Sometimes You Should Choose An Athlete

By Paul F. Taccini

Invariably in business we are faced with the need to fill open staff positions.  Employees are promoted, demoted, reassigned or choose to leave.  When this occurs, there are a variety of options open to us.  Like anything else, filling an open position is a process to be followed whether you are working with a Human Resources department of filling the position on your own.

Where to Start

One of the first things to be done is to review the departmental organization. Does it need to be improved?  Next, check the current position description if one exists.  Determine whether it accurately describes what the job should be, not what is currently being done.  If a job description doesn’t exist, create one.  In many companies, a position requisition would now be forwarded to Human Resources, detailing the key requirements for the position and might cover some unique, desirable attributes.  Before meeting with any applicants, carefully prepare the criterion which will be used to compare candidates.  You are now at one of the more critical points in recruiting.  Are you looking for a trained performer or an athlete?

Things to Consider

There are many reasons why you may be inclined to hire a trained performer.  These individuals can step in and begin to be productive faster.  Their learning curve will be shorter as they only need to gain an understanding of the company and its practices.  And, there are times when this is the only option.  It may be the easiest and most expeditious solution, but in the long term it isn’t always the best.

If you have the luxury of time and some flexibility, I suggest that you look for an athlete.  These are individuals who have all the basic qualifications but might not have the specific experience you have outlined.  Depending on the position level, they might even be relatively recent graduates.  In this instance you are looking for potential, for someone who can grow far beyond this position.  Be open to the possibilities.

In a Past Life

In a past life, I was responsible for assembling a product management group where none existed.  To do this, I had to define the structure, the position descriptions, and find two individuals to fit the newly identified roles.  One individual was already on board but filling a different role.  The other position would be filled by an outside candidate.  Human Resources presented several individuals who fit the requirements.  It was fairly easy the choose a trained product manager, but I was presented with a unique opportunity.  One of the resumes received was from a recent business school grad.  He had an excellent background, scholastic record and some interesting attributes.  We just couldn’t let this person get away.  We rearranged the two product responsibilities into three groups.  We hired this individual to manage the smallest group.  After gaining comfort with his new assignment, he became the most creative and successful manager in the group.  His career has been a series of successes.

Hiring the athlete carries more risk and isn’t for every situation but if the opportunity presents itself, consider hiring the athlete!

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