Don’t Hire Based on Job Title — Hire Based on Business Strategy

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In today’s business environment, where millions of open positions remain unfilled and labor shortages abound, hiring right is more critical than ever. Yet, many organizations are woefully shortsighted in their hiring decisions, ignoring the very business strategies that differentiate their companies in a competitive market. Hiring is so much more than just filling empty seats, and hiring strategically often spells the difference between a thriving business and a stagnant one.

Organizations have similar goals — generating revenue, increasing profitability, gaining market share, etc. Yet the means by which they achieve those goals — product innovation, process efficiencies, cost-cutting, entering new geographical markets, marketing strategy, or pricing methodologies — vary tremendously. Even those that choose similar broader strategies will vary greatly in their application. For example, Apple innovates products as a technology leader, whereas Target innovates processes to enhance the customer experience.

Business strategies heavily impact an organization’s ability to differentiate in the market. Logically, the hiring strategy should be in service to that overarching business strategy. When you look across the hiring landscape, however, you don’t often see organizations hiring through this lens. You see the same tired job descriptions and processes, focusing almost exclusively on job characteristics rather than the characteristics people in these roles must possess to execute the aforementioned strategies.

Look at just about any job description, and the characteristics desired for successful candidates will be virtually identical across every open position with the same job title. However, these positions can vary tremendously when you look at the characteristics needed in the role.

Imagine a retailer hiring store managers. The job title across 1,000 stores and the related job description will likely be identical. However, the job itself will vary tremendously based on whether that location is a startup, a turnaround, or a mature location. This is important because managing a location is not just a matter of stocking shelves; it’s a matter of fine-tuning and squeezing out every ounce of efficiency (in a mature location), or embracing innovation and new approaches (in a startup), or dramatically changing the culture and dealing with highly complex people issues (in a turnaround). Department managers must live and breathe these strategies, executing on them across their teams. Team members must also consistently act in a manner that is aligned with these strategies, lest the operation fails. At every level and virtually every role, successful execution of the business strategies that drive revenue and profitability are influenced — for better or worse — by the degree to which employees’ capabilities and motivations are aligned with them. Isn’t it time our hiring processes reflected this critical need?

A Model for Hiring Based on Business Strategy

HR leaders need a true partnership with organizational leaders because they are in one of the best positions to influence the future success of the business. Business strategies should lead to a discussion about the roles that need to exist — and the characteristics people in those roles must possess to execute those strategies.

Looking to drive repeat business? Hire call center reps who put customer service above upselling at every turn. Your marketing strategy positions you as a valued business partner to your clients? Hire for consultative sales ability rather than transactional skills. Obvious examples like these are readily apparent once you start thinking about aligning positions and the characteristics required to execute business strategy.

Business strategy should drive position identification and the characteristics needed for success in a role. This leads the way to choosing the right diagnostics — tests and interviews — to determine the degree to which candidates have the ability to execute on those strategies vis-à-vis their roles. Assessment results are then used to identify strengths on which to capitalize and gaps to bridge through development.

Both tests and interviews have a place in this process. Higher-volume roles require quick, engaging online tests, as businesses need an objective and efficient means to quickly identify those candidates most likely to succeed in executing the strategies of the business specific to their role. Assessments can meaningfully improve time to hire, enhance quality of hire, and increase tenure, creating an upward spiral of talent within your organization. Leveraging assessments to identify strengths and development opportunities for new hires adds further value by reducing the learning curve and positioning new hires in the roles where their natural strengths afford them the greatest potential for success.

Once you’ve identified those candidates most likely to succeed in the role, the interview is your chance to delve deeper into how candidates’ strengths and motivations align with the strategies of the business with regard to their potential role. Most hiring managers want a chance to meet the people who will work with them, and most candidates want the chance to meet their potential teams. Interviewing is an important and natural way to begin the relationship and assess fit for the role.

The aforementioned shift from hiring based on job title to hiring based on one’s ability to execute on business strategy is an opportunity many companies miss. In retrospect, it may even appear obvious. But are you doing it? Maybe now is the time to start.

Brad Schneider is vice president of strategic consulting at Criteria and president of the LA Chapter for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

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Brad Schneider, PhD, is the VP of strategic consulting at Criteria, an assessment company dedicated to helping organizations make better talent decisions using objective, multidimensional data. He leads many of Criteria's product development, R&D, and consulting initiatives to provide clients with leading-edge solutions that drive meaningful and measurable results. Brad's 25 years of assessment experience include leadership and consulting positions with global consulting firms, Fortune 100 organizations, and government agencies. In addition to leading assessment initiatives across more than 400 clients in virtually all industries, Brad has designed innovative assessment offerings (tests, interviews, simulations, job analysis methodologies) leveraged by more than 200 organizations worldwide and translated into eight languages. He recently became the president of the LA Chapter for Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Brad holds a PhD and MS in industrial and organizational psychology from Florida International University, an MA in applied psychology from the University of Tulsa, and a BA in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.