Issue: Too often, hiring managers will poorly define to HR the type of employee they're looking to hire.
Risk: This can result in wasted time and costs, plus mounting frustration over the inability to find the right candidate.
Action: Work with hiring managers to nail down specifically who they're looking for; don't settle for generalities and MBA gobbledygook.
"Our sales director read a book about creativity on the job," says the HR director for an electronics distributor. "So the next time he needed a new salesperson, he asked me to bring him candidates who could 'Think outside the box.' I nodded, but I knew our first goal was to hire a strong producer with a proven track record in electronics. Creativity is great, but first things first."
Supervisors have a long history of specifying the wrong criteria for jobs they want to fill. It's not unusual for managers to ask HR to look for "good team players" or even people who can "find the cheese in the maze." But what they really want is someone who can do the job and follow through on instructions.
If you chase after candidates that managers say they want, instead of those they need, both of you can become frustrated by bad hires.
Solution: Work with hiring managers to create an inventory of specific traits and skills, not labels or generalities, and then hire for those skills. Three important steps to follow:
1. Pull apart generalities by asking "Why." For example, ask the exec why he says he wants a "team player" or an "idea person." Because you can't hire adjectives or concepts, work with the job description to build a skills list.
2. Collect input from applicants' potential co-workers. Ask them to describe the specific skills and abilities they use on the job, and those that the new employee would need. Later on, introduce your strongest applicants to the team to collect their input and buy-inon potential hires. Also, give hiring managers a good look at your strongest candidates in interviews, work simulations or in team members' screening meetings.
3. Use testing and interviews to make sure candidates can handle those core tasks and skills you've identified.