Don't Get Stuck Walking the Dog

Article by:
Kurtis Mishler, EO Louisville
Kurtis Mishler
EO Louisville

Kurtis is President of PrideStaff, a specialty staffing and recruitment service. He is also a founding Partner of AxiomOne, a company that designs hiring systems for small and medium-sized organizations. Kurtis can be reached at [email protected] or

Have you ever found yourself in the pouring rain, holding a leashed dog that’s more interested in sniffing around than lifting its furry little leg to a tree? Meanwhile, you’re soaking wet and wondering, "How in the world did I get myself in this position?" Oh, you know how you got there.

Your child gave you that look that melts your heart, and he begged you to buy that dog. He promised to walk, feed and love the mutt. But now, during this rainy night, you’re realizing that while junior is snuggling in bed, you’re left walking a pet you never really wanted in the first place.

This scenario is similar to the hiring process. As entrepreneurs, we often wind up taking care of employees we shouldn’t have hired in the first place. As the owner of a national staffing organization and a firm who designs hiring systems, I know all too well the ramifications of poor hiring. I’ve hired hundreds of people over the years— some have been fantastic, others forgettable. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned on how to avoid surrounding myself with the wrong employees.

Avoid Emotional Decisions
Recently, I was with a client who had to excuse himself from a meeting to attend to one of his employees. This employee had been hired against his better judgment, and the colleague who had convinced him to hire this person had left. My client confided in me that the employee was not a good fit from the get-go, and that he had made a purely emotional decision. I make it a point not to hire someone based on emotion, but rather on performance-based criteria. Personality can only get you so far— it’s the employee’s performance history that really matters.

Identify What Outcomes Are Expected
I’ve adopted a systematic and measurable performance-based approach to hiring. Instead of starting with a job description, I start from the outcome I must achieve with the new employee. Before the interview, I look at the candidate’s history and ask myself, "What are the specific outcomes I need to have the employee accomplish in 90 days, 180 days and one year from the hire date?" And, "If I met with him or her one year after their hire date, what has to have happened during that period for me to feel happy with his or her progress?" Once I have the answers, I can start working on the ideal performance description.

Use the Outcome-Based Model to Define Performance Descriptions
Once my team has defined performance requirements, we work backward and list the competencies a person will need to have to successfully accomplish these tasks. I am specific about the knowledge base, as well as the skills and abilities that are needed. I stay away from typical generalities, such as "must be able to multi-task" and "is a strong team player." Not only are these phrases trite and overused, but they do not give my hiring team objective competencies to look for, making it difficult to recognize the best candidate. The more specific we are when it comes to writing the performance description, the interview process will be easier and the odds of hiring a needy employee will drop.

For me, it all comes down to advance planning. In my years of hiring experience, I have found that when you go from making emotionally based decisions to a targeted and quantitative hiring method, you will avoid standing in the rain with a leash wrapped around your leg. I know, because I have the rope burns to prove it.

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