2 occasions to use a person specification; 3 ways to select with job descriptions

Job descriptions ~ good and bad

I picked up a reference to a job description for a Social Network Manager in the White House.  I don’t know if it is a spoof.  I repeat it here because my first reaction was, “Hey, this is a good job description.  I’ll file it away.”

Job descriptions vs person specifications

Then I looked at it more closely.  It is not really a job description.  It is a person specification.

Job specifications that are neither excellent nor strong

And it is not a good person specification.  Each line refers to an expectation that observers may have of the job holder and to a standard that is unanchored.  “Excellent”, “Strong”, and so on are intuitive standards that are believed to be commonly held but are obviously not as the writer was unable to articulate them.

Happy working relations begin with good job descriptions

If you want to be happy with you staff, then it is up to you to describe the job.  Let them see what they have to do. They will have a fairly accurate idea of whether they can do it or not.

When to use person specifications

Person specifications are useful under one of two conditions.

Scenario 1.   The mammoth unchanging organization. You have hired and filled the job over the decades and have objective records of the measurable qualities of the applicants and their subsequent job performance.  The measurable qualities are likely to be in the form of psychological tests.  After all, how else would we keep bureaucratic records spanning thousands of people and dozens of HR managers?

Scenario 2.  A rich leading organization.  In this scenario, it  is extremely unlikely that the applicant has any idea how to the job.  You are recruiting ‘noobes’ and you have the time and resources to train and give a grace time of several job cycles to learn and perfect the job.  Under these conditions, we extrapolate (preferably with the help of objective records or otherwise with commonsense) to qualities that allow a person to learn to do the job that we will show them how to do.  This technique is especially useful when we want to diversify the people in our organization and recruit people who would not normally consider working for us.

When to use job descriptions for selection

When you are in neither scenario, just write out an accurate account of what you want done.  Let people see it. They will self-select.

#1 If you are left with no takers, maybe rethink what you want done.

#2 If you are left with a handful of takers, interview each one and confine the discussion to what you want done.  You will soon find out who has the strongest knowhow.  Leave other discussions for your security check and get a third party to do that (with your preferred candidate’s knowledge and cooperation, of course).

#3 If you are overwhelmed by competent people wanting your job, then use social media!  Start a forum and let the applicant discuss the job with each other.  You may learn a lot.  To be sure, when they think more deeply about the position, many will recuse themselves. Add some voting too like they use on Stackoverflow.  The candidates will quickly tell you who is competent.  So will their pattern of voting.   You will spot gaming in an instance.

Here is the job description

Maybe it is spoof.  I didn’t check.  Follow

* Excellent writing and editing skills with strong attention to detail; your writing is strong, sharp, and personable

* Strong organizing and campaigning instincts; you can craft messages that move people to act, and you know what actions will achieve the right impact at the right time

* Strong familiarity with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.

* Ready to work hard; this isn’t a 9-5 sort of job

* Ability to work under deadline pressure

* Ability to manage multiple complex projects

* Passionate about engaging millions of Americans in advancing President Obama’s agenda and changing the country

* Candidates must be willing to relocate to Washington, DC

Preference given for experience with:

* Online organizing experience with an electoral campaign, advocacy organization or non-profit

* Complex project management

* Experience using social media for organizing

UPDATE:  Here is the link to the original on mybarackobama.com.  It follows the format we might expect beginning with the wider picture and then a two sentence description of why the job exists.  Again it leaves the exact parameters of the job in the shadows. HRM for organizations with ‘strong internal labour markets’ [when everyone is promoted from within] is quite different from HRM for organizations who have ‘weak internal labour markets’ and appoint from without.

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Personas: A hack used by professionals to imagine people they don’t know well

Shooting in the dark ~ I don’t know these people!

I want you to imagine any situation in which you are preparing to work with someone who you don’t know well.

  • You are going to hire someone and you must write an advert
  • You are going for a job interview
  • You are taking a new class
  • You are going to a party and your host is relying on you to get the party going
  • You are scouting for new business and you are all but cold calling

Personas

In any of the situations, it really helps to write a persona.

We write down a little story of where the person has come from and where they are going to.  How many children do they have?  Who is their partner? What is their immediate concern?  What are the values that have guided their choice in the past?

Sometimes the persona just won’t flow

Once we start writing, sometimes we realize that our expectations don’t hang together.  We can’t make the story “come together.”

That  is the real core of our sense that we don’t ‘know’ people.  We must be able to imagine a coherent story to be comfortable.

