The absolute bedrock of every effective hiring system, say our staffing experts, is a performance-based job profile, an objective set of criteria that spells out the essential activities a person must accomplish and the outcomes he or she must deliver in order to get the job done.
“Effective staffing systems require a disciplined approach, from the instant a position comes open to the time a candidate walks through the door for an interview to the moment they give you an enthusiastic ‘yes!'” says Lou Adler . “The key to developing that discipline is performance-based job descriptions or profiles.
“The job profile paints a picture of the ideal candidate and sets the standard by which all hiring decisions are made. It sets the tone for the entire process and dictates specific decisions and actions at each step of the process — from the kind of candidate you seek to the wording of the employment ad to the questions asked during the interview to the final hiring decision. Without this essential hiring element in the staffing system, you might as well save time and flip a coin.”
Job Profile Best Practices
Use a performance-based job profile for every hiring decision.
The job profile is based on a fundamental assumption that underlies all good hiring decisions: past performance is the best predictor of future behavior. In fact, according to our staffing experts, past performance is the only accurate predictor of future behavior. Great hiring decisions are always made on the ability to predict job success, and the best way to predict future job success is to uncover examples of past performance using a performance-based job profile. Hence, every hiring decision should include an assessment of the candidate based on the objective criteria specified in the job profile.
Build each job profile around objective, quantifiable, measurable criteria.
The job profile creates a crystal clear definition of what success looks like in a particular job, spelling it out in specific, quantifiable, measurable terms.
According to Adler, the ideal job profile fits on one page and includes:
- The five to seven most important outcomes a person needs to deliver in order to get the job done.
- The qualities and characteristics the person needs to get the job done, stated in specific terms of knowledge, skills and abilities.
- Specific short- and long-term performance criteria that spell success in the job.Because they are closest to the job, hiring managers should create the performance profile for each position, drawing on their knowledge of the job and the top performers in it. Depending on the position, managers also may want to draw upon the expertise of superiors, peers and subordinates to create their picture of the ideal candidate. Benchmark job performance against both internal and external standards.
Internal benchmarking is just the first step. Once you create a profile for every position and have begun to raise the quality of your talent pool based on those internal benchmarks, start researching performance criteria from outside the company, using industry standards and other information to raise the bar for exceptional performance.Many companies go even further and benchmark positions using standards from outside their industries. A Vistage group, suggests Ed Ryan , offers a great place to start.”Suppose you need to hire a new CFO, sales manager or some other high-level manager,” he explains. “Bring your current job profile to your Vistage group and ask for their input. Ask each Member to identify the best CFO who ever worked for them and describe the knowledge, skills and abilities that made him or her great.”Although education and experience may play a role in the early screening process, they don’t belong in a job profile because they do not help to predict job success, even in highly technical positions. The best profiles, say our staffing experts, focus on what the person needs to do, not on what degrees they have earned or where they have worked.
Regularly update job profiles as the organization grows and jobs evolve.
In today’s world, nothing stays the same for long. Our staffing experts recommend reviewing and (if necessary) updating job profiles at least once a year. Companies with very rapid growth curves may need to update every three to six months.
Creating the Performance Profile
Our staffing experts each have their own methodology for developing the job profile. Here we offer one model (among many) to serve as a guide for creating job profiles within your organization.
According to Barry Shamis , it takes four steps to create an effective profile:
- Do the research. Creating a good job profile takes a fair amount of homework. When researching a profile:
- Use the job description. A performance profile involves far more than a job description, which typically only includes the duties and responsibilities of a given position — but it provides a good starting point.
- Review past performance appraisals to see what works and what doesn’t in the job.
- Talk to “internal experts,” anyone in the company who can shed some light on what it takes to succeed in the job.
- Talk to external experts who have different insights and perspectives on the job.
- Do a qualitative benchmark. Identify the best person that reports to you and make a list of what he or she does that causes you to think of him or her as the best. Do the same with the worst person who reports to you.
- Define the expected outcomes. Shamis defines expected outcomes as “those things a person must accomplish in order to label them a success.” To identify expected outcomes, break the job into short-, medium- and long-range expectations. Then ask:
- At the end of six months, what must this person have delivered in order to be considered a great hire?
- At the end of 18 months, what must this person have delivered in order to be considered a great hire?
- At the end of three years, what must this person have delivered in order to be considered a great hire?Don’t forget to state your answers in quantifiable, measurable results.
- Determine the quantitative requirements needed to get the job done.Quantitative requirements represent the “what” of the job. According to Shamis, they are measurable, easily observable and usually task-specific. Quantitative requirements can come in one of three forms:
- Knowledge: A familiarity with the information and processes necessary to skillfully accomplish the tasks of the job.
- Skills: The ability to apply the knowledge to successfully accomplish the tasks of the job.
- Ability: The person can handle the job situations in an appropriate manner.
To determine the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for a given job, go back to your expectation list and ask what knowledge, skills or abilities it takes to accomplish each specific task. The task always should drive the requirement. Knowledge, skills and abilities represent the qualities and characteristics necessary to meet the job expectations. Make a list of all qualities and characteristics required for the position.To determine whether a quality or characteristic goes on the list, ask three important questions:
- Is it a must?
- Can I define it?
- Can I recognize it?A “must” means the person must have the quality or characteristic. If not, you don’t hire them. By definition, it is a requirement for the job. If you are willing to train it, coach it or live without it, it doesn’t qualify as a “must.”
- Determine the qualitative requirements needed to get the job done.Qualitative requirements represent the “how” of the job. They are behavioral in nature and they indicate how someone needs to go about getting the job done.
“The key with qualitative abilities is to get beyond the labels, look at the actual behavior and translate your requirements into very clear, specific behaviors,” says Shamis. “For example, assume a certain position requires the person to be computer literate. Defining the qualitative requirement as ‘computer literate’ is too vague. Instead, specify what the person needs to be able to do with a computer, such as have the skills and ability to effectively use certain software programs and communicate with others online.”Defining qualitative requirements such as attitude, chemistry or cultural fit can be difficult, but it can be done. It becomes easier when you recognize that these are nothing more than labels for behavior. When developing qualitative requirements for attitude, for example, ask, “How does someone with a positive attitude behave? What, specifically, do they do that causes you to say they have a positive attitude?”