The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Startup Hiring Efforts

Poison Bottle. Source: Leo ReynoldsHave you looked at a job board recently for open engineering or product management positions?

Did you read the job descriptions?

Notice anything strange?

The job descriptions all sound almost identical!

One generic paragraph about the company, followed by one generic set of job responsibilities, followed by one generic set of job requirements.

How is a job seeker supposed to know that your job is his or her perfect career opportunity if the job description is so generic it looks the same as countless other job descriptions? Will the interview team really be able to effectively assess candidates for the position with this type of job description?

If you hired an advertising agency and they produced ads for your core product similar to the average online job description, would you re-hire them?

In many cases, the reason job descriptions are so bad is that the actual job is not well defined. And without a well defined job, it’s very difficult to hire the right person.

As Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, says

…the single biggest constraint on the success of my organization is the ability to get and to hang on to enough of the right people.

A poorly defined job is likely the single most dangerous threat to your startup hiring efforts.

 

So what’s the solution?

There is a simple but powerful tool you can use to fundamentally improve your ability to source, hire and retain amazing people.

Used properly, it will increase the number of great candidates who apply for your jobs, improve the quality of your interviews and assessments, and result in happier employees overall.

But there’s a catch.

To use this tool, you need to be willing to not write job descriptions the same way everyone else does. And you need to be willing to do a little more work than most hiring managers do today when they post for a job.

But don’t worry, the extra time you spend will be paid back tenfold in the long run.

 

Job descriptions 2.0: The Success Profile

Too often, companies do not put enough (or any) time into defining a job and its specific performance criteria before posting and interviewing for it.

In First Break All The Rules, Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman studied 80,000 interviews done over 25 years and observed that, when hiring, great managers:

  • Select people for talent, not just years of experience, intelligence or determination.
  • Set expectations by defining the necessary outcomes as opposed to just defining the necessary steps.

Unfortunately, the traditional job description format and approach does not focus on outcomes and talent. To do this you need a new format and a new approach: The Success Profile.

A Success Profile describes the key performance objectives that someone taking a job needs to achieve to be successful. This is different from traditional job descriptions, because Success Profiles describe what the candidate must accomplish instead of describing the skills or traits the candidate must have.

Lou Adler, author of Hire With Your Head and a leading thinker on hiring, calls these type of job descriptions performance profiles. He says:

  • A performance profile describes the required results, the process used to achieve the results, and the environment in which this happens.
  • Define the job, not the person. Define success, not the skills. It’s best to separate the job from the person. This allows for a more objective appraisal of true competency.
  • Focus on the doing not the having to improve hiring accuracy. It’s what a person does with his or her skills that determines success, not the skills alone.

If you want to learn more about how to create a Success Profile, here is a step-by-step guide.

 

Use Success Profiles and see your hiring improve

  • You’ll have more accurate and valuable interviews by having a documented set of measurable and objective criteria to reduce the chance each interviewer you pair with a candidate is using his or her own criteria to evaluate the candidate.
  • You’ll save time by screening unqualified candidates earlier in the process. Your social network and any recruiters you work with will present you fewer unqualified matches.
  • You’ll get more high quality candidates since every candidate will know in advance how this job might help meet his or her career objectives. Your Success Profile will also noticeably stand out from traditional job postings and will attract more top talent.
  • As the hiring manager, the work you’d need to do as soon as the new person starts (specific goals, detailed deliverables and performance metrics) is already done.

Have you used Success Profiles in your hiring efforts? What do you think about job descriptions and using performance-based profiles?

 

Andy Jagoe About Andy Jagoe

Andy is the founder of Venturegrit and has 20 years of experience founding, funding, and leading venture funded startups. More about Andy's background. You can also find Andy on LinkedIn and AngelList.

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