Ukraine President Zelenskyy And The Hiring Lesson For All

KYIV,UKRAINE – MARCH 3: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a press conference for … [+] selected media at his official residence the Maryinsky Palace on March 3,2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo by Laurent Van der Stockt for Le Monde/Getty Images)

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Together with the rest of the world, I have watched with awe and dismay as the people of Ukraine fight for their lives and the land they love and hold so dearly. Apart from the tragedy of the situation, many lessons are to be learned, most of which concern geopolitics, foreign policy, history, demographics, and the like. Yet another type of lesson is beneficial to acknowledge and absorb.

The leadership demonstrated by President Zelenskyy is unequivocal. He has remained strong and resolute despite unimaginable challenges. He has immersed himself in the difficulties of his people, and this has had immeasurable positive effects. As has been written about so often since the Russian invasion, Zelenskyy’s leadership and fortitude have been incredibly inspiring, albeit somewhat unexpected. Unexpected because Zelenskyy is such a new political leader. He was elected President of Ukraine less than three years ago. Unexpected because before this Zelenskyy was a Comedian and a Producer of movies and television shows.

Turning back to what feels somewhat mundane in comparison, recruitment and hiring discussions would benefit significantly by acknowledging the story and success of President Zelenskyy.

To explain, when a position or job is open and the hiring process is about to begin, a list of necessary skills and qualifications gets drawn up. The list enumerates specific experiences that qualified candidates will need to have had. These may be qualitative descriptors as well as quantitative expectations. For example, almost all job descriptions contain a statement about the minimum number of years of experience required. Educational requirements are also listed. Then depending on the role, there will be a whole host of specifics such as the size of the team managed, prior budget responsibilities, etc.

The list will also contain essential personal characteristics for the position and success therein. For instance, the job description could include the ability to work in a fast-paced environment or excellent communication skills.

No matter the specifics of the list of requirements and qualifications, the point is that this is a deliberate and purposeful enumeration of what is believed to be essential to success in the job in question.

After creating the job description, the goal is to identify and recruit individuals with as many of these criteria as possible. Typically, the most qualified candidates will have done the lion’s share of what is in the job description. Companies will rank candidates according to how closely their experience matches the job description. In interviews, they will look to validate qualifications from the job description. In references, they will seek to confirm items from the job description. And upon joining the company, the successful candidate will be expected to come with a toolbox full of past experiences as described in the job description. In other words, all roads lead back to the job description, and the job description chronicles what the person is expected to have already done.

This leads us back to the chronicles of President Zelenskyy. As has been unequivocally demonstrated since Russia invaded Ukraine, the ability to lead and be successful in a position or situation, or job is not necessarily foreseeable. Furthermore, it is definitely not always dependent on having the requisite prior experience. Said another way, to do a particular job, one does not have to have previously done all of its components.

Hiring managers often seek candidates who have already completed all of the job requirements. This sub-optimal strategy yields disappointing results and searches that take longer than necessary. The best candidates are looking to expand on their experiences and responsibilities and not replicate what they have already done.

A better strategy is to look for potential to do the job. Raw material, determination, motivation, and grit can go a long way to catapulting someone towards success in their role. Many employers attempt to get at these personality traits through the use of psychometric testing at some point in the search and hiring process. “Psychometric tests are a standard and scientific method used to measure individuals’ mental capabilities and behavioural style. Psychometric tests measure candidates’ suitability for a role based on the required personality characteristics and aptitude (or cognitive abilities).” 1 There are literally thousands of such tests which serves to validate the point that there is much more to hiring a candidate than a review of what they have done in the past.

Sure, they should have some of the foundational expertise required, but if that is the only determinant of qualification, many excellent candidates will be left behind. As they say in the financial markets, “past performance is not indicative of future results.”

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