Jeff Lipschultz’s Blog

I Think, Therefore I Blog

Keep High Standards for Selecting Employees and Employers

high jump We tell ourselves we are looking for the best.  The best candidate.  The best job.  The best fit.  But often times the process gets compromised along the way and we settle for less.  For employers, it might be the timeline, the looming workload, lack of patience…or quality candidates.  For job seekers, it might be desperation to move on to a new opportunity or fooling themselves about the true fit for a long term relationship.  No matter the reason, the reality is neither party should compromise the high standard.

Having a high standard makes us all better.  The benchmark of quality or ability should stay in place regardless of circumstances.  Even when it becomes tiresome.  My freshman year of college, I learned to play racquetball by playing my roommate who had been playing for years.  I would lose each game by 16 to 20 points every week.  This went on for months–halfway into sophomore year, in fact.  But during that time, my ability got better and the score got closer and closer.  Until one day, I won a game.  After that, all our games were close.  My friend Tim was the benchmark and he never wavered from giving me the same challenge each week.  There were several lessons learned from this experience:  never give up; playing someone better than you makes you better; and stay true to a high standard–aim high!

So how do we ensure as employers and job seekers we keep our standards consistently high during the employment process?

Employers must do the following:

  • First, establish a true job description that is based on the needs of the organization.  Be specific.  Have clear goals.
  • Dig deep for candidates.  Don’t rely on one source, whether it be internal, networks, or recruiters.  Although, once you find a good source, sustain it so it will be there whenever you need it.
  • Be critical.  Although a candidate might be good at a lot of things, make sure they are good at the “right” things.
  • “Fit” is not just ability, it includes cultural/organizational aspects.  Will the candidate get along with the team and follow well-established, proven processes?  Or will they be too much of a maverick or “high-maintenance?”
  • Have a consistent interviewing process that provides objective evaluations.  When holding to a process, it is harder to fall back to “gut decisions.”
  • Know how to seal the deal.  Just the other day, a friend told me a story about his employer bringing a candidate in from out of town and having no plan to take the A-List candidate to dinner or tour the city.  When employers lose the #1 candidate, they at times settle for #2 (who may be a far cry from #1).

Job seekers must do the following:

  • Before interviewing, make several lists:
    • your attributes you want to use in your next job
    • the best elements of all the roles you’ve enjoyed in the past
    • the requirements for the next job including location, salary, level of responsibility/decision-making, visibility, day-to-day tasks, and others
    • what is missing is your current (or past) job that you really need for personal job satisfaction
  • If necessary, consult a job coach to learn more about yourself and your qualifications.
  • Next, combine all these lists in a job description that you should pursue. Set priorities for the elements of the job description.  Determine what are deal-breakers versus bonuses.
  • Although it may be hard to stay true to that vision (as it make take time to find it) accept trade-offs based on your pre-set priorities.  Don’t rationalize.
  • Ask probing questions to interviewers that clarify the job description they are offering versus what you want.  Make sure you meet a cross-section of the organization to solidify your impressions of the company.
  • Do your homework.  Find out everything you can about the hiring company leveraging Social Media channels, financial data, and personal networks.

We all know the cost of a bad hire.  For employers, it can be a daunting task to find a new employee after a recent-hire leaves due to a bad hiring decision.  For job seekers, a short tenure at a company listed on the resume prompts questions and doubt. 

Even if it takes 25 to 50% longer to find the right fit, both parties need to hold themselves accountable to a high standard for the decision.  When this happens, we all win.  We might be exhausted when it’s over, like playing my buddy Tim in racquetball.  But ultimately, we will find it well worth the effort.


April 14, 2009 - Posted by | Candidate Selection, Interviewing 101, Job Search, Management 101


  1. Jeff a killer Post! The definition of what the Employer and the Job Seeker must do is an excellent cognitive map. If this is accomplished by both parties there are no “uncovered agendas”. Taking more time to find the right fit on both sides makes tha most sense and always has. I would add that defining that time frame with the Hiring Manger can be a huge help.

    Comment by David Graziano | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  2. Good stuff and I had the same experience in college with racquetball! As a job seeker, I often will ask a potential employer if I can talk to some of the other employees before taking the job. I’ve had some potential coworkers come right out and tell me not to take the position because it was tough place to work or turnover was high. With the right questions and sincerity, you can learn a lot from current workers of a company about the company’s culture. And having made some bad job choices in the past, I learned some things the hard way. No matter what the offer is financially, if it’s not something that involves my “best and highest use,” passions and vision, it’s not worth taking the job. The employer and I could be both miserable in those cases. Settling for second best—whether employee or employer—is not worth it in the long run.

    Comment by Jeff Hurt | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  3. Great post! I plan to pass it on to all of my graduating seniors.

    Comment by pdxsx | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  4. Great tips – especially the part about looking beyond ability for a great ‘fit,’ which will indicate a better chance for individual success at a company than ability alone. You can always teach a candidate new skills, but you can’t teach attitude.

    Comment by Mary | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  5. Great Post, Jeff. Agree.

    I particularly appreciate “culture/organizational aspects” point. Huge importance.

    Comment by Suzanne Levison | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  6. Another great article Jeff. When I was looking for a job last year I made my “wish” list and the sky was the limit. Regarding the type of company and culture I was interested in I included things like: high level of community envolvement, philanthropic, progressive, etc. I wanted those things in a company because it was in-line with who I am. When I got my new job, crazy thing happend, I hit almost 85% of my list. Never hurts to put it out there!

    Comment by Gretchen | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  7. Jeff, you have captured the eternal struggle between just something and the right thing. We see job candidates applying for positions for which they are not even a close fit and employers hiring candidates who are a poor organizational fit just because they meet the minimum requirements. Both scenarios lead to unhappy endings and should be avoided at all costs. Great post and great advice.

    Comment by Craig Fisher | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  8. Great post Jeff. Lots of strong advice for both sides of the table. Employers may also want to extend the idea of having objective evaluations to developing those evaluations into objective feedback for the candidate and recruiter. This allows your recruiter to fine tune their search for the next candidate.

    Comment by Gil Vander Voort | April 14, 2009 | Reply

  9. Jeff, these are great points. So often companies suffer from the “warm body effect,” the slow dissolution of these standards that comes from being behind the eight ball when it comes to staffing. Proactivity on both sides is in order.

    Comment by Kristi Daeda | April 15, 2009 | Reply

  10. Jeff, you nailed solid concepts and common sense again. What stands out to me as most important and impressive in this post is recommending job seekers create a personal job description.

    Regardless of the level of position, I have never ceased to be amazed that candidates lack understanding that employment is a “two way street” and that they should not position themselves to be at the mercy of an employer. Employment is nothing less than a barter for services based on a mutual need.

    Understandably, tough economic times sometimes dictate the need for urgent or emergency employment to get the bills paid and have food on the table. However, this type of concession rarely is a lasting one and often is more costly in the long run to both parties due to an inappropriate fit.

    A methodical, well structured approach to a job search is just as important for the job seeker as solid expectations, a good candidate selection and on-boarding process are for the employer.

    I love win-win situations!

    Comment by Karla Porter | April 18, 2009 | Reply

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