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Flexibility in Staffing – Give Yourself Wiggle Room

Almost always, I advocate precision in hiring: Specify the critical results (in the form of SMART objectives) you want from a candidate, and hire someone who can deliver those results. This usually creates a job profile with very narrow parameters, and as recruiters, we aim to hit the bullseye.

Recently, we’ve had a client situation that calls for greater flexibility. An entrepreneurial company is replacing one senior executive with two people. To protect their confidentiality, I won’t state the exact functions, but the current person’s job can be clearly divided into two functional disciplines. Because the company is still growing and evolving, it is possible that a successful candidate could be found for each of these roles at different levels of experience. In fact, a couple of the key responsibilities could easily slide from one position to the other.
This employer is fortunate to be able to have this level of freedom in hiring, and it is really only happening because they have two slots to fill at the same time.

We never advocate changing a job description to fit a particular candidate. We say don’t hire around people, hire people to fit the specific slot – round pegs for round holes. In this situation, we can take a view of the whole system – in other words, the sum will be equal to more than the parts (each individual job), because strong top performing people in these roles will cover the whole set of key functions. I’ve written before about constructing a skills matrix, where you ensure that all the key functions are covered by a team. One person could be seasoned, another greener, as long as they cover all the objectives. A key ingredient will be to ensure that all new hires fit well into the management team, and can operate with credibility as peers with current senior execs.

When appropriate, a systemic approach – looking at how all the critical objectives are executed by a team – can pay off, if you hire excellent people no matter what level. I learned to be flexible to fit my client’s needs in this situation, and perhaps the same attitude can help others recruiting for multiple roles.