Corners on a box define its outer limits and provide stability. However, if we continue adding “corners”, we eventually end up with a shape that approximates a soccer ball and which is both smaller than the original box and highly unstable. In the same manner, over constraining any problem-solving effort shrinks the potential solution set and yields unstable solutions prone to bouncing around from even the slightest external pressure.
I don’t have any empirical evidence to define a percentage effect, but my business experience informs me that once a manager has selected their team they have pretty well determined their fate. There is no other variable that comes remotely close to impacting performance as much as hiring the right team. Yet, there are few other management activities where the typical manager is less equipped to succeed.
The irregular nature of hiring means most managers practice this skill with insufficient frequency to remain sharp. Even managers (including me) who know some of the practices that will improve the odds of making an excellent hire are at times caught unprepared. Since we don’t have an existing funnel of candidates when an opening occurs without warning, we find ourselves in a reactive mode and compelled to publicly post a job description.
Since this Information Age vastly broadens the field of prospective candidates who learn of any job opening, any public job posting leads to a deluge of resume submittals. One common mechanized method for filtering this vast amount of input uses keyword search technology to winnow the stack of resumes to a more manageable size. Therefore, in order to feed the keyword search app, hiring managers develop a long shopping list of required skills and experiences. This check-the-box approach almost guarantees the hiring manager will receive a stack of resumes that tell him/her where a candidate has been (i.e. experiences) but will shed no light on the talents (core capabilities) that produced the results on that resume.
Candidates know the keyword game, too, and fill their resumes with buzz words. When you add our natural human tendency to assign failures to external causes and take excessive or even unwarranted credit for successes, you end up with experience statements on a resume that can mask a candidate’s contribution. An anecdotal example in the Atlanta market surrounds numerous claims by people supposedly involved in developing the Fridge Pack introduced by Coca-Cola around 2001. It’s important to understand whether someone got wet, because they made it rain or were merely around when it started raining.
If that’s not complicated enough, our dynamic marketplace guarantees that the challenges of today will change tomorrow. Consequently, the requirements for the job you fill today will change tomorrow. So when we hire on historical experiences alone we risk hiring built-in obsolescence. So, what’s a hiring manager to do?
A hiring manager must get beyond the numbers (results) to understand how the candidate achieved those results. A hiring manager must arm themselves to pierce the information fog by understanding the talents necessary to succeed in their market, firm and job and then make purposeful steps to discover candidates with those talents (sometimes called traits). Why concentrate on talents? The timeless nature of talents makes them applicable in changing circumstances. The portability of talents allows people to leverage them in any situation. Candidates who possess the desired attributes will bring them to the job just by walking in the door. Talents cannot be acquired via training. We must hire them.
In the next post, I’ll identify four inherent talents that I use to identify and hire exceptional people. The third post of this series will discuss how to discover talents undetectable using assessment tools.