Who Do We Need to Hire Right NOW? What Exactly Do You Need to Make an Impact?

Published:07/01/2021 | Posted by

Making the Right Hire

People are the lifeblood of every business – even great product companies need great people to execute with excellence to reach the desired results.  Yet many companies invest very little thought into how to make the best hires – how to find the right people, how to identify who is right for your company and the role at hand, and how to build a process for bringing in talent that will result in making the right hire the first time around.

But before we get to making a hire, we need to start off at square one – how do we define a job so that the person who matches our job definition is truly the solution to the current business requirements?  This specification is truly the most critical question – and if you are not looking for the right “thing” you are unlikely to find it!  As Yogi Berra would have said, “No way to know you got there if you don’t really know where you are going!”

For many companies, the job description, or spec, is the domain of the human resources team.  There is a certain logic to that – right?  The HR people are involved in hiring (and firing) every day, so who is better than they to write the job spec and get the search for talent underway?

Wrong.  The answer is the hiring manager has the most understanding of the need, specifically from a role and responsibilities perspective.  HR should help, should be involved, and should ask the questions.  They should challenge the thinking, guide the process, make sure the right questions have been asked and answered and that there is a general understanding of what represents the ideal candidate in advance with the hiring manager and interview team.  And HR should then determine how to undertake the search.   But the definition of the job and the requirement to be filled needs to begin with the person/people making and directly utilizing the hire.

Why? Because that is the person who best knows what the requirement really is, and has a comprehensive understanding of both the role and the team dynamic.

Making the Right Impact

Often a new search begins with dusting off the old job spec from the last time the position was open,, but that isn’t the answer either.  I once did a search for a CTO of an e-learning company.  When we began our discussion with our client about what we were looking for, they took out the position description from three years earlier – the one they used to find the person who had just left the company. Do you think the world of technology had changed in those three years?  Do you think the world of e-learning had changed in those same three years?  While the old spec will provide valuable input, this is a golden opportunity to take a fresh look, examine what changed in the overall environment and within your company, and create a new job specification that will be a match for what your current business requirements really are.  Don’t be hemmed in by the existing job description – making a new hire is a significant opportunity to create real change, and you should take advantage of that opportunity.

I have learned that at the start of a search, many in my position ask:  Who do you need me to hire for you?  I believe that is not the right question at all.   Rather, I ask:  Where does your company/department need to be in 18 months, and what is preventing you from getting there?

This difference in perspective often results in amazing discoveries and big changes to the position definition – and that is a fantastic thing!  Change is good.  Hire what you need going forward, not what you needed in your rear-view mirror.

Making the Right Job Specification

1. When writing up a job specification, too many times the focus is on the responsibilities for the position only.  That is a productive place to start, but there is a lot more that needs to be defined to prepare for undertaking a search for talent – you need to: Define the role and responsibilities, in detail.  Hiring teams tend to do a good job on this part – and then forget that we have only started the overall job specification (which should be called the “position description and ideal candidate profile” – that creates a better target for what we truly need to aim at!).

2. Define the requirements of the person who can best fill that role, in terms of:

Experience – this is less about an absolute and more about a proxy for skills.  If a CPA has 5 years of experience, you assume they are skilled at doing audits – but experience does not equate to expertise (lots of people have been doing an uninspired job of whatever for a long time!).

Skills – since experience is only an indicator, determine a finite list of actual skills – and the level of mastery required at each.

Expertise – the buzzword of the era is SME – subject matter expert.  Exactly what SME status and capabilities are truly required for this position?  Nobody is a master of all aspects of the job – but you need to identify where true expertise is required.

Behaviors – the least considered but most critical aspect of successful hires. Identify the critical success factors (what behaviors are a must to succeed in my company?). Identify the critical failure indicators (what behaviors have preceded people leaving or being asked to leave in my company?).

3. Evaluate “must haves” versus “nice to haves” in each of the four categories above – and then go back and question if each of the items in your “must have” list really are absolute requirements.

To help clarify each of the “must haves,” define a minimal standard and a preferred standard.  The successful candidate will need to minimally satisfy all must have aspects, but you would like for that person to meet the preferred standard in several categories if possible.

4. Determine what is truly compelling about this opportunity.  What is there about this job and your company that will motivate a gainfully employed person in a similar function in another company to want to leave that perch (the devil they know) for your opportunity?

Hiring is never easy, yet it is what separates the winners from the losers in today’s business race for success.  This is really a race for talent – and to win that race you have to know what represents the right talent. This is the most important thing we do as company leaders and hiring managers – making the right selections of talent is worth taking a little bit more time to do it right.

By starting the new hire process with a fresh sheet of paper, defining your business requirements going forward first  and then defining your requirements by looking beyond skills and experience to include expertise and behaviors you correctly define the best talent to make the biggest impact.  By going through the “must have” job specification exercise and getting to a short and tight list, you force yourself to define what makes this job a great opportunity so you create a clear picture of what you are looking for.  Taking these steps will allow you to make the right hire that creates the right impact more effectively.  It is a lot easier to pursue and discover the talent you need when you really know what you are looking for!


About the Author 

Donald J. Zinn is Senior Vice President – Executive Search and a senior member of the StevenDouglas search team.  Don helps clients in NYC, Westchester, Southern CT, NJ and all over the USA to scale their organizations by identifying and landing the right talent in their quest to find the very best business leaders for their organizations. He focuses on helping early stage, middle market, and fast-growing companies build optimal and functional leadership teams with a focus on creating scale.  Don holds a BS in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell University and an MBA from New York University.

To learn more about Don, and get to the StevenDouglas website, check out his video:  or visit

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