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Recruiting Tip: Prepare Before You Start Recruiting

Maybe your company is growing and you are adding a new position. Or, maybe you just lost a key employee. Either way, you are going to be looking for new talent in the near future. Before you begin the journey of searching for someone to join your team, there are some things to think about that may significantly enhance the effectiveness of your search. This article is intended to provide some insights that will be helpful in planning out your next recruiting effort.

Know What (Who) You Are Looking For

It’s important to know what (or who) you are looking for. Although there is an element of truth to “I’ll know it when I see it”, you may be more effective in your search if you think through the right questions and develop your strategy on the front end. Here are some practical tips to help you prepare for your next talent search:

Make Sure You Have a Solid Job Description

When someone leaves an organization, it is a good time to take a look at the job description to make sure it accurately outlines the position. Many times, companies view the job description as somewhat of a formality. It is something that was thrown together sometime in the distant past, but hasn’t been reviewed or updated. Positions and business needs often evolve over time as technology and processes change.

The job description is often used as the foundation for job postings or job advertisements. It also typically lays out what experience, education, and skills are required for the role. Take the time to ensure that your job description is up to date, and paints an accurate picture of what you want the job to do. Having this foundation will help you as you look at the next tip.

Know What the Ideal Candidate Looks Like

You should have a pretty good idea of what your ideal candidate looks like. This is not intended to be taken in the literal sense of the candidate’s physical appearance, but the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that the ideal candidate would possess. In addition, you need to know what attributes are ideal for your company culture. Hiring managers should take the time to critically think about what they are looking for before they start the recruiting process. Here are some questions that can help you think through this:

What are the essentials? - When I say “essential”, I mean ESSENTIAL. It is tempting, when developing the job requirements, to put the preferred qualifications into the essential bucket. The problem with this is that you could be inadvertently screening out your best candidates.

For example, you may want someone with a Master’s degree for your Operations Manager role. So, you put “Master’s degree is required for this position” in your job posting. John Smith is a seasoned Operations Manager with a proven record of effective operations management in your industry. In fact, he is making your competitor shine. He sees the job posting, and even applies, but is screened out because he doesn’t have a Master’s degree.

This may seem like an extreme example, but the concept holds true. This is why it is important to make sure that the essentials are truly the essentials. On the other side of this coin, failing to appropriately list requirements that are truly essential can have the opposite effect. In this case, you will have people applying to the role without the necessary skills to be successful, which results in time wasted reviewing resumes and candidates that were not really qualified in the first place. It wastes their time, and yours.

Another important note about answering this question – it’s not just the functional knowledge or experience that should be outlined. Equally important are the soft skills and competencies that a candidate must possess in order to be successful in the role. A manager of people will have different competency requirements than someone who works autonomously and has no management responsibilities. Therefore, you need to know what competencies are essential in order to perform the role successfully.

What is preferred (ideal)? - This is where you get to define the ideal candidate. Assuming the candidate has all of the essentials locked down, what are the additional skills or experiences that would be ideal. This could include things like industry-specific experience, higher level education, certifications, system-specific experience, or more experience than is required for the role.

For example, you know that your HR Manager role could be successfully performed by anyone with a solid foundation in HR Management. However, you know that there would be less of a learning curve for someone who has worked in your industry and they will be in a better position to understand their internal customers. If that is the case, a good preferred qualification may be industry-specific experience.

To answer this question, take the time to really think about successes and challenges for previous incumbents. What are the things that made them excel? What are the gaps that created challenges for them? What skills or competencies would allow the candidate to be more effective in light of the company culture and structure. It is also important to think about the experiences or competencies that would allow the ideal candidate to further enhance and develop the role to have a greater impact on your company’s success.

What kind of candidate would fit in with the culture of the organization? - You should know the culture of your organization, and have a sense for the implications this has for the role you are trying to fill. Making sure that the candidate is a good cultural fit is very important when thinking about a long-term employment relationship. Here are a couple examples:

Maybe you are a small company where the person filling the role will have to wear many hats and be willing to chip in as needed. In that case, you need someone who is a team player and doesn’t mind doing what needs to be done even if it’s not in their job description.

Maybe you are a large organization and getting things done tends to require some political savvy. You need someone who can navigate the complexity of a larger organization, gain buy-in from stakeholders, and figure out how to drive results. This doesn’t mean the person has to have experience in a large organization, but they should be able to demonstrate how they have been successful in exercising these skills in the past.

These are just a couple examples. The list of potential cultural implications is endless. But, these are the kinds of things that should be considered when defining your ideal candidate.

Knowing what you are looking for is imperative to effectively executing your talent acquisition strategy. After you know what you are looking for, you can develop the strategy for attracting and retaining the right talent to your organization. Almost every job posting has a list of requirements or qualifications, but that doesn’t mean that someone has actually taken the time to think through these important factors. Putting this work in on the front end can really help you “know it when you see it”. Of course there is more to developing a recruiting strategy than the items outlined above. These things will likely be discussed in future posts. However, this is a good place to start. Happy recruiting!

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