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Hire the Right Person: How to identify your ideal candidate

When you want to get where you’re going, you first need to know where you’re going. Your company vision should act as a compass and inform the strategic decisions necessary to navigate the terrain. Hiring the right people is one of the core building blocks of any company’s success and the concept is just the same: if you want to hire the right person, you first need to understand what the right person is like.

I head up all our internal hiring as the Director of Human Resources at CareerPlug, and I’ve learned that the most valuable phase of the hiring process is before the job posting goes live. Before we make each hire, we ask ourselves to step back, consider the larger organizational chart and business goals, and get clear on 1) what gaps we’re hiring for and 2) what type of person will be most successful at filling those gaps.

It bears repeating that investing in hiring is one of the most impactful choices you can make for your business. Your people are your greatest assets: they are the sole unique advantage you have over any competition. Hiring the right employees can accelerate your growth, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce workforce turnover.

Making the wrong hires is a drain on your operations. Making the wrong hire costs time, clients, company resources, and, in some cases, your sanity. If you’ve made a bad hire (and most of us have!) you know what I’m talking about.

Hiring the right employees begins with identifying what the right hire looks like.

Who’s on Your Bus?

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins uses a metaphor comparing a business to a bus. The leader is the bus driver. The team are the passengers. But before the engine starts the driver looks around and asks, “Do I have the right people on this bus?”

Collins breaks it down into three action items:

  1. Get the right people on the bus
  2. Get the right people in the right seats
  3. Get the wrong people off the bus

Or, asked another way:

  1. Do you have the talent to help your business succeed?
  2. Are your people in roles where they can make strong contributions?
  3. Who do you need to help exit the company (with dignity)?

Starting here, looking around your bus, is a call to step back and evaluate the current talent and state of the business before the job posting is even written.

What are the levers you can pull to grow? Do you have employees who can pull those levers? What are your team’s strengths and weaknesses and how can you put people in positions that maximize their strengths? Do you have people who are not a good fit for what you need right now?

Answering these questions ahead of time will help ensure you’re making the most of your hiring investment. They also hopefully stop us short of letting anybody on the bus just so we can get on the road. Hiring the wrong person is like fastening a parking boot to your own wheel.

Have I worn out the metaphor yet? To the point then: when you have an empty seat on the bus, leave it empty until you can hire the right person to fill it.

Ideal Candidate Profile

The first step in our hiring process at CareerPlug is creating an Ideal Candidate Profile. This serves as a guide for the hiring manager to articulate who the potential right person could be for the role.

We build our Ideal Candidate Profiles from the following components:

Specifics for the Role:

Skills: What expertise and experience are needed for this position?

Talents: What inborn abilities and natural characteristics would help someone be successful in this position?

Behaviors: How should someone act in this role? What behaviors and choices will the right person exhibit?

Key Culture Drivers:

At CareerPlug we’ve identified four characteristics or driving behaviors that we ensure every hire exemplifies. These traits are the bedrock of our company culture and non-negotiables when making a hire:

Scrapper: Passion & Perseverance

Initiator: Leads with Action

Learner: Growth Mindset

Giver: Generous & Unselfish

Consider your own company’s core values. How do these translate into employee behaviors? Are there key traits your current team shares that you want all new employees to have as well? Spend time articulating these culture fit requirements to help guide your evaluating during the interview stages.

Job Description:

The final piece of our Ideal Candidate Profile is the job description. We keep it pretty simple:

Key Objectives: What are the 1-3 priorities or goals for this position?

Measurable Outcomes: What are the metrics you’ll use to evaluate this position’s success?

Responsibilities Breakdown: What are the daily/weekly/monthly responsibilities for this role? This is the place for the details.

Hiring Managers use the Ideal Candidate Profile as a tool throughout the hiring process to evaluate candidates. The Profile acts as a checklist as we learn about a potential candidate, helping us ask better questions and probe deeper to ensure we can clearly answer if the candidate is the best person for the job.

Remember: there is no perfect candidate. The right hire won’t necessarily check all the boxes outlined in the Ideal Candidate Profile. The tool is intended to clarify what’s most important and what’s non-negotiable.

What to Ask Before You Post a Job

Before you activate your job posting and begin reviewing applicants, there are a few other guiding questions you should ask about the position. These will also help while building the Ideal Candidate Profile:

  • Who is doing this job right now? How will other employees’ responsibilities shift? What does my organizational chart look like?
  • If the person in this role could do one thing to be successful, what would it be? How will I know if they are successful?
  • What behaviors have current or past superstars on the team exhibited? What have assessment results been for top performers?
  • How does our job compare to similar positions in the industry? Take a look at job descriptions from similar companies and pay attention to the job titles and responsibilities. Benchmarking your own position will help clarify what experience and skills are needed for the role.
  • What should the compensation be? What is the industry standard? There are plenty of free compensation reports and salary data available from sites like Indeed, Glassdoor,, and the Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Just as having the right people on your team begins with the hiring process, making hiring the right person begins with identifying your ideal candidate. Invest in finding the right person upfront and you’ll see, as we have at CareerPlug, how much easier it becomes for a hiring manager to make objective and thoughtful hiring decisions.

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