I've spent a great deal of time writing about how tough it is to fill positions that require advanced education and skills. But let me be crystal clear: This does not mean that positions without such stringent requirements are somehow much easier to staff, or that they demand less of your effort and attention. There might be a greater number of job seekers without college degrees than there are with MBAs, but quantity does not magically lead to quality. And quality, is what you should always be looking for, at every level in the organization, from receptionists to senior execs. Why? Because if you drop the ball and start hiring people who aren't passionate, who aren't a good match for your jobs, who don't fit the company culture, it's like a cancer that can spread.
So how can you maintain a focus on hiring for quality at every level?
1. Recruit with your company values. You absolutely have to have these values published, visible, and incorporated into your recruiting strategy. Every candidate (and certainly every employee) should know what the company stands for, and what it means to be a member of your "family." Don't just articulate the qualities and traits you embrace--tell people the values that you reject as well. Think of it like the Commandments of how to behave in your company, and then recruit based on those Commandments. At Jobvite, for example, one of our core values is Customers Matter Most. When we interview, whether it's for an administrative assistant or a VP, we ask questions that tell us whether a candidate is the kind of person that would move heaven and earth for a customer. If they aren't, then fancy degrees and skills don't mean a thing.
2. Find people who will truly like the job. Jim Harbaugh, former coach of the San Francisco 49ers and now head coach at the University of Michigan, once spoke to a group of Silicon Valley CEOs and told them that he doesn't draft players just because they are the most athletic, or the fastest, or the strongest; rather, he tries to draft players who love playing the game of football. Why? Because Harbaugh understands that football is a game that, at times, can be very painful and difficult--and only people who truly love playing that game will fight through the hardships to outplay everyone else. Likewise, people who like their jobs don't mind getting up every day and coming to the office. They don't complain about hard work. They willingly go the extra mile to do their jobs--whether they are filing papers or assembling furniture--as well as they possibly can. Why? Because they actually like the job. Coach Harbaugh is right. You want these kinds of people because they will outperform every other kind of candidate you can find. So do whatever you can during an interview to determine whether a candidate will enthusiastically and happily fulfill the duties of the job they're seeking.
3. Use assessment tests. Assessments help tremendously. Their scientific validity and sophistication have greatly evolved over the last few decades, thanks to advances in the ways we can collect and apply data. Today, you can use these tests to gauge a wide variety of things--such as cognitive agility to perform a job, emotional fit for a job, compatibility with the work culture, and ultimately, whether or not someone would actually like the job and all it entails. I would recommend administering assessment tests to every applicant--and in fact, I'd suggest you give the same assessments to all your employees. Over time, you can use the results to develop a profile of the kind of person who does well both in your company and in specific jobs--so that when you are recruiting, you can more easily pick out those candidates who mirror your most successful employees.
4. Learn from those who leave. The goal here is not only to understand what someone didn't like about a job or your company in general, but also to use what you learn to adjust your criteria for hiring so you can avoid people who aren't a good fit--or, even better, actually change the job to make it more interesting and attractive to higher quality people.
5. Check references early. This is a tip I've given before, but I think it's important enough to warrant another mention. With today's accessibility to social networks, checking a candidate's references should be an initial step in--rather than a conclusion to--the candidate evaluation. Reach out online to see if someone is a good fit for your organization. Remember, you're looking for quality prospects--and personal and professional references can be a highly reliable source of information.
I know it can be tempting to assume that there are plenty of people out there to fill jobs requiring fewer skills. And in some regard it's true--there are more candidates without college degrees than there are with them. But there is always a shortage of quality people--and those are the people we all want to work with. They are diligent, ambitious, hard-working, kind, humble, and go the extra mile for your customers and their colleagues every day. Trust me, there has never been a surplus of those kinds of people, so don't let your guard down when it comes to recruiting them.