Hiring new staff is challenging in most businesses. Finding good employees is difficult, especially if you’re looking for someone with a specific specialty to fill a skill set that your company needs. To find a good match, you typically look at a candidate’s education and experience — which university or college they graduated from, what stream they followed, what positions they’ve held, and how long they worked there. All of these things feed into your assessment of whether they have the skills and experiences your company needs.

The forest and the trees

Unfortunately, most hiring managers focus so much on finding a good fit for their technical needs that they miss opportunities to find a great fit with other candidates that could bring even more value to their business.

Don’t panic — I’m not arguing that technical skills don’t matter. A growing IT firm probably wouldn’t hire a help desk technician to redesign its storage architecture. But in the fast-moving business of IT in particular, where new technologies are being developed every day, a candidate’s past performance is only a small indicator of how well they’re likely to do in your organization.

Good versus great

My favourite resource for advice on how to hire the best employees is Jim Collins, who wrote or co-wrote several business management bestsellers, including the groundbreaking book Good to Great. Collins’ philosophy is simple: get the right people on the bus. He emphasizes the who before the what, and implores people to choose candidates based on their fit with the core values and purpose rather than on their skills and knowledge.

To be competitive and agile in today’s market, companies need to hire employees who are adaptable and flexible, people who are self-learners and communicators. You need employees who are capable of understanding the bigger picture and their role in it; employees who are committed to helping you achieve your business outcomes, not just because they want a paycheque, but because they’re passionate about their work and they strive to be their best at it.

Fit for Purpose

At Beaconize, we believe that finding the right candidate depends on the organization’s intent. We’ve seen consultants be contracted for roles that are long-term and highly transferable, and that represent a core competency that the organization should be developing internally. Conversely, we’ve seen employees who are hyper-specialized, needed only for short duration, and whose approach clashes with the culture of the organization. Neither of these situations is optimal for the individual or the organization. For the best outcomes, leaders should consider both employees and consultants as potential options, depending on the need.

In the modern business environment, it is not always common practice (or possible) to directly hire candidates. We understand that. But if the goal of the organizations is to create, grow, and share the competencies that the role requires to be successful, then we believe it’s a mistake not to hire them.

Finding the best

My advice to leaders who believe they need expertise is to carefully think about the needs they’ve identified, and ask a few key questions:

  • Why do I need someone?
  • What would I have the candidate doing for 6/12/18 months?
  • How specialized are these skills?
  • How fast can someone else learn them?

Would you want to grow, nurture, and share these skills throughout your organization? Or do want a defined deliverable or outcome from the candidate?

Depending on the answers, you might discover that hiring a contractor or consultant on a short-term basis is a more cost-effective way to fill your immediate technical needs. Outsource the deep things while you conduct a more careful search for long-term employee who demonstrates the passion, drive and ability to help your company get to where you want it to go.