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Finding Qualified Candidates

| James Riley |

Over the years, we have struggled to find and hire good people. A very real part of this struggle was that we lacked the maturity or awareness to know what we really needed and the discipline to hold to what we knew we needed and choose to not hire people that weren’t a good fit. Now that we have a solid grasp on the kinds of people that are a good fit for us, another part of that struggle is emerging…finding those kinds of people.

We started out trying to hire the typical way, with an advertisement that had the usual litany of requirements. We would list everything from hard technical skills to soft skills and education requirements. The more we did this, the more we kept seeing resumes that, as you questioned people on them, you realized that they didn’t actually have the skills they said they did. In order to make the list, the candidate had put them on their resume. If we’re really being honest, some of the skills we listed were more a wish list than a requirements list so, I guess, both sides were struggling with honesty.

I recently saw something similar in some training I was taking to advance some of my SCUBA diving skills. The training required that I had certain quantities of dives in different scenarios in order to qualify. When I was working with my instructor, I asked him if he needed to see my logbook to prove that I had that experience and he told me that he wouldn’t waste either of our time with that. He stated that a logbook is relatively easy to manufacture but, once we got in the water, he would know whether I had the required experience or not. (He did end up getting a copy of my log just for records but that was after he knew I had the required skill.)

Whether in hiring a new team member or training or anything else, I don’t think that the core issue is that requirements lists are flawed but that we rely too heavily on them. The issue is that a list of requirements is quantitative but not qualitative. As is true with human nature, it is easy for us to get lazy and rest on the fact that an objective metric was met so the person must be qualified, capable, etc. If you think about your experiences, I’m guessing you won’t have to go too far to find someone that appeared completely qualified to do something, maybe even more qualified than you, but just fell completely short because either the qualifications were manufactured or there was disconnect between their knowledge and the application of that knowledge.

We find this issue is even present in things such as personality profiles. We use a DISC profile when we hire new team members but have learned to not use it as an absolute bar where we only hire a specific type of person. Instead, we find that the profile gives us some great insight into a person’s leanings that spawns a deeper conversation with the person about why they do certain things and not others. We find that these why conversations end up being far more insightful than a list of letters or colors or animals that defines the person’s personality.

It seems that the list of requirements can be a viable initial filter but needs to remain understood as just that…an initial filter. Once you move past that initial filter, it seems that the real goal is to engage the person in a meaningful way to get legitimate insight into who they are, why they operate a certain way and if the way they operate will work well within your organization. It would be unwise to hire even the most qualified person if they do not fit within your organization.

For us, we have opted to forego the traditional list of requirements as we find that this puts a false wall up in the hiring process that, at best, requires extra work to tear down to get to the deeper why questions. While this creates some extra work to weed through candidates that don’t qualify, we find we get more honesty and that saves us work having to weed through candidates that lied just to meet the list we made. While larger organizations have to systematize this process a bit more, we are finding a number of larger organizations moving towards this kind of methodology as well.

Now, finding candidates that are comfortable engaging in these conversations is the new difficulty we are running into. We are finding that many millennials are dissatisfied with the traditional way of doing things and are interested in this kind of conversation because it feels more human yet many struggle with these conversations. We are also finding that a number of people that have been in the workforce for a while are dissatisfied with the typical approach to qualifying people and appreciate this more human approach as well. The biggest difficulty we have, I believe, is that people have been told, for a long time, that there is only one way to approach hiring and many applicants are operating off of the older-style coaching they received. So, this is our journey, the results of which are still to be written.

How are you handling hiring, scaling and finding great team members? Are you having similar struggles and insights or are you finding something else to be effective for you? We would love to hear from you!