Achieving Hiring Excellence - Defining What a Successful Candidate Is

I recently came across a B2B organization where one of their most successful Marketing Managers (we’ll call her Elise) almost didn’t make it through the interview loop. Why? While Elise had a very strong consumer marketing background, several of the interviewers felt she didn’t have any “B2B marketing skills.” When I asked about the difference between B2B and B2C marketing skills I got a vague answer about how success in consumer marketing didn’t translate into B2B.

Fortunately the dissenting interviewers were overruled and Elise went on to do some great things. But what caused this organization to almost miss out on a rockstar? Why were they focused on a skill-set they had trouble articulating? 

One of the most critical parts of interviewing is defining what success looks like for a candidate. In looking at what success looks like, we must consider what a candidate needs to accomplish, the key attributes needed to succeed, and define these as evaluation criteria. To this end, it is easy to over-generalize candidate attributes, leading us to either evaluate the wrong things or introduce inconsistent understandings of what is important.

In Elise’s case, it was evident that there was a lack of alignment around what it meant to be successful. To the dissenting interviewers it meant having “B2B marketing skills.” But without defining what this skill-set meant, the interviewers developed an oversimplified view that consumer marketing couldn’t possibly translate to B2B marketing. In talking with the hiring manager, success should have been defined by two key things:

  1. Elise’s ability to uncover and understand customer needs
  2. Elise's ability to develop and execute compelling and engaging experiences

Luckily the hiring manager’s interview highlighted both these things. Elise actually demonstrated an uncanny ability to dive deep into customer behavior across multiple segments. She also had robust examples of developing and executing engaging experiences that delivered strong ROI. 

By oversimplifying success to an ambiguous skill-set, the other interviewers limited the scope of their questions to revolve around B2B situations. This hindered their ability to uncover the relevant details that would predict Elise’s ultimate success. How then do we prevent ourselves from missing out on great talent?
 
One way is by being thoughtful about defining success. This starts by having the hiring manager conduct an accurate job analysis. Put simply, job analysis is the mental exercise a hiring manager goes through to understand the who, what, where, why, and how of a role. How a hiring manager defines these things impacts how a recruiter will source and how a candidate is ultimately selected. Remember, garbage in (vague job requirements) equals garbage out (low-quality candidates and bad hiring decisions). Thus, investing time in a thoughtful job analysis is crucial to making great hiring decisions. 

While the importance of job analysis is easily understood, the actual mechanics of execution can sometimes feel haphazardous via trial-and-error which is especially true for new hiring managers or managers who hire infrequently. Here’s a quick checklist of questions to consider for your next job analysis:

Step 1: Define what needs to be accomplished. Begin by defining what needs to be done. What does this person need to accomplish and deliver? What metrics are they responsible for? How does this role impact the team/company/your goals? How quickly does the person need to deliver results? Understanding what needs to be accomplished will bring clarity on job responsibilities and the scope of the role.    

Step 2: Define how those things are accomplished. Next define what specific actions a person needs to take to be successful. Is the person building a team? Do they need to cultivate relationships? Or are they heads down analyzing data? Understanding the specific things one need to accomplish will uncover the types of experiences you want to observe from a candidate. 

Step 3: Understand the situation. Next, think deeply about the types of situations this person will encounter. How does company culture impact success? How does the team operate and make decisions? What kind of support or infrastructure is available? What makes your rockstars so successful? What causes people to fail? Understanding the situation will define key characteristics a candidate must exhibit when being evaluated. 

Step 4: Communicate job requirements and evaluation criteria. Once a job analysis is complete, the job requirements should be communicated to recruiter via an intake/kickoff meeting. Getting on the same page early is crucial to finding quality candidates. Next ensure that candidates are evaluated consistently by developing effective interview questions and establishing an interview guide

Step 5: Make a great hiring decision! Being clear upfront reduces the trial-and-error approach that can occur when job requirements are not well defined. This helps recruiters narrow their search to find quality candidates faster. But more importantly, establishing what interviewers need to observe and assess from a candidate is critical for avoiding hiring mistakes or missing out on great candidates. 


About the Author:
Joe Shao is a co-founder at Perfect Loop who loves tackling big problems and eating good food.