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Here’s Why You Don’t Hire Based on Traditional Roles Instead, Ask Candidates the Problem the Business Wants to Solve


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably well aware of the fact that the world, in general, seems to be suffering from an apparent labor shortage. Keeping that in mind, it would lead one to conclude that due to the major reduction in labor supply, there’s a drastic increase in the demand for it. But this isn’t speculation.

You need only look at the facts to understand the severity of the situation. In November 2021 alone, the United States saw 4.5 million workers quit their jobs. In that same month, there were 6.8 million job openings in the United States. You don’t need to be a genius to note that these numbers don’t show a healthy economy. 

So, what does that mean for you as a business owner? What implications does this have for you? In short: what are employers doing to feed into this labor shortage? And how can you, as a business owner, avoid making the same mistakes? 

Our answer is probably not what you’re expecting. 

We’re not going to tell you to offer sign-on bonuses or fancy benefits packages. That may be your knee-jerk reaction to solve this problem. 

And, in fairness, both of those “resolutions” are great. They may or may not be a pivotal part of your strategy for bringing in new talent. And it may work in the short-term. But does it impact the issue at hand? 

No. And no, that’s not the point of this article. 

Rather, we suggest that in order to combat the labor shortage crisis, you do something outside of your comfort zone. Rather than going on a frantic search for new talent, you put an increased focus on taking care of the employees you currently have. Simultaneously, you’ll also need to re-examine your individual process for screening new hires. 

If the best offense is a strong defense then we would argue that helping employees flourish within your company is more important than ever. Furthermore, we would argue that this actually starts at the beginning: with the interview process. This is precisely the reason why we say you shouldn’t hire based on traditional roles. Instead, ask candidates the problem the business wants to solve. Confused? Let us explain. 

Why You Don’t Hire Based on Traditional Roles

Think about the last time your company needed to fill an open position. As with many companies, you likely followed the typical hiring process. With that in mind, we bet your process looked something like the following: 

Step 1: Assess the company’s current job opening. Determine the salary and potential benefits package. 

Step 2: Write a job description. Create and post a job advertisement on one or more online job boards. This includes standard information, like a traditional job title, requirements, and qualifications. 

Step 3: Screen candidates. Many candidates won’t even make it past the initial application process due to a lack of required fields. Even more candidates won’t be called for an interview due to not checking off all of the boxes on their resumes. 

Step 4: Interview the final candidates. Potentially interview with a collaborative hiring team to gather varying opinions of each candidate. If not, meet with other key players in the company to decide which person answered the same typical “so, why do you think you’d suit this role?” interview questions the best. 

Step 5: Offer the job to the chosen individual. Send the other candidates packing. If you’re a decent employer, you may offer them feedback on their interview skills.  

Step 6: Begin the onboarding and training process, likely to last several months. Your new employee’s productivity won’t start for roughly six weeks into the role.

That’s a whole lot of time. 

In fact, these six steps could take 30 days or more. Plus, they could also use up company resources only to be repeated when another employee outgrows their current role and moves on to a new company. 

Consider that last part:

“…when another employee outgrows their current role and moves on to a new company”

And why do they feel like they have to leave your company in order to grow? Because they were hired based on traditional roles and responsibilities. As soon as they no longer fit in that box comfortably they start looking for a new company that would allow them to develop new skills. Essentially, their wings have been clipped the moment they’ve applied for the role. 

This sounds extreme, but the reality is extreme. There’s no movement for growth. When you consider that, the self-employment rate in the United States increased from 13.5 million in 2019 to 15.2 million in 2020. That’s an increase of 12.7%. 

But why do self-employment rates impact this article? Because, a large reason self-employed workers and freelancers launch their own businesses is down to not having a cap on their potential to grow. When they’re in charge of their own business, their roles are ever-evolving, and they’re seen as a human being rather than a job title. Being able to develop and move across multiple tasks on a daily basis provides massive job satisfaction, which isn’t always possible when you’re an employee.

Or isn’t it? 

Perhaps it’s not possible whilst we churn the wheels the way they’ve been spinning since the dawn of time. 

Perhaps we need to take a leaf out of the self employed community’s book. Because with ever increasing rates of self-employment and freelancing, the appeal is too extortionate to ignore. So, rather than seeing it competitively, why not learn something from the reasons someone chooses to leave the stability of full-time employment and risk everything to go solo? 

Consider also that, in the United States, the average company spends an average of $4,129 to fill a position. If not for the benefits of the individual applying for roles, consider your cost-per-hire.

