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How to fix the tragic (and all-too-common) way we try to hire

We all know how easy it is to get the hiring process kicked off. You’ve got your agenda. You know exactly what work needs to be done and the experience needed to do the job right. You create a job description, decide on an interviewing team, and you are off to the races.


This is what the typical hiring process looks like and it’s doomed before you even get your first resume.

Where we go off the rails

So often, we have a need, gap, project etc. that we need someone to fill, yesterday.  The result is we move hastily. We create the job requirements, experience and skills that are critical for success in the role. We then comb through resumes, look for applicants who have proven experience in those areas, and go through a structured interview. Sometimes we even make an offer and hire someone.

It’s only after they’ve been on the job for two months that people who have to interact with this new co-worker, realizes that they were all looking for completely different attributes. 

Steve-Greg-Sarah-chatting-1.jpgSo what went wrong? Well, it’s complicated. Or more to the point, people are complicated. Here’s what you missed: Understanding not only the job requirements and experience that are necessary, but also, uncovering the behavioral attributes critical for success in the role. Imagine you are the hiring manager and you need someone who is assertive, can bridge relationships and is a true visionary.  Meanwhile, a key business partner on your hiring team is focused on someone who will listen to their ideas, execute on processes and implement according to the plan. You had completely different visions of the behavioral pattern required for the job. But there was never any explicit discussion about behaviors. You were like ships passing in the night. And it’s remarkably commonplace. The end results is a painful selection process where people can’t get on the same page. Or worse yet, making a hire where the person you hired is in a can’t-win situation.

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Slow down to speed up

You need alignment… and it all starts before you even post a job.  Getting your key stakeholders together to gain agreement on what attributes will make someone successful in the role. It’s not just whether someone knows how to create Excel pivot tables or has a degree in economics. Knowledge, skills, abilities are important. But their behavioral patterns are often times what makes or breaks someone in a position. Do you need someone who is pro-active or re-active?  Assertive vs. collaborative? A trailblazer or a stickler for doing things by the book. Remember, people are complicated. But even, we can make the process easier and more successful by spending time gaining agreement on what will drive success in a role and the experience AND attributes required.

Get the whole picture! The entire profile of a successful candidate. Now you are ready. Oh, and one other benefit of gaining agreement on the behaviors needed: it lets you really hone in and ask the right questions during the interview. Need someone assertive? You can ask questions to peel back the onion on that behavior. Same for any other behavioral trait you think is critical for the candidate to be successful.

Taking the time to gain this agreement (aka alignment) will take a bit more time up front, but it will save you time, frustration and people in no-win situations in the long run. 


Jackie is the SVP of talent optimization at PI. She was born in Switzerland but isn't a dual citizen.

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