Make a Wish: Improve Your Recruitment Outcomes by Defining Your Ideal Employee

The stakes are higher than ever before when it comes to the recruitment process. Even for entry-level roles, the time, costs, and other resources involved in the candidate hunt are greater than at any other time in recent memory. The necessary investment of time and resources can soar even higher when you're searching for candidates to fill skilled or managerial positions.

But in spite of the increased complexity of recruitment today, some hiring managers continue to approach the process in a somewhat unsystematic manner. Many believe that when they encounter the right candidate for the job, they'll just "know." With a wealth of recruitment experience behind them, a detailed job description to go by, and a selection of willing applicants to choose from, what could possibly go wrong — right?

Begin the Recruitment Process with the Right Outcome in Mind

A lot, according to Martin Yate, hiring expert and author of Hiring the Best: A Manager's Guide to Effective Interviewing and Recruiting. In fact, Yate contends that a candidate search that proceeds along these lines is likely to take longer, cost more, and have less satisfactory results.

In order to streamline and supercharge your recruitment efforts, it's vital to gear every aspect of the process toward the ideal candidate for the position. Use these guidelines to identify and define the characteristics and attributes of your ideal employee — and to begin to shape your entire recruitment process around them.

Use the job description as your jumping-off point

Most organizations keep standard job descriptions on file that compile the responsibilities and tasks associated with each position. If you have access to a pre-existing job description, you've got a head start on the process of defining your ideal employee. If you don't have one on hand, it will probably help to write one out. Before you can begin to identify the qualities that the right candidate will have, you must have a very clear understanding of what the position actually entails.

Describe the ideal employee for the position

Take a closer look at the roles and responsibilities listed in the job description. What kind of skills, experience, training, knowledge, talents, and abilities correlate with these requirements? Which values, attitudes, characteristics, personality traits, and habits would your dream candidate possess? Brainstorm for a while, writing rapidly without editing yourself. Then, take a closer look at everything you've written. What patterns and themes emerge? Finally, winnow your list down into a shorter master description that will be easier to work with.

Make a note of what won't work, as well

Next, begin another brainstorming session. This time, think of the kind of characteristics that probably would not work well for the position you are trying to fill. As you write, look for broad themes and connections that seem to pop up repeatedly. At the end of the process, distill the list into an even more condensed final form that includes only a handful of the least desirable traits and attributes.

Focus on both attributes and behaviors

Make sure that your lists of positive and negative qualities include both personality traits and more readily observable behaviors, such as good communication skills or a pleasant speaking voice. Personality can be hard to gauge during interview situations, when candidates are likely to be on their best behavior. By developing a candidate wish list that includes both personality traits and other types of criteria, you'll have a more comprehensive metric by which to judge applicants' suitability.

Be prepared and be flexible

With all of the advance preparation and strategic thinking you've done, you'll be well-equipped to direct your next candidate search with confidence and efficiency. However, it's always important to keep an open mind throughout the process. Although your candidate wish list offers a great reference point, you may still encounter an applicant whose skills and attributes would complement the position nicely, though they may be starkly different than those you'd initially imagined. Don't sell your organization short by automatically excluding qualified candidates who don't immediately appear to be a perfect match on all counts. Your candidate wish list should function as a set of organizing guidelines to help you stay focused, rather than a litmus test.



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