Performance Factors
What’s Important Here?

Performance factors: there are so many things to consider when hiring a new employee that it’s easy to miss some of the more important ones.

What's Important Here?The pity of it is that, when all else fails, some managers go on "gut feel" when it comes to staff selection.

If hiring staff is actually your full time job, that’s one thing, but most managers have some other function as their major activity. Hiring, therefore, is usually an ancillary function — just part of "being a manager".

What are the Performance Factors?

The relative importance of the different elements of hiring varies according to the type of position you are filling. Following, however, are the key performance indicators to consider:-

  1. Knowledge and Experience
  2. Motivation
  3. External Factors
  4. Personality
  5. Proven Results

With these things, of course, you are seeking to find out how effective the candidate will be at producing the results required of the job. Do they have the right performance factors? You need to realise, however, that the first four are actually inferior to the achievement of results. So let’s look at how each one fits.

Knowledge & Experience

This is what you see in the candidate’s resume. Be careful, though, because you have to ignore the "advertising material" and opinions in the resume. Instead, concentrate on:

  • What type of work have they been doing in the past?
  • What formal qualifications do they have, if applicable?
  • Does their knowledge and experience indicate that they are worthy of consideration?

If the job is a highly technical one, or if it requires very specific and detailed knowledge of certain areas, then this alone can be the overriding performance factor. But, in most cases, you are simply looking for the right background for your work.

And don’t become influenced by the covering letter that often accompanies a resume. This is a selling document and may be quite persuasive.

  • Look for the facts.
  • Ignore the opinions.

Knowledge and experience is usually the starting point. It’s a quick way of eliminating candidates who would be quite unsuitable for the position.

But even when you have a selection of candidates with the right backgrounds, you are still a long way from deciding which one will be best for you. You haven’t arrived yet at the most important performance factors.

Motivation

This involves the reasons they have moved from job to job. In particular, why they left their last job and why they want yours. In the final analysis, it’s actually up to you to make the ultimate judgment here. You should carefully check several key performance indicators:-

  • What was the candidate’s original intention when taking their previous job?
  • How did that work out once they got established?
  • Why did they then leave that job?

One of the best reasons a candidate could give for moving from one job to another would be because they had grown out of it. That’s one of the key performance factors.

If they became so good at producing results that they hit a ceiling and had nowhere else to go, that’s probably the best motivation for leaving. And, if they see your job as the next step in their growth, that’s an excellent reason for wanting to work for you.

But you really won’t find all this out until you actually interview them, but that’s at the end of the process. So, confirming their motivation for your job has to be left until you interview them.

Watch out for false claims here, by the way. Some candidates can sound very enthusiastic, but it may not be genuine. Animated and obvious enthusiasm is not necessarily a clear indication of true motivation. It is not indicative of true performance factors.

A genuine interest in the challenges that the job poses is a much more reliable way of detecting potentially motivated candidates.

  • Do they ask questions about the job?
  • Do they want to know what the end results of the activity are?
  • Do they show keen interest in how it has been running?

These are all healthy signs of someone who could get a real kick out of performing your job. They may even wake up in the morning looking forward to coming to work. That’d be pretty motivated, wouldn’t it?

External Factors

By this we mean those things that can negatively influence a person’s ability to perform well. These include such external influences as:-

  • A crashing personal problem.
  • The distance they have to travel to work.
  • The money they need to make.
  • The limitations of some type of physical disability.

Some people are affected more than others by such things. One may fall apart completely, whereas another may show no detrimental signs at all. Just because they “appear” to have a negative external influence is no reason to conclude that it will actually affect their ability to perform.

There are, for instance, some very productive people who are physically disabled. They get the results despite their physical shortcomings.

As an example, I once worked with an Administration Manager who was confined to a wheelchair. Not only did he do an incredible job on his post, he was known to go down to the parking garage and give his car a grease and oil change during his lunch break! How’s that for overcoming seemingly insurmountable external factors?

Personality

  • How does the candidate respond to the problems that life (or the job) throws at them?
  • What is their general demeanour?
  • Do they have the right approach and style for this job?

These are all questions of personality. And, yes, they are important, but they are certainly not the overriding factor in making a hiring decision. If they are positive attributes, they are simply the icing on the cake.

Of course, you can define the "right" personality profile for any job and judge your candidates on how closely their profile matches this benchmark. There are personality tests available that can be applied (at a cost) to achieve this.

But you have to watch this one, because it is also true that some people with the "wrong" personality may well be the right choice. You would simply need to know about their "quirks" so you can manage around them.

See Psychometric Testing: Should You Use It? for more details on this.

Proven Results

The candidate’s ability to perform is the primary factor in all this. This is the most important of all performance factors. Consider the following scenarios:

  1. The candidate has certain knowledge or experience missing from their background. They have enough to be considered, but not as much as other candidates do.

    If, however, they have done this type of work before and achieved outstanding results (far greater results than the other "more qualified" candidates did), what does it matter if they don’t seem to have the same amount of knowledge and experience as the others do?

  2. Consider the candidate who would have to travel further to work than other (equally qualified) candidates.

    But suppose they had to travel just as far in their last two jobs and it never affected their ability to perform at those times. If they achieved excellent results, despite the travel time, this external factor is obviously not a problem for them. They manage around it.

  3. Consider, now, the sales candidate who appears to be much less enthusiastic than the others you are looking at. Their personality is such that they do not express their emotions in a highly visible manner.

    But their sales results were at the top of the list in their previous jobs, so this aspect of their personality (their outward appearance) is obviously not a barrier to production.

The point is this: of all the performance factors you consider when looking at job candidates, their proven record of results is, by far, the superior item. If they got results, despite their shortcomings, then these apparent “shortcomings” are not important.

There Is No Formula

From this you can see that you cannot run on any sort of "fixed formula" when it comes to hiring. You can’t say, "I’ll only consider people with more than 10 years experience," or, "They have to live no more than 20 minutes from the office."

Imposing such arbitrary limits on the process could mean you eliminate candidates who may have actually turned out to be very good performers for you with performance factors that make their salary worthwhile.


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