Think about the internal and external costs you’re pouring into recruitment to fill a role that you will, in a few years, need to repeat all over again.

How many new hires did your company have last year? Suddenly those dollars are stacking up, and it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore. 

Are you starting to see the burden of hiring new employees? Don’t you wish there was a better way? 

Good News: There Is a Better Way

hire professionals

So, let’s look at that same hiring process but from a different angle. Let’s imagine that we still follow the same initial steps that we know and are comfortable with.

But then, let’s take a slight deviation for the better. Ready? Let’s go!

Step 1: Assess the company’s current job opening. Determine salary range and benefits package. 

Step 2: Create and post a job ad on one or more online job boards with a title that describes the company and the position it needs (no traditional roles mentioned). 

Step 3: Screen candidates based on non-negotiables but keep your mind open when it comes to specific qualifications and background experience. Non-negotiables may include availability and education/degrees. The best approach is by evaluating what you currently ask. Is it truly necessary, for example, to have 5+ years of marketing experience? Or would 3 years do just fine? 

Or, perhaps, so long as the candidates can demonstrate knowledge of how to cope with marketing problems and projects, experience isn’t strictly necessary? Instead of asking for experience, perhaps conducting an assessment of some type would be more engaging for the candidate and show you, as an employer, what their working style is. 

Step 4: Conduct interviews taking note of how the potential employee comes across and the chemistry they do or do not have with the present players. By approaching it in this way, you’re also catering to cultural-fit.

In short, cultural fit revolves around making sure the candidate gels with your company. It’s assessed with specifically designed questions that best represent the ethos and essence of the business. The results can demonstrate a candidate’s values, interpersonal skills, and their general working attitude. If it aligns with your company’s, you’re onto a winner. 

So, instead of asking ambiguous and typical interview questions, ask them how they would solve the problem your company is currently facing. Whether that’s “how would you create more ‘buzz’ around the company?” or something more specific, like “how would you capture more leads using our digital marketing?”

Of course, for this to work, you need to first identify your interview questions. But by making a conscious effort to hire based on the candidate rather than traditional roles, you’ll find your questions aren’t your standard “so, why did you want to become a teacher?” Gauge their reaction and their suggestions. 

Step 5: At this stage, you can compare and contrast the interviews you’ve conducted. This is the approach you’re used to, but you’ll be using different success criteria. With that, the result will be totally different. 

You’ll need to make a hiring decision based on the candidate’s problem-solving potential and the growth opportunities you envision for them at your company. Remember, we’re moving away from the wing-clipping technique. We’re stressing growth here, and freedom to fly to new heights for the good of the candidate and the business. 

Step 6: You’ve made it. Congratulations! Time to enjoy the benefits of hiring an employee that feels as though they can grow with your company as a loyal asset.

Not only does this approach show that your business truly appreciates their employees and wants to provide the best working environment for them, but you also will drastically increase your quality-of-hire metrics. It’s undeniable that a happy worker is a productive worker, and to provide happiness, you must also give them space to grow. This is the best outlook for all involved. 

Even if every candidate you’ve interviewed doesn’t rise to the occasion of solving the problem you present them, you may walk away with fresh ideas to explore. Plus, a new hire that begins their journey with you by feeling as if their opinion truly matters and that they have ownership in the application of their suggestion. Validating your candidates works wonders when recruiting, and this method of hiring brings validation in abundance.

Why You Should Try Hiring With the Candidate in Mind, Rather than Traditional Job Roles

If the previously mentioned benefits of this method aren’t enough to convince you to give it a try, don’t dismiss this recruiting approach yet. We’ve got more. So, let’s look at even more benefits of this hiring approach. 

In the past, when you’ve hired based on traditional roles — think of vacancies and roles like “secretary” — you were probably only able to view candidates through your “secretary glasses.” With these secretary-tinted glasses, you were looking for specific boxes to be checked and qualifications met or exceeded. This massively limited the range of candidates who could apply. But, no matter. You hired someone who ticked all those boxes. Therefore, the person you hired for the role was able to fulfill it dutifully. That’s all well and good. But then they wanted more. 

That lust for bigger and better roles, despite loving working in your company, left the employee with two options: wait for an internal role to crop up or leave to find a role that suited their aspirations. 

While there could be an internal role lurking around, the chances are that this employee will have to leave the business to find a role with added responsibility, variation in task, leadership potential, and a higher salary. 

Despite the employee being a firm cultural fit and being an asset to your company, they’ve had to leave because their growth means they simply can’t squeeze into that role anymore. Human beings are programmed to grow. We do it from the moment we exist. That doesn’t change just because you plonk them into a specific role. So, our employee has now outgrown it and needs more space to continue growing and reach their full potential.

