Successful Hiring Requires Vision and Focus

By Gary Clayton

Who you hire says volumes about how effectively you use your leadership skills. Unfortunately, what I’ve seen in many companies suggests that hiring the right people is not viewed as important. Far too often, the leader’s primary focus is on controlling cost. There seems to be little recognition that hiring the right employees can maximize bottom-line benefits and build a solid platform for future profitable growth. One way to maximize your probability of success in hiring new employees is to hired based upon your vision and mission.

Hire people who will fit into your culture

One of the key goals of leadership is to build a consistent culture within your organization. Yet often I see otherwise very successful business owners hire employees who don’t stand a chance of succeeding in the company, just because they fit a list of skills – and are inexpensive. Remember that leadership is the art of getting someone else to do what you want done because he wants to do it. That means there is a relationship between you and the employee that goes beyond “me boss, you employee”. When there is a strong leadership culture in place, everyone knows how the leader-follower and manager-employee relationships are going to work. Hire employees who will not have to be trained in the soft-side of your organization. If they are reasonably smart, they can fill in the gaps in needed business skills.

Hire people who buy into your vision

Your vision is the ideal future state you want to achieve. Why would you hire someone who doesn’t buy into to what you want to achieve? What happens when you request a proposal for goods or services from someone who is not interested doing what you want? Sometimes, they say, “No”, but most often they simply raise the price of their bid – or say they can deliver it later than when you need it. Similarly, an employee or a prospective employee is likely to go along with your request – but do it half heartedly. That could mean slower or at a lower level of quality than you need Why would you want to set yourself up for that? Hire employees who can demonstrate they understand and support your vision.

Hire people to accomplish a mission

I doubt you would hire someone unless you have a goal in mind, something that needs to be accomplished this year or next: something that will take you closer to achieving your vision. Missions, like visions, don’t have to be some lofty ideal. They can be quite practical, like bringing a new product to market or opening a new store. When planning to hire someone, think in terms of the mission that person will have for the next 12 to 18 months in terms of what the person will complete that will indentify how successful he or she has been in moving your dream forward. Hire someone who shows enthusiasm in accomplishing that mission and who can tell you how his or her skills will help accomplish that mission.

Stay focused and authentic

Stay focused during all aspects of the employee search process. Stick to looking for someone that meets your real requirements. Be authentic. DON’T resort to trick questions or fake requirements. Those will simply undermine your attempts to build an effective team.

Let’s face it: trick questions don’t really tell you anything about how someone will perform on the job. In fact, trick questions suggest to the job applicant that you don’t know how to stay focused on your own agenda. Would you ask a prospective vendor a question that had nothing to do with the job hand – and expect a serious answer? Of course not. What would you think of a prospective customer who asked you a totally non-relevant question?

Probably the worst thing to put in a job description are fake requirements. I’ve seen this done even by large corporations. Here is an example: a pharmaceutical company issued a job description that required the applicant to have seven years of experience with a particular technology. I asked the VP-IS how this could be, as the technology had only been available for about four years. He said the HR department had demanded more experience so fewer resumes would pass the screening process. That set me up to ask two more questions: (a) was he or the HR department bothered by the fact the requirement made the company appear ignorant of the age of the technology, and (b) was he willing to interview people who had proved they were willing to lie to get a job interview?

One company that has takes its vision and mission seriously in its hiring practices is Starbucks. Here is one of its key principles, drawn from its corporate mission webpage:

Our Customers
When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers— even if just for a few moments. Sure, it starts with the promise of a perfectly made beverage, but our work goes far beyond that. It’s really about human connection.

These principles make abundantly clear what Starbucks expects of itself and every employee. When the real requirements are this clear, it is much easier to hire successfully.


Our Starbucks Mission. Retrieved on June 13, 2009 at http://www.starbucks.com/mission/default.asp.

Gary Clayton has assisted both small and large companies in interviewing employee candidates. Gary provides leadership coaching services to leaders and those who wish to become leaders in business and life.

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Categories : Qualities & Skills