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For most of us, the epitome of the perfect hire is someone who is eager to start the new challenge in front of them, optimistic and motivated- someone who’s essentially going to “hit the ground running.” We expect this new recruit to come in and turn things around, bring in the much-needed clients, and energize the existing team with new ideas and projects. However, what often happens is we hire them, let them loose in the market, and then find them lost somewhere on the highway with no directions on where to go.
At this point, we wonder: “What went wrong? They were perfect with their interview and resume!” Well, having had my own series of successes and stumbles along my professional life, I’ve reflected on this particular point, and I believe the issue is with this idea of expecting a new hire to, well, “hit the ground running.” Do we even know if this person is ready to run this race? Who else in this race? What is the ground like? Is it a sprint, or is it a marathon?
Being cognizant of the complexities of the race, you will be able to judge if you are prepared for it, and if you want to participate in the fist place. Here are three things you as a hiring manager (or a job applicant) need to consider during the recruitment process:
1. Know that what you put in you get out If the company is not willing to invest in time, training and resources for you as a new hire, then it could suggest that the organization does not value your talent- or you, for that matter. Beyond having a thorough understanding of the market and the sector, there are internal forces, processes, procedures and unwritten rules that must be carefully analyzed before running in any direction other than the door.
William A. Cohen in his book Peter Drucker on Consulting: How to Apply Drucker’s Principles for Business Success cautions against pressuring new hires to “hit the ground running,” and advises instead that it is the manager’s job to ease the way for the recruit by organizing frequent meetings and laying clear requirements in the early weeks. According to him, he says that guiding, mentoring and assisting without doing one's job are intrinsic to successful hire. And above all, he cautions the manager or the boss to not let the new hires fail!
The most successful organizations understand this process, and for the most part, they have put in place strong inductions and training sessions, orientations, and even mentorship programs. They understand that building strong organizations means building a collaborative team and a strong internal culture. These organizations recognize that culture is not a plug and play commodity; it requires involvement from each and every individual and is led from the top.
Corporate culture is a strong completive advantage, and it is of no surprise that businesses ranked as the best place to work are also the most successful in their field. Google has gone as far as having a chief culture officer charged with making sure "Google’s culture stays true to itself."
2. Have a plan of action ready and on-hand The old mantra that “failing to plan is planning to fail” could not be truer in such situations. This typically implies a reactive response to a volatile internal situation: the organization has undergone internal flux and is now looking for quick fixes, reshuffling the cards in hopes to get a better hand this time around.
Well, a wise friend once told me that hope is not a strategy!
While I would like to encourage all business to be optimistic and excited about the future and incite winning at all fronts, I would leave hope out of the boardrooms, and plan instead for positive realistic expectations based on research, preparation, and yes, strategy.
Restructuring alone rarely results in successful hires, and organizations tend to repeat this process in order to keep a department or a function running while working at a broader spectrum. However, the metrics of the department are then not in line with the current situation, and the new hire more often that not will suffer the consequences.
To save yourself from such practices, I would recommend asking questions such as why is this position open, is it a replacement or a new position. You may not always get a clear answer, but it is important to read in between the lines- speak to the people in the organization if you can, and last but not least, you can always use LinkedIn as a way to gain more insights into the organization’s hiring practices. If a position has been filled and vacant more that two times within 12 months, then that is a red flag and a signal to run towards to the door.
3. Define the requirements of the job A poorly designed job, one in which the requirements have not been thoroughly analyzed, is a job that likely no one can perform successfully, cautions Drunker. An impossible job means that work that’s intended to be accomplished can only be accomplished poorly, or maybe that the work cannot be done at all, he adds. A job design that doesn’t clearly state the few requirements that are really crucial to a successful performance risks damage and misallocation of the scarce and valuable human resources, and harms the organization’s reputation as well. Instead of making a list of 30 bullet points, focus instead on the key requirements and look for candidates with strengths in those few critical areas.
By the same token, when applying for jobs, try to identify the most important criteria that are essential to the job, and respond to those with a resume and covering letter highlighting those skills. And for hiring managers, instead of looking for candidates who “can hit the ground running” at any cost, look instead for smart collaborative individuals, team players with intellectual curiosity, and a strong work ethic. Look for people who are willing to grow and learn with your organization, and make sure that the organization's culture is in line with their personal values. Richard Branson advises that most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. “Find people with transferable skills– you need team players who can pitch in, and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs. While specialists are sometimes necessary, versatility should not be underestimated,” adds Branson.
At the end of the day, if you insist that you really do need someone who can hit the ground running, then please at least get out of their way, and recognize that running a marathon sometimes requires to stumble and fall, but not get out of the race. In fact, the very spirit of the marathon lies in the fact that people motivate and lift each other up during difficult times. So, basically: ready, set, go!
Related: Invigorate Your Team In 10 Steps