The Purposeful Hiring Toolkit

Hiring experiences can be daunting, whether you’re the one doing the hiring or the one looking for a job.

When we talk to people about this topic, they describe it as being “difficult,” “complicated,” “uncertain,” and even “broken.”

Photo by Ciripasca/iStock / Getty Images

It’s especially challenging for startups and small businesses, where the need to scale staff can be immediate and overwhelming. Are you just looking for people to get a job done, or those who will shape the future of your organization? (We would argue that any hire, whether it’s full-time, part-time, or an intern, will have an impact on your small business.)

And most important, how will you know you’ve hired the right people?

Moving from reactive to purposeful

When things are moving fast, or a team is wearing multiple hats, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “reactive” hiring.

The problem with reactive hiring is that you tend to make things up as you go along; cobbling together a quick job description, relying on your gut in the interview process, and likely not having a clear plan as to how you will measure on-going success once that person is hired.

What we have found, is that being reactive can also create unintended inconsistencies that erode employee engagement, productivity, and even your company culture. You screen for one thing during the hiring process (like empathy), but measure something different in an annual review (like sales). Assumptions are made, needs change, and communications break down.

Being purposeful, on the other hand, helps you shape a clearer people strategy:

  • It ensures that what you screen for during the hiring process also informs how you will measure success through annual reviews or personal development plans.
  • It allows you to develop simple criteria that both you and your employees can use to evaluate day-to-day success.
  • And most important, it helps you identify potential tensions that may impede growth (like jamming too many different activities under one job title).

If you only had an hour…

So how might time-starved, resource-lean startups and small businesses become more purposeful with their hiring?

Our goal was to develop a simple, flexible toolkit that would help an owner or leader start to collect their thoughts; something that could be completed over the course of a lunch hour.

It’s intended to be a leaping off point; just enough to shape a purposeful strategy that informs the creation of a job description, interview criteria and measures of success once the new employee is hired.

The Purposeful Hiring Toolkit offers a series of questions and activities that are fairly common sense, but often get fuzzy or lost when you’re in “reactive” mode. It helps you clarify your vision for a role and how it supports the mission of your company, frame the specific needs of the role, and identify measures of success. It also challenges you to be honest about what you need, where you’re willing to be flexible, and how certain decisions may impact your company both short- and long-term.

Early outcomes

Ultimately, a thoughtful and sustainable people strategy takes more than a lunch hour to shape, but feedback to the toolkit has been very positive.

And perhaps the most interesting outcome (although not terribly surprising) is that what small businesses and startups are seeking to understand about candidates can’t be easily discerned from a resume or cover letter.

So, is there a better way to start the hiring conversation? (More on that in a future post.)

We’re continuing to iterate The Purposeful Hiring Toolkit as we work with small businesses, but please contact us if you are interested in learning more.