By definition, an employee is: “A worker who is hired to perform a job.” While short and to the point, this definition gives us minimal insight into why employers sometimes spend countless hours interviewing and ultimately hiring the wrong person.

All too often, organizations spend so much time concentrating on hiring the “right person,” they forget to focus first on ensuring they are hiring for the “right position.” The best “worker” may easily be overlooked if the “work” or “position” itself is not first clearly defined. To safeguard against ineffective hiring, appropriate time and effort should be spent on positional analyses. Whether company-wide or in response to a single recent need, taking this time will aid in eventually bringing in the right candidates and subsequently the best fit for your specific organizational requirements.

Haste Makes Waste

Some studies have indicated that as much as 80 percent of turnover is caused by bad hiring decisions. These are extremely costly mistakes. The cost of replacing an employee can be as great as one-third of a new hire’s annual salary according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and could potentially be even more in some cases. This cost includes items such as recruitment, selection and education, plus additional training costs and other associated losses due to decreased productivity, affected teams/departments and foregone opportunity. Therefore, it is advantageous for organizations to ensure that the right position is being filled with an appropriate match the first time around.

Hiring challenges in our current job market are quite different than in the past. In today’s economy, many companies attempt to do more with less by piling on additional responsibilities to existing staff rather than replacing an employee who just left, adjusting roles and responsibilities, or creating a new position. Considering the high costs of replacing an employee and tightening corporate budgets, when a position is being filled, there is a smaller margin for error now than ever before.


All too often, job descriptions are written hastily to quickly put a person into a role that is viewed by the organization as being necessary. In many cases, job descriptions are overlooked entirely. The “right person” may or may not have the required skills for that position, but it is difficult to know for sure if details and expectations for the position itself have not been effectively drawn out in advance.

A general lack of investment, focus and resource in the hiring process is a major contributor to bad hiring decisions. The inability to adequately profile the position before selecting the candidate seriously amplifies this reality.

Understanding the Job…Positional Analyses

Before you can expect to find the right person for a position, it is essential to first analyze the position thoroughly, and then consider what type of person would be most successful. It is often worth taking an initial look within your existing departments or teams for those who might possess the most aligned skill set to the position you are trying to fill. Seeking out top talent from within the organization shows existing employees that you are interested in their development and career progression. Not only should you interview the star performer, but also include those around that person to gain understanding of how and why others view them as being successful. It can also be a solid financial decision, as hiring from within typically offers a shorter learning curve, flexibility in role development and aids in overall employee loyalty and retention.  As a starting point, performing a comprehensive positional analysis helps the company gain a better understanding of the skills, knowledge and overall fit that is required for the position.

Regardless of where a positional gap may exist, many factors should be taken into consideration in order to fill the need. There is an “ideal wish list” of qualities, skill sets, personality traits, experience, knowledge and interest desired by management in a potential hire. One component of a positional analysis is to identify various attributes that are required in order to expect success from a particular role. By first identifying such attributes, the hiring decision will then have a foundation on which to build and make competent decisions.

For any position, there are numerous critical success factors that contribute to the success of the individual who is ultimately placed in a role. These include the skill set(s) required, the needs or specific deliverables expected by internal and external customers and more. Once key competencies and critical success factors have been examined through a positional analysis, an overall profile and job description can be developed for the desired position. This type of analysis can be conducted to ensure that the position is not only right for the organization but also sets clear expectations for potential candidates of what it takes for them to be successful in the position as it is defined.


A better correlation between the position and candidate can ultimately be achieved through this best practice. The knowledge gained by the business will help to fulfill the expectation of a more effective and efficient hiring process. Remember, to be efficient in your process, you must first be effective in your identification of positional requirements and the final selection(s) that are made. Candidates are consistently judged on established common criteria. A positional analysis is not just recommended—it is critical.

Critical Job Reflection Breeds Success

While the development of job descriptions and various success factors are essential components to the overall hiring process, it is very important as part of a positional analysis to perform a critical reflection in an attempt to best define the position. To do so answer three important questions:

1. What tasks will this person perform and with what specific impact departmentally and organizationally?

A job description does not come together in an hour and should be initiated with intensive information gathering. This process takes time and often utilizes a Positional Analysis Questionnaire. First, determine the tasks needed specifically to perform the job with an anticipated or expected outcome. What is it that you want this employee to demonstrate and how are they to accomplish this? This can happen in a variety of ways, which could include peer and co-worker interviews, internal and external customer interviews and critical observation of the work currently being performed. An interview format for administration of the Positional Analysis Questionnaire works best in most cases, as it allows for further clarification and extra qualitative data gathering based on employee responses. The best assessment also takes into consideration the values, goals and direction of the job, department and organization. Knowing in advance how expected competencies will be used and what difference each will make within a department is vital. Additionally, how these competencies and diverse skill sets affect the organization overall is an important aspect not to be overlooked. Allowing enough time on this step will significantly increase the chances of success both for the individual ultimately hired, as well as for the company.

2. What particular organizational need is driving the decision to add a new person to the company and for what identifiable near-term benefit?

The strategy and reasoning behind adding additional employees to the organization should be significantly scrutinized.  Is there a need for added service or support?  Is there a demand for increased revenue generation?  Is company growth a focus?  Have new strategic initiatives forced an addition? Clearly recognizing the purpose behind a hiring decision can help establish the position itself, and tangible benefits and specific deliverables lead to a better defined role that the new hire will play.

3. What are the long-term ends for which this person's work will satisfy the company?

Positional analyses should look into the future and should have long-term expectations for the department and organization. Far-reaching goals must be kept in mind in order to determine which core competencies are necessary to adequately achieve those ends. While a short-term focus may be necessary in certain cases, near-sighted hiring decisions can result in financial and human capital losses down the road.


By initially working through these all-important questions, an organization creates not only increased potential for finding the best person amongst eager candidates but also elevates the probability for recruiting and hiring for the right position in the first place.

All too often, organizations forget about the position and focus too much on the person. People tend to hire quickly and gravitate toward those who are like themselves and with whom they feel comfortable. This creates a lack of diversity, the potential for skewed decisions based on feeling rather than job match and perpetuates an ineffective hiring process that is backwards. Focusing on the position is paramount to proper fulfillment of strategic organizational workforce priorities. Only once the position itself is appropriately identified, described and critically assessed can an organization then be ready to fill it with a new employee.


Construction Business Owner, May 2007