Tag Archives: role description

Where Management Trouble Begins

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
In your workshop last week, you stressed the importance of a role description. To be honest, we don’t really have time to write them. We either use an old version from HR, get something off the internet, or use our posting from Craig’s List.

Response:
And, that’s where the trouble begins. The reason we have so much difficulty with issues related to motivation and management is that we don’t accurately define the work. The role description is the cornerstone document –

  • Defines the work, the outputs, the expectations in the role.
  • Organizes the bank of interview questions.
  • Creates the basis for behavioral interview questions.
  • Structures the decision making process for selecting from the candidate pool.
  • Structures the monthly (or more frequent) 1-1 conversation between the team member and the manager.
  • Structures a performance improvement plan, when necessary.
  • Provides grounds for termination, when necessary.

It’s all about the work. Our problems begin when we don’t accurately define the work. What are the decisions to be made, problems to be solved in the role?

Culture as an Accountability

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
Is culture a Key Result Area (KRA) in a role description?

Response:
Over the past several years, I have come to the conclusion – Yes.

Here are the four absolutes identified by Elliott Jaques required for success (effectiveness) in any role.

  • Capability (time span)
  • Skill (technical knowledge, practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion (value for the work)
  • Required behaviors (contracted behaviors, habits, culture)

Culture is that unwritten set of rules (based on our beliefs and assumptions) that governs the required behaviors in the work that we do together.

While culture impacts everyone in the organization, I find it is a managerial accountability related to setting context. Context is culture, culture is context.

I look for several things from a manager.

  • Awareness of the company’s culture.
  • Ability to communicate the company’s culture in stories and examples.
  • Model behaviors that support the company’s culture.
  • Observe behaviors in others and where appropriate, provide coaching, when necessary, corrective action.
  • Participate in the on-going definition of the company’s culture.

Here is what it looks like in a role description –
Key Result Area (KRA) – Culture
As a member of the management team, the manager will understand and be conversant in the company’s mission, vision and values related to culture.

Accountability – the manager will be accountable for effectively communicating the company’s mission, vision and values. This will include the telling of stories and examples of connected behaviors that support the company’s culture. The manager will be an effective model of those behaviors that support the company’s culture. The manager will be attentive to the behavior of other managers and staff in accordance with the company’s mission, vision and values. The manager will be accountable for coaching, and, where appropriate, taking corrective action. The manager will actively participate in meetings regarding the definition and maintenance of the company’s mission, vision and values, providing constructive input to the definition of the company’s culture.

Send Interview Questions in Advance?

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
When interviewing for a specific role, is there any benefit to sending at least some of the core interview questions to the candidates prior to the interview so they can be better prepared to provide the specific work examples we are interviewing for?

Response:
What’s the purpose? Every element of the interview protocol must have a purpose. No purpose, don’t do it.

My primary purpose in an interview is to gather truthful data points surrounding the critical role requirements identified in the role description. I connect the dots with data points (step me through the process). I connect to the truth through details and repetitive patterns of response (give me another example).

I hesitate to send interview questions in advance because I am not interested in a story, I am interested in details. Sending the questions, in advance, allows time to create a story with fabricated details. I am not interested in the enhanced resume or exaggerated detail.

I would send the role description. What’s the purpose? The job posting and the role description (two different documents) exist to attract qualified candidates. I need candidates. The job posting creates my candidate pool. The role description self-disqualifies people in the candidate pool.

I want the candidate to look at the role description and say one of two things –

  • I did that.
  • I have no idea how to do that.

I will find out the details in the interview. I will see the patterns in the interview. -Tom

The Role Description is a Design Task

“There’s more?” Ben thought our conversation about role descriptions was finished. “What do you mean next step?”

“What do you think a role description is for?” I asked.

“So the person I hire knows what to do,” Ben curtly replied.

“That’s nice, but not even close,” I paused. “You haven’t hired the person, yet. So, what is the purpose of the role description? Here is a hint. It’s all about you.”

“Me? It’s not my role description.”

“No, but you are the manager. You decide what tasks need to be completed, the appropriate time it will take to complete the tasks, and the effectiveness of the person in the role. Without the role description, you have no idea how to make those decisions. Without the role description, it’s just a noodle mess in your head, a disorganized list of tasks and vague accountabilities. The first purpose for a role description is for you to organize your thinking about the role.”

“And the second purpose?”

“You are about to walk into an interview. Without the role description, you don’t know what questions to ask,” I challenged.

How Many Questions to Ask in an Interview

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:

Yesterday, you talked about how we could evaluate the capability of a team member related to the work.  Your focus was all about the work, calibrating the level of work in the role.  But your evaluation appears to depend on observation of actual work output.  I get it.  But how do we evaluate capability in non-employees, candidates we are interviewing for roles.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of observation.  We get to ask them questions.  That’s it.  How do we evaluate capability?

Response:

Interviewing candidates and gathering clues on their capability is certainly more difficult than observing team members in actual work output (applied capability).  But the platform is the same, we just have to capture our clues in a different way.

It’s all about the work.  It’s still all about the work.  With internal team members, calibrating capability requires an accurate definition of the work, an accurate definition of the stratum level of work.  In a candidate interview, the cornerstone document is still the role description.

The role description should be organized into Key Result Areas, those tasks and activities that go together, grouped together.  And those tasks and activities that don’t go together, separated from each other.  Most roles have between 5-8 Key Result Areas (KRAs).  This is where the work, the level of work gets clearly defined.

In each KRA, my discipline is to create ten written questions about the work, decisions to be made and problems to be solved in the role.  If you have five KRAs, you will have 50 written questions.  If the role contains eight KRAs, you will have 80 written questions.

