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The 12 Ingredients of a Fillable Req

1.         Company culture – If you are not conscious of, or don’t understand in depth, your company’s culture, it will be difficult to actively talk about it. By describing and discussing it during the interview, you can communicate an accurate and realistic picture of the company. This gives the candidate the opportunity to learn whether it is what she is looking for before accepting an offer.

2.         Management style – No matter what goes on in a company, each manager has an individual approach, a set of beliefs about how to achieve the department’s and company’s goals. Whatever your management style, it is critical to accurately describe and discuss it with a candidate. If your style turns off that specific candidate, then you are ahead—you found out before hiring.

3.         Job description – This is a comprehensive description of what the job entails: For example, what will the person be doing all day? With whom does the person interact? What interdepartmental interaction should she expect? What projects will she be working on? This is the job painted in broad strokes to give the candidate a good feel for it. Include future projects; the company’s growth plans and direction; career potential both inside and outside the department; your expectations of the person in this position; boundaries of whatever authority she has; etc.

4.         Responsibilities – This is a detailed explanation of what is required of the person in the position including the actual work; the goals for the position and for the person in it (they may not be the same) along with potential obstacles; the top one to three priorities (no more!) by the day or project or whatever makes sense and why you see them as the top priorities; etc.

5.         Team synergy – Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the other people on the team allows you to define the new position in a way that will best complement and strengthen your team. This may sound obvious, but often a manager unconsciously hires people similar to the current team or areas in which she feels most comfortable, neglecting those areas she knows little about. This can be a disaster waiting to happen. The lack of a needed skill at a crucial point can cause a project to miss a critical deadline.

6.         Department interaction – People no longer work in a vacuum. As one manager said, “The days of being able to hire a jerk, put him in a back room, feed him once a day, and have him produce are gone forever!” The people hired in a department must do more than just tolerate each other. They must find common purpose through similar philosophy and shared values—with their manager and with each other. You need to evaluate your department’s culture and be aware of the personal characteristics of your people. This does not mean you need a homogenized group. In fact, disagreement can start the creative juices flowing and competition can add energy. However, arrogance or elitism is guaranteed to disrupt any organization and discord will shut the entire dialogue down.

7.         Interdepartmental interaction – In today’s environment, no department can successfully function completely on its own; there is almost constant crossing of departmental lines. It is crucial therefore to know how these crossings affect the position and to have agreement among all managers, direct and matrixed, as to the skills and personality needed.

8.         Other managers/people to interview – Beyond the people on the team, in the department, and in direct contact with the position, there may be others involved in interviewing for a given job. Whoever they are, and for whatever reason they are included, they must understand exactly what is in the req or they will be unable to contribute effectively to the project. The only thing more frustrating than being an interviewer with little to no understanding of the req is being the interviewee.

9.         Trade-offs – There are trade-offs in any req and it is important to think them through ahead of time. The most fillable req is the one with the fewest absolutes. When considering what is really an absolute, ask yourself if the world will end without that particular skill, ability, or style? Can an ability substitute for a skill? Can experience acquired outside traditional methods be used? What is the person’s learning curve? What is the person willing to do beyond the norm to ramp up more quickly? (A learning curve is one of the easiest factors to independently verify.) No matter how good current skills are, we live in a world that is constantly and speedily changing. The ability to learn and be flexible and eager to incorporate new ideas or technology is a valuable asset.

Education is always a sticky subject. What does the person really need? Experts say that once when people are out of school for five years, 50% of what they learned is obsolete, especially in technical fields. Does it really matter what school they attended? Beyond their personal network, does it really matter that they graduated from Stanford or Harvard 11 years before? Is the senior designer with four years of experience in Windows(r) really better because she graduated 10 years ago from MIT? Is a name school a guarantee that the person is smart? Although it is difficult, try and keep education in perspective—the more time passed, the less weight it should carry in the decision.

10.       Reality check – A good yardstick in assessing your req is whether you yourself would have wanted the job (making allowances for the difference between then and today) at the corresponding point in your own career. If not, why not? Take into consideration the job market, your company’s reputation, the work itself. Be honest! It will do no good to look for a paragon that doesn’t exist or try to lure a heavyweight ready to move up into accepting a lateral move because you have a problem. It is far more realistic to find someone with the minimum requirements you need and offer that person a step up. People move for many reasons and money is rarely number one. (If it is, keep in mind that if you can buy that candidate so can someone else!)

11.       Experience – The reason this is number 11 last on the list—instead of number one where most managers put it—is that knowing all of the information listed here allows you to be both more specific about the experience needed as well as more creative about how to get it. In a tight job market, it is important to know from what other backgrounds you can draw people. What experience at what skill level (as opposed to how long it’s been done) is really needed to do the job? What skill-set, personality, and style will best complement the current team, which will be redundant? What parallel or synergistic types of experience can be considered? Is it more important to know the product or the market? What is needed to progress within the department? The company? Where, other than by following a direct path, can you find the person you need?

12.       Minimum needs – The final and most critical point, not only in the req but also in all of hiring, is what are the absolute minimum requirements, from skills to personality, needed for the job? The reason it is so important to boil down all your previous work to this level is that you should hire the first person you interview who meets the minimum—not the person who exceeds the wish list in two areas and falls short in another, but the person who meets all the minimum requirements! This means the same requirements that you thought through carefully and dispassionately.

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