Hire Talent, not Experience! (and 5 Simple Steps to Find the Talent You Need)

3427501183Recruiting is a pain.  It is hard to get right, and so painful and damaging to get wrong.

We make it so much harder on ourselves when we focus on experience.  Here is my controversial statement for today:  experience is no indication of ability or success.  Makes sense, right?  I might have cooked a lasagna, but it doesn’t mean it is any good.  I might have drawn a picture, but it could be awful.  And the harder the task, the less likely that experience alone is any indication of success. So, of all the folks who have done a job like the one you want done, most have not been very good at it.

Then why do we only look for folks who have done the job before that we want done now?  Is it that we just don’t have the patience, process, or ability to train someone to do the work?  Admittedly, if I can find a talented person who has also done the job before, then we have the best of both worlds.  Just realize you may not have that option.

The best Manufacturing Engineer I ever hired spent the first part of his career as a cook.  The best Project Manager I have ever worked with had spent most of her career as a Manufacturing Engineering.  The best Operations Manager I knew spent the last 5 years as a naval officer.  You can see, though, that in each of these examples the earlier work developed or built upon a talent that mattered to their next role.  As a cook, the engineer learned how to simplify complex tasks, to break things down, and to add some creativity into his work.   As a Manufacturing Engineer, the future PM learned to understand tasks, priorities, and milestones as they flowed in the real world.  And she did so with attention to detail and discipline that the best PMs would recognize.

So, stop scanning resumes for a narrow set of experiences.  You are wasting your time.  Instead….

1.  Identify the talents, the basic attitudes and attributes, of the very best people doing that job.  Now you have a target that matters!

2.  To find folks like this, think of jobs where such people thrive.  That might be a job like the one you are looking to fill, but there are certainly others as well.   Now you can look at someone’s resume and consider experience from the talent-centered point of view.

3.  By all means, if there is some critical knowledge or experience you must have, identify it.  But don’t go overboard.  Talented people learn quickly and adapt.

4.  Signs of great talent often include:  a positive, energetic attitude;  curiosity and a passion for learning;  a solid record of doing important things in their chosen field.

5.  Absolutely must avoid:  any kind of negativity or negative attitude; a tendency to attribute their problems to the fault of others; a solo player – great teams are held together by relationships, no hermits welcome.

Now go forth, and build that great team!


Related Content:

1.  How Great Manager Define Talent (businessjournal.gallup.com)

2.  Your Best Employee May not Have Industry Experience, ( blog.thealternativeboard.com)

4 Simple Questions that Will Supercharge Your Team’s Effectiveness

8989977702What if there were one thing you could do, based on four simple questions, that would take only a bit of effort and an hour or two a week

and would increase the performance of your team by 25%?

Well…there is.   Lead your team to conduct After Action Reviews, or event debriefs.

In a recently published meta-analysis of available data on debriefs (Hum Factors. 2013 Feb;55(1):231-45), researchers reported that, on average, debriefs improved effectiveness by 25%.  On Average.  That means for some individuals and teams, the effect was greater.  

Here is a link to the article.

Debriefs have long been a central practice for high risk professions such as military aviators.  More recently, the use of debriefs (and checklists as a way to preserve lessons and improve performance) have begun to revolutionize performance in the medical and surgical professions.   ( A really great read on the improvements brought by checklists in the surgical profession is Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto:  How to Get Things Right ).

One way to approach debriefs, patterned loosely on the Army’s After Action Review process, is lead you team (assembled together for the purpose!) to consider four simple questions.

1.  What was supposed to happen?

2.  What went well?

3.  What didn’t go well?

4.  What do we want to do differently next time?

Pretty simple process:  Identify significant events with learning potential – large AND small events.  Take an hour with your team to debrief.  Maybe have a person outside the team facilitate.  Get everyone to participate. Write the results down and use the lessons to modify or create a process/checklist.

Why, in this age of information abundance and advanced management theories is such a powerful tool often unused?  Lots of reasons, but perhaps looking backward is just not what high-achievers naturally do.  Perhaps we think that the lessons are clear and that a discussion of them is not needed.  Perhaps it seems difficult to debrief difficult experiences without controversy.

Positive events matter – you want to debrief positive events as much as possible, since understanding what we do well is a wonderful template for repeating success.

Push through this, make it part of your culture.  You will create openness, transparency, and begin to build a learning organization. You will be amazed at the sense of progress and hope it brings into your team, and how quickly team performance accelerates.

And you will wonder why you waited so long to start.