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Careers Insight: Spell out what you’re looking for

The important factor in aligning a candidate to the culture and ethos of your firm is providing clarity on the objectives of the role

There are certain circumstances that force you to hire when you had not intended to, such as when a member of staff hands in their notice. But there is an inherent tension between needing to resource quickly and not allowing the speed to affect the rigour that should be applied to ensure a successful hire.

Most firms will have experienced an appointment just not working out, perhaps because the new employee had a negative effect on business and motivation. Similarly, most of us will have taken a job that was not as described.

I am an advocate of researching and targeting the right people, with the resulting benefits from concentrating one’s time on a smaller number of suitably experienced individuals.

A selection process must also push past gut instinct to understand the capabilities and motivations of the candidate, and the reasons why the role would meet their needs.

While having a vacant role may create some short-term difficulties, there will be far less pain and disturbance than if the appointed person does not fit and has to be replaced again.

In a candidate-short market, an often unconsidered but important factor is what the new employee will think of the firm and its plans, and of the prospects of those becoming a reality.

All interactions should incline the individual to feel wanted and valued, as someone who will be a stakeholder in their own destiny. The firm must also show it is one that delivers what it says it will.

Indeed, the important factor in aligning the candidate to the culture and ethos of the firm is the clarity of all parties on the objectives of the role. What does success look like? And how does this relate to what the candidate believes they are capable of?

There is a tendency for candidates when ‘selling’ themselves to exaggerate their work ethic; likewise, for a firm to underplay what is needed from someone to really succeed.

Even if there is a general agreement from both sides that one does what it takes to get the job done, there must be a genuine appreciation by the candidate of what sacrifices may be involved.

The danger is in taking a new employee too far out of their ‘comfort zone’, beyond the ‘learning zone’ and into the ‘panic zone’, where their energy is used up in managing the increased expectation, thereby not allowing them sufficient time to adjust.

By stating very detailed requirements from a prospective employee, you bring the candidate closer to you, which offers a greater chance of appointing the right person. After all, the last thing you need when time is precious is for a candidate you really want to hire to simply slip away after a few weeks of interviews.

Peter Gwilliam is owner of Virtus Search

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