Q: What do Harry Potter and Hiring Managers have in common?
A: They both go on a journey.
The Harry Potter series is a classic example of the Hero’s Journey, a broadly applied story structure (coined by Joseph Campbell in 1949) where a character is thrust out of their ordinary life, faces conflict, and ultimately triumphs over adversity. From Odessyus to Rocky to Star Wars, this 12-part cycle includes stages like a call to adventure, meeting the mentor, facing an ordeal, and the climax of resurrection and return.
Even though finding the right candidate can sometimes induce “my precious” levels of obsession, hiring an employee is not exactly a Lord of the Rings-style epic. Yet, hiring managers do have an adventure as they navigate the hiring process: from identifying a hiring need all the way to retaining their new hire for the long haul.
We understand our own lives through stories, so today I want to tell the hiring manager’s story. I see myself in this cycle as I hire at CareerPlug. Understanding it as a journey helps me learn and grow from each iteration — and brace myself for the inevitable obstacles along the way.
I’ve adapted the traditional 12-step arc into an 8-step guide told from the hiring manager’s perspective. We’ve talked about the multiple stages of the hiring process previously on this blog, but shifting the perspective can help lock these familiar lessons into place.
Step One: Identify the Hiring Need
This is the call to adventure. You, the hiring manager, know something needs to change. Maybe you’re doing all the work yourself for your young business. Maybe you’ve had an employee recently leave your team. Maybe your business is growing fast and everyone is stretched to the limit. However it happened, you are shaken out of your ordinary world and called into the hiring process.
Hiring Manager Action: Create an Ideal Candidate Profile to ensure you deeply understand the open position, from the job responsibilities to the skills and behaviors needed for success in the role.
Step Two: Get Organized for Hiring
Once you’ve identified the hiring need, you need to get organized. This is parallel to Meeting the Mentor in the Hero’s Journey. You need your very own Obi-Wan. Your mentor may be an ATS or recruiting software like CareerPlug that can guide you step-by-step and provide best practices, or maybe it’s just a wealth of ‘how to hire’ resources you piece together from a Google search. In this stage, you’re learning how to hire, building the steps in your hiring process, or simply recommitting to your existing hiring process.
Hiring Manager Action: Define your hiring process before you post a job and start meeting with top candidates.
Step Three: Post a Job
Posting your job is like crossing the first threshold (just as Bilbo packed his bags and left Hobbiton behind). Up to this point you may have pondered and planned your hiring, but this is the first true action in the hiring process. Posting the job can be a huge relief, but you’ll need to be ready for your day-to-day schedule to change as you prepare to field candidates and run the hiring process.
Hiring Manager Action: Craft a job description and post it to job boards yourself or post through your ATS, which will automatically distribute the job to popular job boards.
Step Four: Manage and Evaluate Candidates
This is the Tests, Allies, Enemies stage of the hero’s journey. In your own hiring manager’s journey, this means you’re reviewing candidates — both the ideal candidates and the why-did-you-bother-to-apply candidates — and managing them through the hiring process.
- The tests: navigating your incoming applicants and deciding who to move forward in your process
- The allies: the tools you use to make evaluation easier, such as prescreen questions, assessments, and interview guides
- The enemies: roadblocks and challenges along the way
This is the stage where you face new challenges but also where you find your rhythm and make progress.
Step Five: Hiring Challenges
You try your best to avoid making hiring an ordeal, but inevitably challenges arise. You might not have enough qualified candidates. You might have too many candidates to sift through and worry you’re missing the diamond buried in the rough. You may feel overwhelmed running a hiring process while your team is short-staffed, and then someone ghosts you instead of showing up for an interview! This is your training montage in Rocky. You push through and glimpse hope at the top of the museum steps.
At CareerPlug, we faced hiring challenges when hiring software engineers in the current market. The process was taking longer than expected and we weren’t getting the applicant flow we needed. So we got creative by using niche job sources and opening up the opportunity to remote talent to ultimately make some fantastic engineering hires this year!
Hiring Manager Action: Accept that hiring challenges are part of the journey and commit to your process as it helps you get closer to your goal: making the right hire!
Step Six: Select a Candidate
This is your ultimate goal as a hiring manager: deciding who to hire. Like Dorothy escaping the Witch’s castle with a broomstick and her ruby slippers, you are emerging from the hiring process stronger and with a prize: your final candidate! In this stage, you’re looking at all the data you’ve collected about the candidate and committing to a final decision.
Hiring Manager Action: Review the Ideal Candidate Profile for the role against what you know about the final candidate. Evaluate whether they have the right ability, motivation, and culture fit to do the job well.
Step Seven: Make a Hire
Your final test is closing the deal and making the hire. In the hero’s journey, this is the Resurrection stage: the climax or final battle. If you falter here, you could be set back several stages in your journey. It happens (see the Hiring Challenges in Step Five), but you have the power to prevail! Remember the importance of communicating openly and creating a positive candidate experience.
Hiring Manager Action: Prepare a compelling job offer and close the deal with your final candidate.
Step Eight: Retain and Manage
At the end of your journey as a hiring manager, you will return to where you started, but something will be different — you’ve got a new hire! To avoid repeating the journey (for this same position), you need to invest in onboarding, training, and managing this employee to retain them. Peter Parker doesn’t just recall Uncle Ben’s words and embrace his role as Spider-Man, he’s going to put in the work every day to keep New York City safe. Hiring is one small journey of a much larger lifecycle of employee retention.
Hiring Manager Action: Start long-term retention on a positive note by analyzing your employee onboarding process and create a positive first-day experience.
You’re the Hero
Wherever you are in your journey as a hiring manager, remember that you’re part of a story centered on growth and change. Hiring is a process that leads you to new employees, can hone your hiring skills and help you be a better manager and leader, and grow your business with the support of great talent.
If you’re still identifying your need to hire, seeking the right resources, bogged down by hiring challenges, or a finger’s brush away from the reward of an amazing hire, remember that you are the hero of this story. Just as Harry returns to Privet Drive for the summer, happy to belong at Hogwarts at the end of book one, your journey too, is one of winning the day.