Interview the Job Before Interviewing the Candidates -
The scenario is familiar to human resources professionals
and hiring managers. A job opening occurs within
the organization, and a file drawer full of resumes
is pulled open to start the arduous task of finding
the “right” candidate.
If the company is on its toes, a written “job
description” may exist, giving the human
resources department a roadmap to the educational
background, job experience, skills and qualifications
that the ideal candidate should possess.
However, if HR proceeds with interviewing candidates
before performing one critical internal assessment,
a potential hire who looks great on paper may,
in fact, be the wrong person for the job.
First, the HR department should “interview” the
job before interviewing the job candidates and
define a “job profile.” This profile
should include information about key result areas,
critical connections within the company, behaviors,
values and education and experience required to
perform the job.
Creating a job profile gives an organization far
more useful information than that given by a written
job description. While a job description states
the functions of a specific job and the education,
background and skills required to perform it, a
job profile illustrates how the job fits into the
context of the company. It profiles whom the person
holding the job will deal with as key connecting
people within the organization. It looks at values
and how the job impacts the entire organization
as well as specific, measurable outcomes of job
With the creation of a job profile for a given
position, a company connects that position to the
entire organization in a meaningful way. It requires
human resources professionals and line managers
or department supervisors to work together and
establish a consistent understanding of how a vacancy
should be filled and the type of person who should
Traditionally, the interview and selection process
is viewed as a chore that happens in isolation
from everything else in a company. But with the
creation of a job profile, utilizing input from
everyone who is affected within an organization,
the decision makers are able to take a fuller view.
The second critical step in the interviewing and selection process
is building a candidate profile.
Based on the job profile, the candidate profile
will give the hiring managers a clear picture of
the person they want for the job before they meet
a single candidate.
The candidate profile is critical because there
is more to matching people to jobs than simply
finding the right education, job experience and
skill set. Two candidates may possess the same
college degree, similar levels of professional
experience and work skills that match the job.
But if the job requires an assertive decision maker,
someone who embraces risk and thrives in a fast-paced
environment, suddenly the two candidates may not
appear so equal. One may function well in an environment
that is more deliberative and predictable, making
him inappropriate for the opening. The other may
possess the quick-thinking, authoritative characteristics
needed, but may also show signs of being somewhat
No candidate is a perfect fit for any job. There
are always gaps between the requirements of a job
and the capabilities of even the best person hired
to do it. But an enlightened company will not wait
until that person is on board to discover – and
be caught unaware – by those gaps.
A successful interviewing process will have several
key results. It will:
Determine where the strong fits are between a candidate
and a job. Determine if there are gaps between
the company’s needs and a candidate’s
capabilities. If there are gaps, the interviewing
process should yield enough information about a
candidate to determine if there is anything the
company can do to bridge the gaps or compensate
for them. Perhaps the candidates need only take
a college course, or perhaps another person within
the company can spend a short amount of time providing
assistance and training to the new hire.
Many organizations make the mistake of engaging
in wishful thinking when job candidates come to
them with recognizable gaps. Hiring managers believe
that when the person starts working at the job,
he or she will adapt to its needs just by becoming
acquainted with the organization’s culture.
That rarely happens, and the company ends up shaking
its finger at the new employee, when it should
be blaming itself.
Even in a tight labor market, a company is setting
someone up for failure by hiring him when it knows
of serious gaps between the candidate’s personality
or skills and what the job requires. An enlightened
company may go ahead and hire this person, but
with a clear idea of the options for filling his
or her gaps:
The company can shore up the gaps with other resources
within the organization. Or it can redefine the
job to fit the capabilities and qualities of the
new hire, understanding that some functions will
have to be absorbed elsewhere in the organization.
Most failure in the hiring process comes from the
fact that people are vague about what a candidate
can or can’t do. Maybe they like the way
a person meets and greets, or they like the candidate’s
education level, but they don’t look at the
whole picture, and in the end they make the hiring
decision based on the wrong factors.
Most importantly, hiring professionals need to
avoid the temptation to compare one candidate to
another. What they really need to do is compare
each candidate against the job.
By creating both a job profile and then a candidate
profile, hiring managers dramatically increase
their chances of long-term hiring success – before
ever meeting a single job candidate.