Outside the job description

Frequently, when we take on a recruitment assignment, the position description (PD) can be one of the last things we look at – but it is often the first thing a client wants to discuss. Perhaps it is because it is one of the easier, tangible things to define. Sometimes clients may come to you with a list of duties the predecessor did well, or not so well, and the client wants to ensure they either replicate past successes or avoid certain mistakes. This background information will absolutely help with the recruitment process, but written lists will only take you so far. More and more we need to ensure we are focusing on candidate behaviours if we are to truly determine whether someone will be the right fit for your organisation.

When the skills and the actions don’t match up.

At a recent networking group, the conversation shifted to why someone who had interviewed well and said all the right things during the recruitment process had struggled to perform to the required standard. During our discussion, it became apparent that while the PD matched the individual’s background, what wasn’t taken into consideration was that the role required constant juggling or moving from one uncompleted task to the next. In contrast, the candidate had come from a more structured or compartmentalised background and was not used to this level of multitasking. Hindsight as they say is a wonderful thing, and this may seem obvious now, but during the interviewing process these behaviours were not identified or seen as important for success.

Uncovering the less obvious strengths.

In this scenario, the behaviours that were not on the PD could perhaps be seen as adaptability and flexibility, which will mean different things in different circumstances. Crafting open-ended questions around scenarios will help to understand if the potential employee has experienced a similar working environment, and if they have the skills to appropriately manage themselves. Keep questioning until you are satisfied with their response, this may take 3-4 probing questions. Don’t ask “I need you to move from one task to the next, sometimes without completing each task, then circling back to them later, you can do that can’t you?”. Most people will say “yes, of course I can do that”. Instead, ask them to describe a time when they had to manage conflicting deadlines, the steps they had taken to ensure they stayed across both tasks and how they communicated with impacted colleagues or stakeholders. If you feel you don’t have the reassurance you need, keep asking more until you are confident they can manage the requirements of the role they have applied for.

The softer, interpersonal skills can make the difference.

Outside the job description skills are vital to ensuring success and cultural alignment. With a large amount of people now working remotely, what could have been learnt organically now has the potential to be somewhat diluted. Is your candidate used to working closely with others? Acquiring soft skills such as building effective relationships, knowing how to adapt to different personality types, being able to get information from others or simply being comfortable talking to others is a personal development process and individuals who do this are generally more engaged and likely to succeed, ultimately advancing their careers over time. Employers should encourage their employees to acquire these skills (there is a plethora of micro-credential courses available) and recognise their contributions beyond their formal job description.

What are you really looking for?

Typically, the soft skills or attributes outside the job description that I see as common to most environments are communication, accountability, collaboration, problem solving and adaptability. It’s important to understand that these skills will mean different things in different environments.

Map it all out before you start talking to your candidates.

When undertaking a new hire, spend some time thinking constructively about your business, complete a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. List your longer-term objectives and reasons for success, outline the daily, weekly rhythms, ensure you know what’s going to give the new hire job satisfaction, and what’s likely to frustrate them. Do you know why someone would want to come and work for your organisation? Explore the behaviours you desire and the positive attributes other staff display, you can then look to replicate these during the recruitment process.

Please feel free to contact me to discuss any of this further.

Happy recruiting!

Andrew Hill

Photo by Edmond Dantès