Tag Archives: role description

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?”

Make the Offer Without Due Diligence

“So, let’s call her right now, offer her the position, straight away,” I suggested.

“But, you haven’t even read the profile,” Kristen protested. Even she could see the absurdity of making an offer before proper due diligence.

“I don’t need to read the profile,” I replied, pressing the absurdity.

“But if you don’t read the profile, how can you know if this person will be able to do the job?”

“Excellent question. How can we know if this person will be able to do the job if we don’t have a role description to help us read the profile?”

“Well, we have the job posting.”

“Kristen, I read the job posting. There is more on company benefits than there is on expectations. It appears to me that you are trying to shortcut the work required in this hiring process.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to do the work, I just don’t have the time. I have a lot of other important things I need to be doing,” Kristen insisted. “Writing a role description takes a lot of time, and I am sure HR has one that is pretty close.”

“It’s not that you don’t have the time. You have as much time as you need. It’s just not a high enough priority.”

Before You Look at the Profile

“I think we have a good candidate, here,” explained Kristen. “Profile looks great. I think it’s exactly what we are looking for. Let me show you.”

“The profile assessment, the one about dominance, influence, sociability and compliance behavior?” I replied.

“Yes, the profile looks great,” she repeated.

“Before I see the profile, can I look at the role description?”

Kristen stopped, a puzzled look on her face. “Yes, the role description. I know we have one, but, it must be in my office. Here, you can look at the profile while I go see if I can find it.”

“Tell you what? Why don’t you go see if you can find it, while I go get a cup of coffee.”

“You don’t want to see the profile? This looks like a really good candidate.” she urged.

“Not really, not yet.”
Orientation for our next online program, Hiring Talent begins next Monday. For more information and pre-registration, follow this link – Hiring Talent.

Two Ads Running and 400 Resumes

“What do you mean, I haven’t focused on it,” Ethan protested. “I spend a lot of time, in between projects, thinking about hiring for this position. I have two ads running right now. Believe it, or not, we’ve had more than 400 responses.”

“Congratulations, on getting responses to your ad,” I replied. “Almost like getting email spam?”

“You got that right!” Ethan chuckled.

“Look, it’s easy to get resumes,” I continued, “but focus on hiring talent takes more than a bunch of resumes. Let me see the role description.”

“We haven’t written that, yet,” Ethan squirmed. “We wrote the ad, and we will write the job description before we actually hire the person. We just want to make sure we have a good fit, before we commit too much in writing.”

“Oh, really?”

“Of course. I mean, you never know who we are going to extend the offer to, and who, in the end, will accept the position. If it’s somebody good, we may want to upgrade the job description.”

“So, you have no clue, who you really need in the role, related to skill set, or time-span capability?”

It’s Not Micro-Management

“As the manager-once-removed, what else am I responsible for in this hiring process?” Byron asked.

“Since this hire is two Strata below, and as the manager of the hiring manager, you are the coach,” I replied.

“Coach?” Byron questioned.

“Yes, coach. How good is Ron at hiring?”

“Well, he doesn’t have that much experience with it, but he has hired people before. I always hope he does a good job, but, I don’t want to micro-manage him.”

“It is not micro-management to sit down with Ron and hammer out the role description. I mean a real role description, one that you can interview from. It’s not micro-management to sit down with Ron and talk about creating a list of 50-60 critical questions that need to be asked during the interview. You are the coach. This is your process to drive. Delegation is not abdication.”

Over Promoted

Whirlwind last week between Wash DC and my hometown, Austin, TX. I would like to welcome our new subscribers from those Time Span workshops.

From the Ask Tom mailbag:


Okay, the workshop opened my eyes. I now understand why one of my managers is failing. I promoted them to a position that is beyond their capability. Training hasn’t worked, coaching hasn’t worked. How do you demote someone who has been overpromoted?


First, you have to realize who made the mistake. And it’s NOT the person who was placed in the role beyond their capability. It’s the manager. My guess, it’s you.

The biggest mistake most managers make is underestimating the Level of Work in the role. One reason is that most managers don’t sit down and think about what is really required in terms of Time Span capability.

That said, your question is how to fix it. First, you have to take responsibility for the underperformance. Own up to your mistake.

