Part 1: Targeting High Performers – Framing Your Needs and Making Better Hiring Decisions

Dear Reader,
The following is the first of a three part series detailing some simple steps one can take to identifying high performing executives and staff; along with improving the outcome of your hiring.
Part I: Targeting High Performers – Framing your Needs and Making Better Hiring Decisions
What keeps most CEOs up at night and is often framed in terms of a succession planning problem?
The quick answer is access to competent and motivated staff.  Scarcity is the root cause of the CEO’s insomnia because there are simply not enough high-performing employees with subject matter expertise available in today’s market. This talent scarcity is a systemic problem, impacting some regions more than others while affecting multiple levels of an organization. The term scarcity typically implies shortage, and given the demographic squeeze faced in both the public and private sectors, there is truth in this perspective.  Scarcity also, however, is a consequence of corporations’ and search consultants’ habit of narrow-framing the experiential requirements for a specific role.
How can you improve the probability of a successful hire?

Begin by more broadly framing your need and thereby increasing your options or selection ratio. For example, Chip Heath, a management professor at Stanford University, references the decision making process of his teenage son. His son “narrow frames” his choices or rather limits his options to A or nothing at all – “stay in or go out”. He won’t add a ‘B’ or a ‘C’ option into the decision process. He’ll apply this process to 60 plus percent of his decisions.

Heath’s studies have uncovered similar narrow-framing within the corporate world. In fact, 70% of the organizations studied limited their options by narrow-framing 71% of the time. That’s even worse performance than the average teenager. As a parent I am quite relieved; as a shareholder I’m concerned.

Whether teenager or corporation, one critical step in improving the outcome of a decision is simply to generate more options. In fact, adding just a single additional option to a given problem increased the likelihood of achieving a more successful outcome by six times.

In hiring, there is a tendency to narrow-frame need by arbitrarily requiring certain skills or years of experience not critical to the position. What empirical evidence exists that stipulates that a person with ten years of retail development experience is more likely to succeed than a person with five years? It’s an interesting question and one that should be asked if you want to avoid narrow-framing your needs. Opening your field of vision wider with respect to candidate requirements can increase your candidate pool and may yield surprisingly improved results. In addition, consider the role and value of transferable competencies rather than experiential check-marks to broaden your options further, without sacrificing focus in your search.

Avoidance of narrow-framing is equally pressing from a legal perspective. In the United States, the question above is increasingly being asked of corporations by human rights lawyers acting on behalf of clients who believe their skills relative to experience were improperly assessed. This question is not necessarily limited to candidate experience but can also be applied to education. Corporations are struggling to definitively answer this question and are increasingly finding themselves on the losing end of an action.

There are ways to buttress your defense in this regard, which I’ll address in the third part of this series. The second article in the series speaks to reality testing your biases when assessing candidates. By carefully implementing this methodology in your hiring process, you should realize a significant improvement in your overall hiring track-record.

I invite you to join me on LinkedIn at or follow my blog at . Parts 2 and 3 of the series are now available on the Blog.

Forbes J. Rutherford

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