How To Hire The Right People: Define and Document Competencies of The Role

By: Ron Patulski

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After spending nearly a decade hiring 2-3 people a month, I’ve learned that there is a process to hiring. Shortcut this process and it will cost you time and money. Many people don’t take the time to think through this process and as a result, are left stuck wondering “What happened?”

The first step in your hiring process is to identify your core values. These are the things that cannot be trained; they must already be present in any potential hire. As you already suspect, core values are just one part of hiring. Once you are clear on the values, it is time to define the role. For someone to be wildly successful, they need to be a cultural fit AND a fit for the role.

There are core competencies that are sought after in each role. These core competencies include ability, experience, knowledge, skill(s), and attitude. Attracting and hiring candidates who possess all these attributes leads to job success and in turn, organizational success.

To find the best candidate for a job, it is essential to clearly state the job requirements. The job requirements highlight specific tasks, responsibilities, expectations, knowledge, ability, personality traits, attitude, and skills required to excel in the role. It sounds basic, but many organizations we work with struggle to clearly define job requirements. Having clarity in all of the aspects of a role allows you to define the role and document what you are looking for, which of course makes it possible to determine whether a candidate is a match. Although this seems obvious, this practical approach is overlooked.

You would think that when hiring a person for a role that requires creative design elements, this ability would be somehow confirmed. After all, would you hire a person for the role of entertaining your customers if they couldn’t sing, act, play an instrument, or entertain? Unfortunately, versions of this happen all too frequently. This appears to happen because either the role as envisioned is too broad, requiring so many abilities that it requires a “unicorn” to fulfill, or there are elements of the role that are not considered at the time of hire and added later.

In either case, how many people do you know have the ability and interest to be both visionary and strategic, are also highly creative, can analyze and execute, organize and maintain processes, as well as have the empathy and the ability to connect with others at highly effective levels? Or, how many people can handle all the additional tasks you throw at them in addition to what you told them they were responsible for when you hired them? Think about it: can you afford not to be clear about the essential competencies required for a role and the practicality of a candidate fulfilling those competencies? When you suspend the illusion of finding a “super-human” or “unicorn” who can fulfill all of these fundamental qualities or you stop expecting to hire a person to handle all the additional tasks you throw at them, you open yourself to creating highly effective hires.

As seen from the various scenarios discussed above, a job description and requirements can be murky waters to negotiate. Organizations are often pressed for time to hire someone as soon as possible. They often feel pressure, because they feel they needed them yesterday! The challenge of being in a situation like this is you can easily fall into a state called “emotional tilt”. Since the state you’re in at any time influences the choice you make, being in a state of emotional tilt means you abandon logic and let emotions rule decision-making. When you’re in an emotional state, there is less logic and rational thinking to influence your choice. The more emotion you have in a situation, the less rational or logical you are likely to be.

It’s much more difficult in the state of emotional tilt to determine whether a candidate fits in your tribe and is an excellent skill and experience match for the role. For example, have you ever noticed what you’re thinking, saying, and concluding when you’re angry? This is why you may wonder after hiring someone, “What did I see in this person?” or “What was I thinking?” because they aren’t fitting in or meeting performance expectations. If you’ve ever had this happen in a hiring situation or with any situation in your life, you now have your answer. You weren’t thinking, you were acting! It was the emotion at the time that drove your choice to act, not logic.

To avoid emotional decisions, it is necessary to constantly refer back to why you are hiring in the first place. By always using your core values and the competencies required for a position as your reference point, you can empower yourself to make sound hiring decisions. A bad hire is costly in terms of money, yet also affects employee wellbeing for those who have to collaborate with a bad hire.

What do I do if I need to make a quick hire?

You usually know and are aware when you find yourself thinking you need to make a quick hire. Instinctively, you also know the risk of putting yourself in this type of situation. In these situations, consider hiring temporary help to meet your business demands in the short run. This affords you more time to follow your hiring process and make your hiring decision based on your complete process, rather than emotion. Believe it or not, this can even be done in technical positions.

We have a client in the medical service field who uses the temporary hiring process regularly, for both technical and non-technical roles. The positions they’re filling are typically in high market demand and qualified, full-time, permanent candidates are not always readily available. Additionally, if deemed competent, the client can go back to the successful temporary hires and offer them permanent positions.

There are also times when you’re not under pressure to hire for a particular role. In either case, the focus remains the same. Maintain your objectivity by having the competencies of the role clearly defined and documented.

If you are wondering, “how do I ensure that the role is clearly defined and documented?”, consider identifying these four things:

  1. What tasks will this person be doing on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis?
  2. What skillset does the role require?
  3. What knowledge or experience does the role require?
  4. What kind of person excels in this role?

For your next hire, commit to setting aside the time to clearly define the role’s expectations and core competencies. Investing this time and creating clarity surrounding the job description will result in an effective hiring process that situates new hires in a position to thrive, contributing to your organization’s success. Stay tuned for our final piece in this hiring series.


Ron Patulski