And the questions are all about the work.

For every written question that you ask, I expect you to ask two drill down questions.  So, if you have 50 written questions, at the end of the interview, you will have asked 150 questions, all about the work.

In the course of your previous interviews, it is unlikely you have ever asked 150 specific questions about the work contained in the defined role.  If you had, you would have a very clear idea about the candidates capability related to the work, the candidate’s capability related to the level of work.

It’s all about the work.

Fourth Biggest Mistake in Hiring

My conversation with Graham about their hiring protocol was getting serious. “So, you don’t have a role description to guide you, how do you know what to ask about during the interview?” I prodded.

“Well, I spend most of my time going through the resume, but I do have some questions prepared. It’s actually a list of questions I have been using since I worked at my old company,” Graham explained.

“How many questions?”

“Seven,” he replied.

“Let me see the list,” I insisted.

“Oh, I don’t have them written down, just have them in my head.”

“Okay, what are they?”

“Let’s see,” Graham started. “Where do you see yourself in five years? I always ask that question. And I usually make up a problem to see how they would solve it.”

“So, that is two questions, not seven,” I counted.

Graham shifted in his chair. “Well, maybe I don’t have seven questions ready to go at the beginning of the interview, but I am pretty good at making up questions as I go along.”

“Graham, what would be different if you had several written questions, for each of the Key Result Areas in the role description?”

“That would be great, if we could find the role description. HR said they would get me one by the end of the week.”
_______

Take the course, Hiring Talent. It’s online. Buy the book, Hiring Talent.

Third Biggest Mistake in Hiring

“Let me see the role description?” I asked. Graham shuffled through some papers and finally came up with a page printed off the internet.

“This is what we posted on the job board,” he grinned, proud that he could locate the piece of paper.

“This is a job posting, not the role description. Where is the role description?” I pressed.

“Well, I was waiting to get the role description from HR, but they are kind of backed up. They said something about health insurance renewals, whatever. But they looked in the file and this is what they pulled out,” Graham defended.

“But this is not a role description. This talks more about the company exceeding the expectations of its customers than it does about the work in the role. How do you expect to conduct a proper interview, and gather the data you need to make the hiring decision?”

“I know, I know. That’s why I use the resume to conduct my interview.” Graham nodded his head, feeling justified.

“What would happen if you re-scheduled all your interviews until after you write the role description?”

“What? I can’t do that. I promised to have someone hired by this Friday,” he protested.

“So, by this Friday, you are driven to hire someone, even if it’s not the right person, someone who will ultimately fail to meet the critical role requirements?”

“Yeah, you never know if someone is going to work out until they have been in the job for a few weeks.”

“So, what would it take, to find out enough about the person, related to the work, so that you have high confidence in their capability, on their first day?”

Second Biggest Mistake in Hiring

“I kind of like this guy,” Graham stated confidently. “I know it’s the first interview, but he sounded sharp.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Impressive resume, and he was well-prepared. He had an answer to every question about his work experience.”

“Almost like he practiced before you got in the room?” I smiled.

“If you mean prepared, yes,” Graham defended. “He had a specific story for every question I asked.”

“What was the piece of paper you held in your hand during the entire interview?”

Graham sat back. “His resume, of course. I always have the resume in front of me.”

“And what about the role description? Did you have a copy of the role description in the room?”

“Yes, we have a role description, but the interview is about the candidate. I find the resume is more helpful than the role description, to explore their work history.”

“So, let me get this straight,” I nodded, “the candidate seemed sharp, he had a very specific story for every question you asked about the work history on his resume?”

Graham nodded with me. “Yes.”

“And every question you asked, was based on the resume submitted by the candidate? The central piece of paper in your hand during your interview was the resume?”

Graham continued to nod.

“So, now that the interview is over, when do you intend to ask questions related to the role description you prepared?”

Not Part of My Job

“It happened again,” Ted explained. “I told myself that the next time we needed to hire someone, I would be prepared for the interview.”

“And?” I asked.

“Scott came down the hallway. He said the candidate had talked to four other people and everyone liked him. I didn’t even know we had interviews scheduled. He asked if I had fifteen minutes to talk to the candidate, just to see if I liked him, too. Funny, I liked him, too.”

“So, what’s the problem?” I pursued.

“Everyone liked him, but here we are, two months down the road and I find out he doesn’t have any experience in one of the most critical parts of the job. He just told me point blank that he has never done this before. Worst part, he tells me he doesn’t even see that as part of his job. If we need that done, he suggests we hire an expert or a consultant to help out.

“Just what we need, another consultant, because we failed to conduct a proper interview.”

It’s More Than Reading the Resume

Kristen gazed at the job posting from Monster. “Can I use the job posting as a start for the job description?”

“You can, but only as a start,” I replied. “Even most job descriptions aren’t very useful because they are poorly written. Before we actually write the job description, let’s talk about its purpose. It will help us construct something that is actually helpful.”

“Well, the main thing is to have something to give the candidate, so they know what job they are applying for,” Kristen smiled.

“Like I said, that’s a start. Specifically, what’s the benefit to you, as a Manager?”

“So, I have something to talk about in the interview?” Kristen floated.

“Does it help you, as the Manager, understand the kind of person you are looking for?”

“Yes, but don’t I get that from the resume?”

“Only half. You only get the right candidates when the resume and the job description match. That’s why you can’t make a selection, just by reading resumes.”

“So, the benefit to me, as a Manager, is that I will know when I have a match.”

“That’s one purpose. How else is the job description helpful?”