Every open position creates a certain amount of stress in an organization.  The more senior the position, the greater the stress.  As a result, “just getting the position filled” frequently becomes the priority.  That path of least resistance takes the immediate pressure off, but often results in opportunity costs that greatly impact the long term.

It is important to establish what the organization really needs from any key position before starting to recruit.  This is the time that a professional recruiter needs to ask insightful questions of the stakeholders:  how does the role fit the organization’s vision and strategy?  Is it adequate as defined, or should it be modified to make it more relevant?  What additional contributions are possible from having exactly the right person in the role?

These answers will help to accurately define the role.  This is the essential part of every sound recruiting process.  It’s the most important step – understanding the impact the role will have in helping the organization to attain its vision.

This clarity is required to identify and assess both the experience and the traits of individuals who have the ability to contribute to the organization’s future.

The second and third steps in the recruiting process follow naturally:  identifying individuals who fit this profile, then attracting them.  If the first step has been taken, the result should be outstanding candidates.  If not, the end result will be compromised.

Comparing the knowledge, skills, experience, and traits of individuals with what is established as ideal gives the only meaningful indication of their potential.  It also opens the door to at least two important possibilities:

  1. Evaluating candidates in this broader context, focusing on what is possible in addition to their history, and placing emphasis on capabilities, will result in a deeper candidate pool.
  2. It can also lead to an exceptional hire in the form of unique candidates also being considered who may not meet all the specific qualifications, but have capabilities that represent a great deal of potential within the organization.

The goal in recruiting should be to add an individual who will contribute to the organization’s future.  Unless potential of the role is considered, hiring is simply filling a position with someone who “will not detract from where you are.”

Don’t follow a track toward mediocrity.  Take the first step in the right direction.  Everything else will follow.

Larry Shoemaker is President of Shoemaker & Associates/Cornerstone Atlanta.  He helps organizations identify, recruit, assess and retain talent.  He is also President of Cornerstone International Group, a global retained search organization comprised of about 70 independently owned offices located around the globe, with headquarters in Shanghai, China and Atlanta, GA.  He holds an International Coach Foundation ACC Credential.