Use a character builder

When I get stuck, I find a “character builder” online, fill out the questionnaires, and resolve in my mind all the little details I expect about the person.

The version that I use suggests a Myers-Briggs profile.   It is very good for settling on one persona.

Once I have a coherent picture of someone, then I can imagine what I am going to love about them, and also what I am not going to like.

Here is the key to resolving my ‘stuckness.’  What will I not like about the person? Where must my approach change to be reasonable?

Once I’ve got past this point, I can complete the scenario and write a few more, including scenarios of the person in the context of home, play and work.  Who else will be there and what are their personas?

Useful hack

I hope that’s useful: Use a character builder to help your write personas to understand people you don’t know well

Beating the odds in recruitment and selection

338187446_682b87504a_mOne of the biggest complaints we hear from businesses is that they cannot hire the skills they want in the UK market.  It’s called the talent war.

I want to show you a simple calculation I did for someone that might explain what is giving you a headache in your recruitment and selection.

Person specification

This little firm was looking for ‘partners’ to work in a role similar to agents or franchisees.  Their partners don’t have to have any particular qualification, so they should be easy to recruit.  After a little thinking and talking, this is what we came up with.

  • The partners don’t have to be super-bright,  just normal bright and have finished high school .
  • The partners should be energetic & persistent and are likely to have demonstrated this energy by excelling in competitive sport, the arts, or some activity that has required them to make a clearly great effort than their peers.
  • The partners should be entrepreneurial.  They should have a history of trying things out and be just as happy when things don’t work out.  They are curious.
  • The partners need to be honest.  I don’t mean financially meticulous – I mean wanting to deliver a good service.  They are likely to have done something well in the past even when people around them wanted to take shortcuts.

Running the numbers

Now we can add some figures to this model and here is where you might get a surprise.

Let me remind you of some figures.

  • The midpoint on any characteristic divides the world 50:50.
  • The next step up divides the world 83:17.
  • And then next level up divides the world 97:3.

These splits correspond to 3 standard deviations on the right hand side of a normal curve.  You might recall that?  We could use finer divides but we will start with these to get a preliminary fix on where we are going.

Intelligence

The people we are looking for do not have to be super intelligent.  University and above is at the 83:17 divide.  We are happy at the 50:50 divide.  Below that, people may have trouble filling in commercial documents.

Energy & persistence

We are looking for someone who stood out in some way – played at the highest levels of school sport, for example, or raised a lot of money for charity, or even did well at academics.  Probably at the 97:3 split.  Someone who took a big prize at school.

Curiosity

These people don’t wait for someone to tell them what to do.  They work things out and find new opportunties.  They aren’t people for the sausage-machine of institutions. They are the people who make us think, “I wish I had done that”, or “How did you think of that?”  And they view setbacks as adventures.  97:3

Honesty

Unusual levels of integrity and sincerity.  At least once in their lives, they’ve done something properly when people around them were spinning, skiving or taking shortcuts.  97:3

How many people in the UK fit this description?

There are 30 million people in UK of working age.  How many of them fit this description and are candidates for our recruitment and selection drive?

Half of them have the intelligence required: 15 million

3% of the top half of intelligent people are very energetic and persistent : 450 000

3% of these have unusual levels of entrepreneurial spirit or curiosity:  13 500

3% of these have the commitment to integrity that we need: 405

(and this is from aged 16 to 65 – 405 people in the UK match our specification).

And how many of the right people are looking for a job?

Well, first of all let’s look at turnover.  It is usually 14% a year in the UK and that includes the high churn sectors like hospitality and catering.  Even if we bump up the turnover rate arbitrarily to 20% for the recession, we have only (.2 x 400) =80 people in our group who are looking for a job.

And of course some of these are doctors and lawyers, and some people are in the wrong sectors or wrong part of UK.  They are not available to be recruited or selected by us.

Not many left are there?

Shocking isn’t it?

I am used to the process of selection and to these numbers, yet they still shock me.  So please find my error and dm me.  I am hoping you will find my mistake because the numbers are shocking.

My point – and it is a serious point –  is that you cannot have one demanding requirement after another.

There simply aren’t enough people in the UK to meet your demanding needs.

There aren’t enough exceptional people in the economy to run it if is based on exceptional talent.

Our businesses need to run with normal people.

  • When we are selecting, it’s best to set the minimum requirements of the job, preferably from the candidate’s point of view, and begin there. Trim your list.  Ask, “Is this feature absolutely required,  and if so why?”
  • Stop adding requirement after requirement!  No more than three requirements!
  • After that, be ruthless in thinking about this recruitment assignment from the candidate’s point of view.