This inevitable conversation will be difficult. Difficult to talk about, difficult for the other person to accept. Effective completion of work is tied into our self-concept and our emotions. It feels good when we are effective. It feels bad when we are not effective.

The focus of the conversation has to be on the work. Focus on the work, not the person. The underperformance does not make them a bad person, it simply reveals capability related to the Level of Work in the role.

Discuss specifically about how the two of you intend to re-design the role so that the task assignments are within the demonstrated Applied Capability of the team member.

Embedded in your question is the unspoken issues of job title and compensation. Don’t mince words. Your job titles should be consistent across your organization and indicate Level of Work. Failure to maintain consistency causes confusion of expectations for everyone. Compensation may have to be readjusted if you, as the Manager, have made a gross error in judgment. For the most part, I find compensation errors are minor. You might be a pay band off, and if that’s they case, suck it up. A person’s capability increases over time. Eventually they should catch up. You may have to defer a raise period or two while that happens, but remember, you made the mistake.

Let us know how this turns out.

Identifying KRAs – Quick Exercise

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Okay, you sold me on the importance of writing better Role Descriptions. In your workshop last week, you referred to Key Result Areas several times as part of the Role Description. I am curious about how you establish KRAs.

Indeed, Key Result Areas are the framework of the Role Description. When you took English Composition in high school, your teacher always told you, before you write your paper, you should always write the outline. (No one ever did it, but that’s another story.)

Identifying the Key Result Areas (KRAs) in a role is like writing the outline. For every role, there are between 4-8 Key Result Areas, depending on the complexity of the role.

For the Role of Plant Floor Supervisor, here are typical KRAs

  • Raw Material Inventory
  • Personnel Scheduling
  • Equipment Scheduling
  • Production Output
  • Production Output Counting and Reporting
  • Equipment Maintenance

But your question is “how” to identify these Key Result Areas? Here’s a simple exercise. Take a sticky note pad and on each note, write down one task related to the role. Don’t stop until you have at least 50 sticky notes, more if you want.

Now, look at the sticky notes and figure out which ones go together. Put them in groups. You will likely identify 4-8 groups. Once you have all the sticky notes divided into groups, give each group a name, like the names above. Those are your Key Result Areas.

Here is how they work in the context of a Role Description –

Role Description
Role Title –
Purpose for the Role –

Key Result Area #1
–Task and Activities
–Level of Work
–Accountability (Goal)

Key Result Area #2
–Task and Activities
–Level of Work
–Accountability (Goal)

Key Result Area #3
–Task and Activities
–Level of Work
–Accountability (Goal)

Key Result Area #4
–Task and Activities
–Level of Work
–Accountability (Goal)

Key Result Area #5
–Task and Activities
–Level of Work
–Accountability (Goal)

If you would like an template for this Role Description, in MS-Word, just Ask Tom and I will send you one.

Fatal Decision in the First Three Minutes

This is the third in our series, Six Sins in the Hiring Interview.

  • Missing important (and obvious) clues during the interview
  • Head trash, the distraction of the stereotype in the back of your head
  • The fatal decision in the first three minutes of the interview
  • Losing control, losing your head, losing your wallet
  • Asking the wrong (stupid) interview questions
  • Getting beat in the paint

This series is a prelude to our Hiring Talent Summer Camp.

The Fatal Decision in the First Three Minutes
The iris of the eye opens and she knows she is in love. No matter that he is a drunk, a cheat and a thief. This chemical attraction is a non-verbal response that is as damaging to the resulting marriage as it is in the interview room.

  • “I liked that candidate as soon as I saw him. Reminded me of an old college roommate of mine. Smart guy. This candidate must be smart too.”
  • “I made up my mind in the first three minutes. Sometimes, you just know!”
  • “Normally, I would reject a candidate without experience, but there was something I noticed as soon as we sat down.”
  • “I don’t know why we have to interview the person for an hour. My mind was made up in the first three minutes.”

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Works both ways. How often do we make up our mind about someone in the first few moments of the interaction? What kind of damage could that do to the hiring process?

It’s actually okay to have a first impression, just not okay to make a hiring decision based on it. It’s all about the work. What’s the Level of Work? How is the work organized? What problems have to be solved? What decisions have to be made? These are the questions that balance your first impression.

Our Hiring Talent Summer Camp begins next Monday, June 18, 2012. It’s online, and you will have several chances to make that first impression.