A traditional job description with a laundry list of skills, years of experiences, a bunch of competencies, and other must-have requirements is not a job description. At best, it’s a person description.
A job description is what a person needs to do, not a list of things that person needs to have. We’ve all met people who have all of the skills listed on these traditional job descriptions who are not top performers. We’ve also met people who are top performers who don’t have all the skills and experiences listed.
In fact, every person, every person who gets promoted falls into the second category, so why would anybody want to exclude these types of top performers from consideration, and now think about the other side, why would a top person, who possesses all of the required skills, even apply for a job that seems like an ill-defined lateral transfer? When you meet with hiring managers to discuss the real job, it is a suggestion that you put the traditional job description in the parking lot for a few minutes.
What does the person need to do in order to be considered successful?
For example, every job can be described by five to six performance objectives like these that begin with an action verb, like launch, build, prepare, create, design, lead, maintain, and develop, and that has to be put in combination with some measurable tasks. Let us give you some examples:
- “Grow sales by 10% in the northeast territory” is a simple performance objective. It’s much better than saying, “Must have 5-6 years “of selling experience to manufacturers of turbine valves “and be willing to travel 50% of the time.”
- Here’s another one. “Build a team of five senior accountants to upgrade the international reporting system by year-end.” It’s much clearer and more compelling than the original, which said, “Must have a CPA “from a Big 4 accounting firm with 3-5 years of SEC “and FCPA,” which is Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, “experience using SAP with exceptional verbal “and written communication skills.”
The big idea here is to focus on what people do with what they have, not just what they have. It’s the doing that matters, and the best people accomplish more with less skills and experience. That’s what makes them the best.
They get assigned bigger projects earlier in their career, they get promoted more rapidly, and they proactively seek out these types of stretch assignments, so given this, who would you rather hire? Someone who’s both competent and motivated to deliver the challenging resultsor someone who possesses all of the skills? This is the difference between being skills qualified and performance qualified. The bigger point with these performance-based job descriptions is that someone who can deliver the results will have all of the skills and experiences needed.
The results determine the skills. The skills don’t determine the results. That’s why defining the results are direct measures of success, and having the skills are an indirect measure of success. During the interview, I’ll get examples of the candidates comparable results to determine both competency and motivation to do the actual work. As managers develop these types of performance-based job descriptions, it’s important to determine the employee value proposition. This is the EVP. The EVP is the answer to this question. “Why would a top person who’s not looking…” “even consider this job?” The EVP is essential for engaging top people who are not actively looking for another job, but might consider yours a possible career opportunity.
For example, “Launch our new state-of-the art “medical product line,” that’s a good EVP. Another one, “Turnaround a struggling business unit.” Here’s another one, “Create our next” hands-free user interface.” They’re all good EVP’s. Vague statements, like, “Join us “since we’re the best in the business,” that won’t capture the imagination of a top person, who would only consider a true career move.
This shift from having to doing is the first step in improving the quality of every single person seen and hired. So the next time you open up a requisition, don’t create a list of skills. Instead, start by asking this question,
What does the person need to do “to be successful in this role?
You make just this one change and soon you’ll be seeing more top performers you never even knew existed. Creating a performance-based job description and shifting to a performance qualified assessment approach opens up the candidate pool to more diverse, more talented, and more high-potential people.