Best Practices in HR

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Melissa Dobbins
  June 28, 2018

Finding great candidates comes down to these four questions

When it is time to post for a job, we all daydream about an unparalleled, undeniably perfect candidate sweeping through our doors and making the choice easy, so much so, we have given them names: the “unicorn” or the “purple squirrel”. In reality, there is no such thing as the perfect candidate, but there are great candidates out there for your job. The trick is knowing how to find them.


Unfortunately, many times we rely on common wisdom which often leads us astray. Or, we believe that we will know the right person when we see their resume but resumes often distract us from what matters most. The key is to know what you need first, otherwise you may miss greatness when it does sweep through your doors.


Here are four questions to ask to set yourself up for success before posting that next job.


1. What daily tasks does the job entail – which critical skills will be called upon to be successful?


Define what tasks the new hire must perform—down to tangible details. Too many job requirements fall into a templated trap, rattling off generalized statements that don’t really say anything about what is needed to be successful in the job or the company.


For example, take a common requirement for a Market Analyst: “Track marketing and sales trends, analyze data, and report on relevant insights”. That is a good start, but without the detail it is unclear what skills they will need to succeed with this requirement. Are they reviewing available reports or are they doing their own research? Are they managing external partnerships to get data? Are they following established analysis methods or are they expected to create their own? What tools will they use? How are they going to ‘report’ on these relevant insights?


By diving into the details, you can identify the skills and capabilities candidates will need to excel at the position. And, with that knowledge, you can determine how to best evaluate candidates to find the best fit.


2. What common challenges will the job present – how must a candidate meet them?


Every job comes with its fair share of challenges. Putting aside the sky-is-falling moments when everything seems to go wrong at once, you need to find candidates who can cope with common issues. Identify the most common problems a candidate might run into, then decipher which traits and abilities are required to overcome them.


For example, take the common challenge many retail sales reps will face: an incensed customer. Successfully navigating this challenge depends on what the company considers success. Will they be expected to resolve the customer issue on their own or escalate to a manager for help? Is it better if they tend to do whatever it takes to make the customer happy (such as give lots of free stuff) or to protect the company assets? Do they have to be good at talking or listening? Are they responsible for communicating problems to another person or team as part of the issue resolution?


Mapping the common challenges and how candidates must respond will ensure your candidates are equipped to step up when you need them the most.


3. What are the current team dynamics – what kind of person will fit best in that environment?


We have all experienced teams or environments that work so well it feels like we can accomplish anything, and we have experienced some so horrible we want nothing more than to escape. Not all personalities work in every environment. Consider the team and company culture, the environment, and identify the valued and complementary traits that will give your candidates the best chance for success.


For example, does the job require more collaboration or autonomy? Will the new hire need to be good at following directions or giving them? Does the company need someone who can take charge and inspire or who can hunker down and execute? Will the team benefit from an outgoing person to help stimulate conversations, or is a more focused, analytical personality needed to ensure everyone can do their best work?


Knowing what will resonate best in your environment will help you find a candidate who won’t just flourish, but will make the whole team function better as a result.


4. What are your most important priorities?


Finally, and most importantly, clearly outline your priorities for the position. Sure, it would be incredible to find someone who embodies everything on your wish list—but, even if that purple squirrel does exist, finding that candidate could take more time than you have, and they most likely will come at a price.


Instead, review all the requirements from the first three questions and put them in prioritized order so you focus on what matters most when evaluating candidates. The highest priorities are those skills and traits that are indispensable for doing the job well, and will complement the existing team. Distinguish between the “must have” traits and those that are “nice to have” or can be learned. That way, when you are evaluating candidates, you are holding everyone up to the same, prioritized standards and do not pass up on the great candidate in your quest for a unicorn.


At career.place, we believe in finding the great candidate based on what matters most for the job at hand – without being distracted by resumes or unreliable common wisdom. Our solution will help you evaluate candidates against your requirements and priorities to find the best candidates, fairly, consistently, and without bias. To find out more about our intuitive hiring solution, contact us today.