The Recipe for Hiring Success
Start with the right ingredients to create the best mix of qualified employees
by Fred Ode

The easiest part of baking is picking out the shape of the cookie you want to make. The easiest part of hiring is writing a job description. The only problem is that the taste outcome doesn’t come from the cookie cutter, and your day-to-day operations aren’t completed by a bunch of bullet points and boilerplate rhetoric. Finding the best fit for a position in your organization isn’t just about what you need—it’s about who you need. If you want to hire the best estimator, controller or project manager, always look to hire the best person for the job, not just someone who meets basic requirements.

Position-Focused Hiring

Understandably, employers usually want someone who can hit the ground running and do the job they were hired to do. Of course, new employees will always need training, but you should look for a hire who assimilates quickly. When contractors have a specific vacancy or a concrete need in their organization, they identify the position, the duties and responsibilities required, the desired skills necessary and the level of experience that might make a hire successful. They might even think to call out some soft skills and traits that will help them perform the job well, such as the following:

  • Critical thinking
  • Interpersonal communication
  • The tendency to be a self-starter
  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork skills and collaboration
  • Problem-solving
  • Conflict resolution skills

But merely constructing a job description and looking for someone to fit it can cut success short. Position-focused hiring can cause you to miss the best people because it is not aimed at them. It’s aimed at an “ideal candidate,” who may or may not be the best addition for a company. For many reasons, hiring dominated by a job description might rule out excellent candidates, whether that is because they don’t quite have the 5 years of experience required or because they are turned away by how static the job sounds. Potential hires want to be able to see a clear path of growth in any particular role. On the other hand, bullet points can also prequalify a number of candidates who won’t be a long-term fit for your company. They might have the right education and experience, but they may be unable or unwilling to grow with the position as your company’s needs change in the future. So how do you find the best person for the job your company currently needs to fill? You look for the best person and the best fit for your organization.

People-Focused Hiring

People-focused hiring doesn’t ignore the real, day-to-day needs your company has to do in order to get the job done—it simply recognizes that an organization’s first and foremost need is the right people. In Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, Jim Collins looks at the common denominators that explain how top-performing companies escaped mediocrity and achieved greatness. Surprisingly, Collins learned, it wasn’t that their CEOs came up with an amazing vision and led their people there. Instead, they got the right people on board, in the right seats, and then figured out where to go from there. Once the best people were on board, it simply became a matter of letting everyone thrive where they had the best chance to succeed. People-focused hiring doesn’t ignore basic qualifications. But it does give weight to factors that a position-focused approach can view as the icing on top, rather than critical ingredients, such as:

  • Cultural fit
  • Character
  • Aptitude
  • Attitude
  • Passion
  • Honesty
  • Work ethic
  • Creativity

These are attributes that you cannot teach and aren’t likely to appear mid-career. On the other hand, someone with an above-average aptitude and the motivation to grow and be challenged continually can easily learn a few missing skills or a new software application. All an employee needs is to be empowered to flourish.

Rethink the Ideal Candidate

Moving from position-focused thinking to people-focused thinking might mean revising that ideal candidate job description. However you craft your actual job ads, the following are some important questions to keep in mind throughout your recruitment and hiring process.

  • What are the marks of a “fit” for our culture? Think about how your staff works together and when you are working in your best flow as an organization. Is it important that they have a sense of humor? Do they need to be able to stick to their guns? Can they adapt and pick up the slack easily?
  • What are the non-negotiable items? A candidate for an internal CPA position who isn’t credentialed is a nonstarter. Your superintendents might have to be bilingual for safety reasons. What are the qualifications that you absolutely have to have?
  • What could a top candidate learn on the job, if necessary? Could the right candidate teach himself/herself your estimating software? Would you be willing to take on someone outstanding who is finishing their degree? Could you consider reimbursement for Spanish-language classes to land an otherwise ideal fit?
  • How might you prefer a candidate to be able to grow in the future? Whatever plans you make for your company, you can never be entirely sure where the market, changes in technology and sudden staff moves can take you. Could your receptionist need to pick up a couple of HR tasks in the future? Do you harbor secret dreams of opening a second office, and need someone to groom for leadership one day?

The ingredients that go into hiring the right candidate for your construction company can be a complex and subtle mixture. The last thing you want to do is limit your pool of resources and miss out on the best talent to move forward with your business in 2017 and beyond.