[Reblog of Lou Adler’s 4/16/12 thoughts]
Who would you rather hire?
•A person who can do the work typical of a person with one year’s worth of experience and actually has one year of experience
•A person who can do the work typical of a person with one year’s worth of experience, but only has six months of experience
•A person who can do the work typical of a person with one year’s worth of experience, but has much more than one year of experience
I just conducted a poll asking this question. Two-thirds of the respondents wanted to hire the person who could obtain a year’s worth of experience in six months, since this is an indicator of a high achiever. The other third were evenly split. I decided to run this poll after a techie hiring manager at some recent training asked me how much experience does a person need to have to be successful. My response: enough to do the work, some people need more, some need less, and the best people need the least amount. That threw the hiring manager into a dizzy, and he left scratching his head.
The point: if you don’t define the work required to be successful, success is problematic. The work determines what skills and experiences are required. The skills and experience don’t determine success. That’s why the idea of filtering on skills and experience precludes a company from seeing the people they actually want to hire: high potential people who can do the work successfully with the least amount of skills and experiences.
If you want to see stronger candidates when posting jobs, it’s better to emphasize the work that needs to be done rather than the skills needed to do it. For example, it’s far better to say, “lead and complete the marketing launch of the new fracking hydraulic high pressure control valve line by year-end,” rather than “must have 5+ years oil field industry experience, a BS in Mechanical Engineering, 2+ years of high-pressure fluid dynamics experience, exceptional interpersonal and communications skills, a go-getter attitude, and be able to work closely with engineering and operations in a lean manufacturing environment.” The point: if you can prove the person is competent and motivated to do the work described, they have exactly the level of experiences, skills and attitude required. You can use The Most Important Interview Question of All Time to figure this out.
Here are some other ways to find out if the candidate is on a fast track:
1.Find out if the person was assigned difficult technical or business problems before their peers. I used to ask first year accountants at big CPA firms what clients they were assigned and why. The best ones were always assigned to big accounts with difficult accounting issues to handle. It’s the same with the best techies (and everyone else) who get assigned the most challenging tech issues to work on, not the simplest ones.
2.Given early exposure to senior management. On a search for an HR director I asked a young manager at a small division if she ever worked with company executives. She went on to tell me about a special project she was leading reporting directly to the corporate CEO (a Fortune 250 company) to implement a worldwide high-potential program. Of course, she was on it, too.
3.Assigned leadership roles in multi-functional teams before others with more seniority. As part of the most significant accomplishment question I have people describe the teams they were on and their roles. For those with the best team skills these expand over time in size, scope, influence and responsibility.
4.Seeks out more responsibility and opportunities to fail. I remember a young manager of financial planning I placed who consistently went out of his way to get assigned to jobs over his head where it didn’t matter if he stumbled a bit. He’s now the EVP of a major Fortune 300 company. This is a common trait of high achievers.
5.Ask about the biggest accomplishment achieved with the least amount of skills and experience. Don’t be surprised that the best people are consistently given bigger challenges far beyond what would be expected given their current level of skills and experience. Also, don’t be surprised that they’re typically successful.
High potential candidates get more done with less experience and master whatever skills are required faster than their peer group. I find it difficult to comprehend why any manager or business leader would preclude these candidates from consideration. Yet 95% of jobs posted online do just that, and these very same managers and business leaders continue to complain they’re not seeing or hiring enough top people. To think outside of the box, you first need to recognize that you’re in one.
Lou Adler (@LouA) is the Amazon best-selling author of Hire With Your Head (Wiley, 2007) and the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! His latest book, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, is now available as an Amazon Kindle eBook. You might want to join Lou’s new LinkedIn group to discuss hiring related issues.