Ruthless in thinking about selection from the candidate’s point-of-view.

No one taught you that at uni, did they?  Yep, we like to keep some secrets to ourselves.

But now, it’s yours.

Review your HR specifications.  And keep it real.  Let your competitors be the ones to live in the world of make-believe.

Recruitment agents and Opportunity UK

Andy at SironaConsulting reported earlier today that the former CEO of Woolworths has started a new recruitment agency.  For non-British readers, Woolworths was a High Street chain which, at its peak, was a precursor of $1 shops.  This year, it finally went under and put a lot of people out of work.

Andy wondered how the CEO of a failed company could front a start up and his question led me to a question of my own.

Which recruitment agencies in the UK (or elsewhere) specialise in the 4 BCG segments?

Cash cows

Cash cows dominate their own market but are growing slowly if at all.  They typically offer stable careers, plenty of training and good benefits, such as final salary pension schemes.  They are a great place to raise a family.  And  importantly, cash cows tend to recruit from other cash cows.  There is an inside track of cash cows, so to speak.

Downside:  If you have been working in a cash cow, you’ve been living a soft life.  You are ill-prepared to enter the hurly-burly of a small business and the other 3 segments.  Once in cash cows, it is better to stay.

Question-marks

Question-marks are typically start-ups.  They don’t have much cash and pay low wages with stock options.  If the company makes it, like founding employees of Google, employees get very rich indeed.

Downside:  If the company does not make it, you have little to show for the years you spent with them.  This is not a good place for someone with a family to support or someone who wants to return to a cash-cow.

Stars

Stars are in a high-growth phase.  Basic pay is still modest and benefits are not luxurious.  Indeed, bonuses are linked to performance and may be lavish to compensate for the low pay and the very real possibility of not receiving a bonus at all.

Downside:  The official downside is that if growth does not happen, you will not get a bonus.  The real downside is two fold.  You only know how to do business in growth conditions.  Anyone can do business in an up-turn.  Can you also succeed in a down turn?   And as we have all learned, some growth is fictious.  If you don’t really understand the business, you might be involved in a Ponzi scheme.

Dogs

Dogs have had their day.  They no longer dominate their segment and they are no longer growing.  Oddly, though, employees are paid very well in a dog and in cash, not benefits or stock-options or performance bonuses.  Why?  Well obviously, no one with any sense will work there unless they are paid almost in advance!

Downside:  You make a lot of money helping to squeeze the last pennies out of a dog but you become a dog specialist.  You would be disruptive in the lazy life of a cash cow.  Startups and their delayed payments will scare you. And you don’t know anything about growth.  Once in a dog, you move from dog to dog.

Recruitment Agencies

The credit crunch has changed the trading conditions for companies in the UK quite and it is likely that many companies have switched segments.  The star of yesterday may well be the dog of today.

An intuitive understanding of the four segments and the HR policies that go with them seem to play beneath current public discussion about the credit crunch.

  • Should cash cows have been managed like stars and hasn’t this confusion led to their collapse?
  • Can the banks be reformed back into the slow, passive cash-cows they once were?
  • Now that derivatives hang around the bank’s necks like albatrosses, are they not indeed dogs?

For my part, I suspect the banks are simply stars that were managed with insufficient understanding of the business.  But if they had been managed as startups (which is consistent with a level of ignorance about a business and its trajectory), they should have had delayed stock options.   And given their strategic importance to UK, the powers-that-be should have insisted on some careful modularization and ring-fencing of risk.

It might be possible to mould the banks back into the slow and cautious form of the cash cows that we once knew banks to be, but I wonder if cash cows are made so readily.   I suspect that banks need to be unbundled into the four segments: safe operations of cash cows,  unknowable outcomes typical of start-ups, growth related work of stars,  and cashing-up operations of dogs.  But I’m not on the inside.  This is only armchair analysis.

What I am curious about, given Sirona Say’s post of today, is which recruitment agencies specialise in cash-cows, which in startups, which in stars and which in dogs?

And how has the credit crunch changed the mix of companies you deal with and hence your own focus and service?



7 ways professionals help you recruit better

4 new jobs created!

Just before Christmas, I helped out a charity who needed an extra pair of HR hands to get the specs for 4 new jobs onto their website before the Christmas shutdown.

