I call these job descriptions that define what people need to do "performance profiles." What's interesting is that the best managers already prepare them naturally as part of their hiring and management process. This is a management best practice, but one that seems to be largely ignored.
It's also a best recruiter practice, so you might want to start preparing them. Not only will you be more productive, but you'll also find your job more satisfying. Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you'd like a sample performance profile for a sales position, a manager position, or a mid-level techie. This will get you started on doubling your income in half the time.
This article originally was published in the Electronic Recruiters Exchange (www.erexchange.com). Check out the ER Exchange for more great recruiting information.
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