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How to Test-Drive New Hires: A Case Study

by Louise Kursmark, Monster Contributing Writer

What began as a COO search for a $20 million healthcare services company ended with some unexpected results: A new senior project manager, a waiting-in-the-wings chief operating officer and a profound new understanding of how to hire the right people. This case study illustrates the importance of thinking about your company’s long-term needs, not just the job you’re trying to fill more immediately.

Executive recruiter Mark S. James, CPC, of Hire Consulting Services LLC, was the catalyst for this new hiring strategy that allowed the company to meet both its current and future talent needs. When James began work on the recruiting assignment, he asked the company to name the five or six critical success factors for the new COO. "I asked them, as I do all my clients, ‘What does this person need to do to be successful in the next six, 12 and 18 months in order for you to feel you’ve made the right choice?’" he says.

Develop a Performance Profile

James employs the principles detailed by Lou Adler in Hire With Your Head: Using POWER Hiring to Build Great Teams. POWER Hiring is a structured, five-step process that begins with developing a performance profile for the job under consideration, defining just what James asked his client to share withhim. "It’s a complete departure from a traditional job description that simply describes duties and scope of responsibility," says James. "Instead, it requires companies to set measurable goals for each new hire and thus makes it much more likely that new employees will be working toward the critical objectives of the company."

When the hiring managers at James’s client took a good, hard look at their immediate and long-term needs, landing a major contract to provide healthcare services for a large Midwestern state quickly emerged as a top priority. James identified several strong COO candidates, including one who had the precise skill set needed to lead and direct the bidding process for this particular contract.

When he introduced this candidate to the company, the fit was apparent immediately. And as interviews and discussions continued, a new solution emerged: Rather than hiring the candidate as its COO, the company proposed bringing him on board as an interim senior project manager to direct the preparation and presentation of the state contract bid, to which the candidate was amenable. As a result, the company has a top-notch project leader who is also under consideration for the COO role, although company officials have put that search on the back burner until the project is complete.

Test Candidates Under Fire in an Important Role

"The process forced them to think about their most critical objectives," says James. "The search for the COO, although important, did not have the pressing urgency of the state contract. They also liked the concept of ‘test-driving’ the candidate, under fire, to gain more insight into how he works and how he fits with the company culture. So it’s a win-win situation, where the candidate is doing work that he excels at while having the opportunity to demonstrate his fit for the larger role as well."

James has found that using this new hiring strategy results in better hires because of a clear correlation between organizational goals and measurable outcomes. Hiring authorities find themselves thinking about the role, the organization, and their immediate and long-term objectives more deeply and more comprehensively than if they focused solely on filling the position based on a traditional job description — and they often end up with a better hire.


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