I spent a day poring over their project plans and notes and generated ONE four-and-a-half page document that

  • Summarized the project
  • Listed the project team
  • Described FIVE and only five responsibilities for the Project Manager and the Project Officers showing the links between the two levels
  • Named FIVE competencies which had the same headings for both positions
  • Distinguished the positions with sub-bullet points listing the competences without prejudging where candidates may have gained their experience
  • Pinpointed the minimal experience that someone would need to be promoted into the position
  • Made sure experience gained at one level was a clear promotion track to the next
  • Highlighted unusual contractual provisions
  • Outlined the selection process.

Hmm, everything for 4 jobs was on 4.5 pages except for the the pay levels and a template of the employment contract.

Today, the charity rang to give me some feedback..  These are the 7 benefits they spontaneously described.

7 benefits of a successful recruitment campaign

1.  The response to the advertisement was quick and good.

2. Candidates said they understood immediately what the job was about.

3. An interviewer co-opted from a sister charity said that if she had seen the job in time she would have applied for it!

4. Appointments were made to all 4 jobs on the first pass, yet another team recruiting at the same time, in the same organization, in the same town have not been able to appoint and are starting again.

5. Staff within the charity felt comfortable with the list.

6. Candidates felt they were able to talk about what they COULD do.

7. A broad range of candidates applied and the charity is pleased to appoint an ‘expert team’ of people who compliment each other.

Next steps in evaluating the recruitment drive

Of course, the final evaluation is whether the team clicks together and whether all four new members of staff are happy and productive.  I’m sure I’ll hear from them one way or another!

What other gains do we deliver for our clients when we assist them recruit staff?

Light at the end of the tunnel!

Forget the recession for a moment

and look at this up-and-coming recruitment specialist in our midst! Funny, stylish, and on the nail.  If this is what Gen Y will be bringing our industry, we are in good hands!

HOW NOT TO WRITE A BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT LETTER – DESPITE MY TEMPTATION!

Dear Client,

I’ve written to you today to talk to you about recruitment and I have chosen a letter in which to do this. I have opted for this pre-dated method of communication for a few reasons.

1) All of the carrier pigeons were out.

2) I can’t talk to your secretary anymore. Shy of knowing her bra size and favourite day of the week, I’ve come to know more about her than my own mother and whilst I enjoy hearing the words ‘If you’d like to send me an email, I’ll ensure your details are passed on to the right person who will be in contact soon’ more times than Michael Jackson say’s ‘chimone’, I feel my relationship with her is becoming one of those relationships that cause people to bungee-jump – minus cord. I know she’s lovely but her telephone sign off can only be heard by near-by dolphins and my ear-drums can’t take it anymore.

. . . for more, I’ll pass you over to Ian’s blog, Branded Jeanes.

Ian is a specialist recruiter in new media – the read-write web and everything that entails: SOE, coding, community management, etc.

Better CV’s please!

I’m waiting for my client to approve the first case study of Work Psychology 2008 AD and I thought I would ask this question.

Why in this fast moving world do we stress where people have come from?

Does it matter?  Isn’t it likely to be discriminatory anyway?

What I want to know is what they are going to do for me and how we will interact!

Compare our baby boomer world

Mike xxxxxx, CEO and founder of I……… Alliances, has joined ….. as category leader for Business Training. He is the most experienced LinkedIn classroom trainer in the world with over 200 deliveries resulting in over 3,000 people trained. Mike’s LinkedIn profile is in the global top 50.

Neil xxxxx is a leader in the specialist marketplace of supply chain management software. His 17-year success story includes four years as CTO of supply chain and logistics provider . . . . . as it grew from zero to $350 million in revenue.

etc. etc.

with Gen Y in UK

And it’s not for the money.  Ian Jeanes enjoyed being in recruitment despite the trials and tribulations that come with being in recruitment.

“HR HATE you, Managers despise you, receptionists would rather stick pins in their eyes than endure another ‘introductory sales call’ and Financial Controllers see us as an unnecessary cost.

CORRECT?

Well, there are always PROS and CONS in using a recruitment consultant, but what about the PROs and CONS of hiring a new person. Trawling through endless CVs from people who haven’t read the specification, or are looking to change direction and give the job a go but have done nothing to their CV to suggest this. What about those people who apply, then call, then email,, then follow up, then keep calling… and they’re not even that good? Well I CAN TELL YOU that having somebody take all that away from you is an amazing opportunity. It’s like pouring raw meat into shark infested waters and jumping in yourself…. however, this time, you’ve got recruitment consultant chainmail to protect you.

Recently for one role I scanned under 900 CVs . . .

Check out Branded Jeanes for upcoming HR talent!