On Our Minds
by Diana O’Neal (she/her)
As a leader at your organization, you’re well versed in managing and supporting your current team. But what about hiring a new team member? Finding the right person to join your team can be daunting, especially when it’s your first time as a Hiring Manager—the point person within an organization to coordinate the search and make the final offer to a candidate. That’s why we’re sharing six tips to demystify the hiring process:
1. Consider long-term goals
Although it’s important to assess candidates for the competencies needed to complete a role’s current duties, it’s equally important to consider how a candidate will perform in the role as responsibilities grow and change. Zooming out and taking that long-term view can be difficult as the Hiring Manager, especially if the goal is for the new hire to assume some of your responsibilities. A macro-view is crucial to ensuring that the candidate you ultimately hire will continue to add value to the organization.
Before starting your search, take the time to think about the long-term goals for the role: Are there any long-term projects? How might the role change as the organization grows? How will the person in this position contribute to the team’s culture? Remember, it’s not solely on you to answer these questions. Talk to other stakeholders in your organization to gain valuable insights. And, consider utilizing a search firm as a thought partner; their distance as outsiders of the organization (and from the role) will allow them to apply that invaluable macro-view.
2. Create a realistic timeline
Finding the right person for a position takes time and patience. As a result, it’s critical that you start the search process with a realistic timeline in place so that you and others at your organization are on the same page.
Of course, it’s not always possible to know exactly how long a search will take. At On-Ramps we start each search by sharing a timeline with our client based on the average length of our searches, but we emphasize that it’s just an estimation. Based on the needs of the client, the complexity of the role, and changes that may take place within the organization during the search, the timeline may change. As the Hiring Manager, it’s your job to set those timeline expectations internally for everyone involved in the hiring process.
3. Allow the criteria for a role to evolve
The candidate you pictured hiring at the beginning of your search and the candidate you ultimately hire often won’t align completely—and that’s perfectly okay. During the course of a search, your understanding of the position for which you’re hiring and the attributes someone needs to be successful in that position will likely grow and evolve. In addition, you’ll gain insight into the realities of the current job market and may have to shift your expectations accordingly. (It’s also possible that the needs of your organization may change, and that could impact the deliverables of the position for which you’re hiring.) This isn’t to say that you’ll lower your expectations or that your wishlist will change completely, but it's important to keep an open mind as you learn throughout the search process. Of course, if your criteria for the position changes too drastically, you may need to take a step back and reassess more thoroughly.
4. Determine which skills are teachable
One myth first-time Hiring Managers often subscribe to is that they must find a candidate that already has expertise in every skill required for the role. In reality, it’s nearly impossible to find a candidate who meets all the criteria. But, there will be candidates with strong abilities across skills and competencies who can continue to learn and grow in the other areas.
Instead of looking for a candidate who possesses every competency on day one, consider whether a candidate can be coached to cultivate their potential and develop new skills. There also may be areas where a candidate will absolutely need to have certain skills coming into the role or skills that will be more difficult to teach. It’s up to you, with support from your search firm, to determine which skills are necessary to have on day one and which can be developed over time.
5. Be explicit when working with an external partner
When working with an external partner, such as a search firm, make them aware of any specific language, norms, or culture unique to your organization. One of the advantages of working with an outside partner is that they’ll be able to give you an external, big-picture view. However, they still need to understand the nuances of your organization and the position in question. As the Hiring Manager, you should communicate any essential insider knowledge to the firm so that they can be a truly effective thought partner for the search.
6. Ask questions
Nobody expects you to know everything about performing a search, especially if it's your first time as a Hiring Manager. Conducting a successful search and hiring process takes practice and skill. That’s why search firms, like On-Ramps, exist. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the search process, your role, or your search firm’s role.
Finding the right person to fill a role takes patience and a willingness to keep learning during your search. A new hire isn’t just a person with a certain set of skills, but a team member who will impact your organizational culture, contribute to long-term projects, and continue to grow in their new role.