What To Know Before Profiling Your Next Hire

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Alfred Hitchcock was a man who liked to be prepared. Before he got around to shooting any film, he would spend months researching, writing, storyboarding, and then revising every scene, every angle, every shot.

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We all know how he ended up: as one of the most successful, influential, and memorable filmmakers in the history of cinema.

As strange as it sounds, Hitchcock’s preparedness offers AV integrators a lesson that they can apply to recruiting. Everyone knows how expensive hiring someone is, many loathe even thinking about having to do it, and just as many have never figured out the formula for getting it right every time, which is why there’s a strong argument for taking the time to do one’s homework before grilling a candidate about their skills. For some, this starts with developing a profile of your ideal hire—not a job description exactly, but a sort of picture of what the employer wants this person to look like.

This isn’t to say that aspects of the job description don’t come into play. “What a job candidate profile will do is highlight the major points of a job description—the most necessary skills that a person needs—but it goes beyond that, because it also takes a look at personality,” said Andrea Herran, author of Speaking THEIR Language: Understanding Clients, Vendors & Employees, and president of Focus: HR, a consultancy based in Barrington, IL. Someone may be technically competent, but that doesn’t mean they’re a good fit. “So [the job candidate profile] goes into that. If a company has a core set of beliefs, it’s also making sure that the candidate also has similar beliefs.”

Herran advises employers to develop a candidate profile before writing the actual job ad. “The more you have clear, as far as skills, attitude, beliefs, what you want in the person, maybe even as far as education, will allow you to write a better job ad and you’ll write better interview questions,” she said, adding that she also counsels companies to write their interview questions before they start advertising an opening.

But Lou Adler, CEO of The Adler Group, a consulting firm based in Irvine, CA, and author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, urges companies to replace candidate profiles and skills-based job descriptions with performance-based job descriptions, which define the actual job rather than the person who may fill it. “A performance-based job description defines what the person does: they design a circuit, they manage a sales team, they make quota within the first six months, they organize a project to launch a program within nine months,” he explained. He said the description itself should be action-oriented: Build a team. Grow sales. Design a system. Upgrade a product.

Adler also encouraged organizations to get creative when they are writing job descriptions—give the job title an unusual, or depending on your culture, even a goofy name. Tell a story. What will this person’s days be like when working in this position, in this company? “There’s no law that says you have to have a boring posting, and have people apply and then sort through all of this information,” he said. As long employers are compliant with labor laws, they may construct their job descriptions in whatever way they want. And, he argued, they are likely to attract a better breed of candidate. “When you just start thinking differently at every level, all of a sudden things change at every level.”

Mark Valenti, president and CEO, and principal consultant at The Sextant Group in Pittsburgh, PA, admitted that while they produce job descriptions, the firm’s leadership does not “profile” the perfect candidate, largely because he said that people from many different walks of life can succeed at the organization. He also, at first at least, relies on gut instincts: “I know, I can just tell from the first handshake, the first minute of conversation that I’ve got somebody who I think is going to work, or not,” he said. From there, management conducts its due diligence. What skills and experience does this person have under their belt? Is what they’re saying for real? Why did they have three different jobs in just 18 months? “Because you want to understand, maybe there was a financial problem at their employer, or maybe they just flat out got into the wrong place and into the wrong position, which happens to people all the time. But you have to understand what all of that is and make sure that you’re getting the truth.”

While some employers aren’t clear enough on what—or who—they are seeking, others tend to get too picky in detailing their desired traits. “They fantasize about this ideal, great person that probably, in reality, doesn’t exist,” Herran said. To avoid this, she suggested that a good way to start the process is to take a look at your existing talent pool. Who are your best employees? What characteristics of theirs would you like to see in your next hire?

Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer/editor.

Predicting the Future

It’s a nice problem to have, but it’s still a problem: what happens if you win a big contract, but you don’t have enough manpower on hand to complete it?

Mark Valenti, president and CEO, and principal consultant at The Sextant Group, knows what that’s like—and, a number of years ago, the firm’s management team endeavored to do something about it by investing in an enterprise-class software package that enables them to perform resource planning in great detail. “We know how all of our designers, project managers and principals are committed and we know what that level of commitment is—we can actually track that by way of their timesheets and a tool that we use called Project Planning,” he explained. Project managers are required to allocate their team members’ time either on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis, depending on how deep into the project they are. “We’re able to generate reports on all of our staff, and we can see how busy they are now and how committed they are in the next three to six months. We can actually predict, with a high degree of accuracy, when we’re going to exceed our capacity.”

—C.H.

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