Great companies realize they cannot thrive without the right people. Employing the right people does not begin with a simple newspaper ad listing an opening for work; rather, it starts well in advance, with a hiring philosophy that is aligned with the organization’s recruitment and selection process. All companies have some type of hiring philosophy, whether it is written or just common practice. Hiring philosophies vary depending on the size of a company and their industry. They adopt a philosophy that they feel works best for them, which may differ from what works best for the company next door.

Show Me First Philosophy

In years past, organizations have used their summer or internship programs as hiring tools for management and permanent positions. This is a practice still followed by many companies today and is an excellent method of evaluating potential hires prior to either party making a commitment. This is a good way to see first-hand the capabilities of the talent pool and weed out those who do not make the grade. At the same time, it gives the candidate an opportunity to determine if the organization is aligned with what he/she is looking for in an employer. Some organizations hire exclusively by employing temporary or co-op experiences, and it works well for them.

Companies may also monitor a potential employee before they are hired.  Organizations such as Starbucks Coffee will have applicants shadow a current employee in the position being considered. They have them work a day to observe the candidate. Other companies choose to engage role-playing for particular positions such as customer service jobs. In this situation, a simulation of a customer interaction will give the employer the opportunity to see how the candidate might react in a particular circumstance. These scenarios not only allow the employer to evaluate the candidate and how they might do on the job but also give the candidate a chance to consider whether the position is the right fit for them. Employers and potential hires make better, more educated hiring decisions this way. Businesses are moving to this hiring model as a way to watch an employee in action but do so before they decide whether or not to make an offer of employment.

The bottom line here is that however an employee is brought into the organization during the hiring process, there is careful consideration of the underlying philosophy. Does the company want to fill a hole? Does the company want to entice an individual to join their ranks, or do they want to take the time and effort to add the right person who has a mutual desire to be part of the company and who has the ability to achieve success?

Legacy Philosophy

It is well known that one of the best sources for applicant referrals is the current employee base. Hiring smart often means that the recruiting focus begins in “your own back yard,” meaning within your own workforce. A large percentage of company hires start with referrals from current employees.In keeping with this mind-set, organizations of all sizes often choose to follow the “legacy” philosophy. When an organization adopts this approach, often multiple family members can be found working for the company but likely in different departments or business units.  Smaller companies, especially family-owned businesses, apply this hiring philosophy. Family-owned companies pass their business and expertise on from one family member to another, and from one generation to the next; therefore, much of the transfer of knowledge is kept within the family. Often times, it is very difficult to gain entry into these organizations. When an outsider does get into the “family,” they might find it challenging to move up within the organization, as preferential treatment is often given to family members.

The same companies encourage their employees to recruit their own family and friends when positions are available. Since employees spend a large percentage of their time at work, it makes sense that they would feel comfortable and would want to spend time with people similar to them and who think like they do. When one employee refers a friend or family member, it is likely that he/she will only do so if t the referral is good, as nobody wants the bad press of bringing in the next biggest loser. Likewise, when someone is referred to a company, it is human nature to want to do a good job as a way of thanking the person who helped in obtaining the position. 

While there are benefits, this method has come under its share of scrutiny. The legacy philosophy often perpetuates a workforce that tends to be populated by the same or similar people already employed and often limits the potential for others of diverse backgrounds and experiences to enter into the fold. This philosophy often fails to create a diverse workforce and only serves to maintain the status quo.  Though this philosophy works well for some companies, one must sincerely consider hiring a diverse workforce, which could contribute to the growth potential of the organization, furthering the ability to seek new ideas and ways of doing business. For large organizations that follow this philosophy, an equal opportunity issue is created; therefore, additional avenues must be explored to bring new employees into the organization. 

Culture-Based Philosophy

It is not sufficient to have knowledge and experience alone. One must also have the right attitude, aptitude and personal attributes important to the organization. Adopting a culture-based philosophy ensures that a person has the right mind-set and value base along with necessary knowledge and experience. Then, the person can be trained for the particular opportunity. One example of this would be companies that consider the growing need for Spanish-speaking employees. The estimated explosion of the Hispanic population has made this language skill and cultural attribute highly sought after. Many organizations are seeking individuals who not only have specific skills in a particular industry but who also speak Spanish and understand the Hispanic culture. One drawback to this is that it is often like “finding a needle in a hay stack,” but successful recruitment of such individuals can pay great dividends long term. 

Smart companies hire individuals with the ability and an aptitude to learn the skills and knowledge required for the position and who fit the cultural environment of the organization. The end goal is not to fill a vacancy or put one warm body in a position; rather, the ultimate goal is to identify and employ those who are a good cultural fit for the company. One who meshes with the business culture will most often wind up employed long term, and be successful in any position for which he/she has experience, knowledge and a willingness and ability to learn.

Profile Philosophy

One of the most common mistakes is finding the right set of skills but the wrong type of person. When reviewing what is important in the hiring process and examining resultant research on internal and external benchmarking, many industries agree that a key factor in successful hiring practices is to consider “who” a person is rather than “what” a person knows.

Looking within the existing workforce to establish the profile of a successful person for any given position can be extremely valuable. Evaluating current employees and in some cases even those who have left the company to determine what attributes and competencies are important and/or critical can assist in improving the process of identifying and employing individuals who will have a higher probability of success. Benchmarking and establishing a profile, or job-match pattern, for what a company considers necessary in a successful employee is key. Looking outside the organization, both within the industry and outside in similar roles, aids in developing a consistent and successful hiring strategy.

Some have experienced success with profiling only certain selected positions within the company. These businesses identify the personal attributes of the people who are already thriving, and then hire people like them. Organizations evaluate their star performers, identify their behaviors and attitudes and develop the profile based solely on these successful employees. From there, they look at what the specific needs are for the individual positions and make adjustments accordingly. Throughout the hiring process, behavior-based interview questions are developed based either on the results of a job-fit tool or based on specific situations encountered at their company. 

Smart organizations see the benefits of this investment proposition. Ignoring the principle that “you are who you are,” and looking past the basic personality traits and competencies one may need for success in a particular position could be extremely detrimental to an organization.



The best hiring philosophies evolve as a company changes and grows. In years past, when recruiting for certain jobs, the key attribute was technical knowledge alone, and little consideration was given to other skills that might be necessary.  This created employees who found it difficult to communicate with other functional areas in which their interaction was necessary and often led to increased turnover of those who did not fit the organization itself. Today, companies are recruiting individuals who can work well within a cross-functional team and who have the ability to develop relationships across many levels of the organization.

Some universities are also taking notice of the employer’s needs. College campuses planning for their students’ future and careers take into consideration what employers will need and what they will be looking for on graduation day. Businesses are seeking well-rounded individuals. Universities such as Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH see the evolution in hiring philosophies and are preparing their students ahead of graduation. Woven into their college career, it is required for all majors, including technical majors such as engineering, to complete courses referred to as “SAGES,” which stands for “Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship” for all four years of college. Through these courses students are exposed to communication skills, critical thinking skills and leadership skills which in the past would not necessarily have been a focus. This ensures that graduates are prepared to be the well-rounded individuals companies are seeking and can relate to people at all levels and functions of an organization, not just the ones that share in their particular areas of expertise.

Organizations use many different hiring tactics and philosophies to fulfill their hiring needs. Whichever philosophy is followed, it is wise to review it from time to time to ensure there is alignment with the organization’s vision and goals. The best hiring philosophy is one that is well thought-out, executed properly to be successful and serves the unique needs of the organization. 


Construction Business Owner, October 2007