Are your clients stuck on a list of unrealistic requirements?

More times than not, organizations are fixated on lists of requirements. This might be a software, or an industry experience or other skill related to a bullet point on a job description. Of course, you can never tell or direct your clients to change their approach. This directive level of influence is usually limited to a doctor, lawyer, CPA or clergy. Recruiters or even search consultants, not so much.

It is important to understand that building trust is a critical to influencing anyone. Trust is built when the client or audience believes that you are looking out for their interests before your own.

You can influence your client with the right conversational approach. The best way to influence is through questions that lead them a certain direction. Of course, this may not be effective with an internal recruiter or HR person. This approach will need to take place with a department manager or C level executive who has some level of ownership. Here is an example of sequential questions that have worked for me to move clients off rigid requirements.

  1. What qualities and background qualities separates newly hired employees who are successful in your company from those who are not? This question shows that you are most interested in finding people who will be successful and also the answer will not likely align with bullets on a job description.
  2. Describe your most significant challenges with regard to filling this position.
  3. What do you see as the requirements for this position? Help me understand why these are requirements. In some cases, the need for a specific skill is truly necessary and important. It is critical to understand the why.
  4. Looking at the list of success factors you mentioned and requirements, which of these factors do you consider ones that can be learned versus those which are inherent to the candidate? Again, this is a thoughtfully probing question that should challenge their thinking.
  5. How do you evaluate internal candidates? Do you use the same list of requirements that you use to hire external candidates? This might cause an ah-ha moment.
  6. What would you like this person to accomplish during the first year? Having them voice this list typically reinforces a different set of capabilities than the requirements. It also will get them thinking about an onboarding plan.

These are all questions that will likely stretch their thinking and give you more ability to deviate from rigid requirements.

This will also set you apart from other recruiters who are so happy to get the job order that they happily take the list of requirements. Most likely they will not find the purple squirrel requested.

Most importantly you are adding value as an intellectual resource for your client rather than a recruiter who is just taking a job order.

These questions should help you set the table to reinforce a statement like... “My most successful clients have become more flexible on skills and experiences that can be learned while placing more emphasis on finding a candidate with the right intangibles and success factors.”

It then becomes important for you to be effective at gaining a deeper understanding around candidate attributes versus skills. Making this shift in evaluating candidates at a deeper level will help move from a recruiter to a search consultant.

The following hiring attributes were developed by John Wooden. For those who do not know...John is a famous American college basketball coach and teacher. He has a Pyramid of Success which is a great teaching model (Google it). He has also developed the following 10 most successful aspects to consider when hiring. Perhaps this can be part of your tool box relative to evaluating and presenting candidates. It is also something to keep handy if the client asks...What do you think are the most important attributes?

John Wooden - Hiring for Success Model.

  1. Ability to do the work. This includes technical ability and the potential to learn new related skills. I consider this a threshold trait. The person needs enough to do the work, but if he or she has much more than needed, the person could feel unfulfilled once on the job.
  2. Motivation to do the work. This is the most important trait of them all. It doesn’t matter how much talent a person has: without motivation to do the work, little gets done. However, look for initiative and motivation in doing the work you really want done. Motivation in the wrong area gets stuff done you might not want done.
  3. Collaborative skills and working with others. Few people get ahead if they can’t collaborate and work closely with others. This includes things like cooperation, coaching others, and even willingly being coached by others. Look for all these traits during the interview.
  4. Job-related problem-solving and thinking skills. Being smart in the right areas is the issue here. Good thinking and problem-solving skills are essential to planning, optimizing results, creating a vision, persuading others, and leadership. However, without the ability to execute or deliver results this can be a wasted skill. Too many intuitive interviewers overvalue this trait, assuming that if someone can think and plan and strategize they can also execute. Not true.
  5. Consistency in achieving comparable results. You want to observe a consistent pattern of achieving comparable success. Once is not enough when hiring someone for the long term. This trait covers numerous competencies and skills like persistence, responsibility, commitment and drive. Hiring one-time wonders is a common hiring mistake
  6. Organizing and planning comparable work. You might want to call this self-management. This is an important trait that often gets overlooked. It doesn’t matter if you’re hiring a call-center rep, an engineer, a manager, or an executive: the ability to organize and plan out one’s work and execute it properly is a foundational skill. Too much supervision is required if you overlook this one.
  7. Personal growth and development. The best people constantly improve themselves. Look for a pattern of consistent personal development and then how the person applied these new skills on the job. Don’t ignore this one or accept excuses.
  8. Environmental and cultural fit. This is big. Look at the environment in which the person has excelled and what they excelled in. Then compare this to your job and your environment and culture. A mismatch here could spell trouble.
  9. Value and character fit. Figure out what drives the person to excel and where this drive came from. Excelling at work that a person likes to do is great. Excelling at something the person doesn’t like doing reveals character and commitment.
  10. Overall potential to grow. You’ll need to combine all of this together, look at the trend lines, add in leadership, assess the depth of the person’s thinking skills, and then adjust everything for the quality of the manager to come up with a ranking for this one.

Give it a go, it has been working for me!