A loss to the company, yes. But also, it means that you have to start this process all over again. And, now that you can spot the pattern, you know it’s only a matter of time before you’ll need to do it again, and again, and again. That eats into your time, money, and — let’s face it — it’s not a particularly enjoyable task. 

What if instead, you hired based on how the person would fit into your company given your current team, needs, and future plans? 

Now look, we’re not suggesting you completely disinclude a candidate’s education, background, job experiences, or qualifications. We know that these are important. For some roles, they’re pivotal, and we understand that. 

We’re simply suggesting that they aren’t considered the end-all and be-all for what you’re looking for in a candidate. Consider yourself, for example. You are more than examinations, degrees, and where you’ve worked. You’re also a human being with a strong set of skills that could be applied to a massive range of tasks. 

Give your employees and potential employees some room to breathe and stretch. It’s healthy for the employees, and you’ll be the main person to benefit as you develop loyal workers. Loyalty speaks volumes. Plus, they’re far more likely to rate you as a top employer. Think externally, too. Many consumers don’t enjoy giving money to a business that treats their employees like trash. You don’t want to end up on a list like this, which outlines the worst types of companies to work for. 

Remember, when all is said and done, a person’s ability to solve problems speaks more to their capabilities and character than previous experience or even a degree. Anyone can talk themselves into a job by rehearsing the same interview questions that can be copied and pasted across any and every industry. Interview preparation includes preempting questions and rehearsing an answer for each of them. 

Let’s be honest, we’ve all done that before a job interview. And does that give us a true indication of a candidate’s potential? No. They’re simply telling you what they think you want to hear.

Plus, a diploma is only really valuable if the student understands how to apply the new knowledge. The world evolves every day, meaning their baseline theory from a degree will aid with the foundation, but they need to be able to roll with the times. The best hire for your company is the person that can do this. The employee that comes with a fresh perspective and new ideas and the energy to implement them. That’s far more important than a tick-box piece of paper.  

The Current State of Employment

current state of employment

When deciding how major of a deal this is to you and your industry, you should look at the current state of employment. All it would take is one employee leaving your company to take a new position or retire for you to find yourself in the same sticky situation as other employers when it comes to finding quality new employees. 

Let’s look at some of the latest statistics for job openings and labor turnover put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

  • The number of job openings increased to 11 million as of 10/31/21. 
  • The largest increases were food services (+254,000); nondurable goods manufacturing (+45,000); and educational services (+42,000). 
  • The number of “discouraged” workers (those that believe no jobs are available for them) totaled 450,000.
  • Professional and business services added 90,000 jobs in November 2021. 
  • Contracting establishments lost 6.0 million jobs in the second quarter of

2021, an increase of 642,000 jobs from the prior quarter.

As you can see, the employment crisis is still present and is worsening in many industries. The statistics are proving that there’s a problem with our narrative and approach. While this means there are plenty of applicants looking for placement, it also means there are plenty of misfits that you’ll have to sift through all while racing against other employers to find the best candidates. 

Every day that you have an open vacancy, you’re competing against other companies, and by hiring based on traditional roles, you’re likely eliminating some strong assets to your business. 

Building Your Company’s Future Through Recruitment Changes

Some of the most successful companies have become known for the work culture that they’ve created. Their employees enjoy benefits that go far beyond insurance and salaries. 

While this was one of the biggest indicators of a ‘good’ employer a few years back, the working world is changing and evolving. So, meeting the psychological and social needs of employees is one of the most sought-after factors when looking for a new role. 

Not only that, employees who are encouraged to take part in continued education and professional development ranks high on their priority list. Why? Because the world is thirsty for evolution and growth. People want to constantly expand their knowledge and skill sets to be as strong an employee as possible.

The key thing to remember is that there isn’t a limit for development. Humans don’t have a certain “level” that cannot be increased. There is constant growth available, as the world (and the problems in it), are changing on a daily basis. 

Many business owners may scoff at this notion, thinking that by doing so the employers are training their current employees to always be on the lookout for the next and greatest thing when it comes to the place of employment. However, most of these companies have noticed that employees become more loyal, choosing to stay and grow with the business instead of looking for new opportunities externally. 

By approaching new hires with this mindset in place and asking them to solve a problem before they even begin the onboarding process, you’re proactively building your company’s future. You’re finding employees that will be in it for the long haul instead of clipping their wings and adding a time-limit on their employment with your business. Allow your candidates stretch, and when they become employees, you’ll nurture them in flight. 

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