The Three Essential Key Elements for a Great Hire

(Reposted from Make HR Happen 6/6/2012)


Quality of Hire as a metric receives a lot of attention. Theories abound about the importance of QoH and how to measure it. There are 998 different theories about QoH. That number (that I just made up) is about as real as most of the discussion. There are consulting firms who specialize in fixing the QoH situation, there are software programs that will allow users to simply plug in numbers and get a calculated QoH, and volumes have been written on do-it-yourself methods. Some proponents will claim that they have THE formula for calculating QoH and why it is important to do so. Others say that there are so many variables that it can’t be measured and if it were possible nobody would understand how to use those numbers anyway. Some will claim that it is the most important metric in the hiring process. Others ignore it entirely. Logically if conflicting opinions can’t all be right then some of them must be wrong…and most of them are.

There is one fact that most people will agree on: a bad hire can be costly for business. Given that bad hires are not acceptable, the next rung on that ladder is hiring someone who is just good enough to get by without upsetting anything. This happens when there is a pressure to hire too quickly or too cheaply. So we generally settle for the slightly higher standard that a good hire is the target. A good hire is a two-way proposition where both the new hire and the hiring management both agree they have reached mutual level of effectiveness. But, what differentiates a good hire from a great hire? Often there are clues during the selection and interviewing process that can hint that greatness lurks beneath the surface. Most of the time, this will not be exposed with certainty until after the fact. It may take polishing, but the diamond-in-the-rough is a gem worth having.

Sports analogies usually work in a business environment. Even casual sports fans have heard the term “franchise player” used when discussing a level of excellence that is unmatched by other players. The faces and names of these people are instantly recognizable in the public eye. They are individuals that are not only the best in class, but also someone who can be the nucleus of building the team’s future. There may be more than one franchise player on a team because of the different skills required to play different positions, but this designation indicates an elite status that is a notch above the average player. They are also expensive. In order to keep these players on the team they are given lucrative compensation deals which may also include a no-trade agreement to insure that they remain on the team. Scouts [Recruiters] on the lookout for new players [employees] use various measures to evaluate excellence. It is a skill that may be acquired, but it also involves a sixth-sense that intuitively separates the superstar from the pack.

At the outset it must be stated that no hire can be good unless the candidate meets the basic minimum qualifications for the job. The specific education, skills, experience and accomplishments required to do work is the first and most important. Recruiters must know the key benchmarks for qualifying candidates for any role. They must be able to fairly calibrate the search to differentiate between candidates and select the most suited for further consideration. Likewise, job seekers need to understand the requirements for a position before entering into discussion. Beyond these basic facts there are three essential measures of a great candidate for hire.

Intelligence – This is the ability to apply reasoning and abstract thinking to the solution of problems. Academic or “book smarts” can be measured and evaluated. The problem with trying to impose a numerical score on intelligence is that sometimes native intelligence or “street smarts” can be just as important. Evidence that there is the intellectual maturity to excel usually comes in the form of proven, measurable accomplishments that show innovative thought processes and lead to places where no one has gone before. Knowing it all is never a qualification, but knowing when to go somewhere else to find answers is a sign of an intellectual curiosity that will advance their knowledge and provide for more relevant solutions.

Work Ethic – A work ethic that is selfless in its application to do work is a key differentiator. It is a sense of valuing outstanding performance and a belief in the moral benefit of hard work. It can be measured by previous accomplishments or past performance, but it is not always evident on the surface. Working until completion rather than against an allotted time span is one indicator. Attacking a problem until there is a roadblock and then working around the issue for results is another. Coming to work early and staying late are one of the signs of a good work ethic.

Passion – This characteristic is the glue that holds everything else together. It is reaching deep inside to find the flame of unstoppable desire that is the motivator driving toward the successful completion of work. It is a fire bright enough to be visible to others and hot enough to kindle passion in co-workers. Intelligence and Work Ethic are more external measures that are usually observable. Passion is an emotion that is internal and personal. It can be painful or joyful, but it is never absent. The passionate person cares…about the job, about the company, about the co-worker and about themselves.

Now the unspoken truth about these three key characteristics: None of them in isolation will make the new hire or employee a superstar. Intelligence alone is a waste if not applied to something. It is possible to work very hard at doing nothing. All the passion in the world can never offset the lack of the other two or the basic skills to do the job. Wanting it more than anyone else doesn’t really matter. Maybe that is why so few franchise players are found in business.

The bottom line is this: The first measure of applicability to a position is the right basic mix of education, skills and experience. To go above and beyond the average or good hire requires being smart, proving a willingness to work hard, and showing the desire to do it well.

Additional Articles:
The Four Pillars of Recruiting
Recruiters: Think From the Candidate Perspective

Photo credit: Copyright © 123RF Stock Photos


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