The Difference Between Hiring for Skills vs Performance

Skills-based hiring is gaining momentum among recruiters, but it has its limitations.

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Jun 26, 2023

When it comes to hiring new employees, it’s a bit staggering to see how many organizations are still using outdated, traditional skills-based job descriptions for recruitment. Especially given that the results speak for themselves: 20% of new hires won’t make it past their first 90 days, representing an expensive problem that businesses must fix today.

To address this costly challenge, companies should consider hiring based on performance profiles, an approach focused on the primary activities and results that determine success in a role. By making this straightforward change, businesses can better attract and retain top talent while making recruiting operations more efficient.

How Performance Profiles Work Differently

Job descriptions that are skill-based traditionally emphasize the job itself and the essential skills necessary for its execution. For instance, when seeking to hire a sales employee, a job description might include the following information:

  • A four-year degree is a prerequisite
  • Three to five years of sales experience required
  • Strong interpersonal abilities are importantWillingness to acquire product knowledge expected
  • Attention to detail is essential

While these requirements are valid, they are overly generic and fail to serve as precise job descriptions. They don’t offer any clarity on what the person in this role is actually expected to do. In short, traditional skills-based job descriptions concentrate on the desired qualities of the candidate, disregarding factors such as the ideal results and performance.

In contrast, a performance-based profile centers on the specific outcomes that must be accomplished. It offers more comprehensive insights into preferred work styles and daily responsibilities that define success in the position. Here’s what an effective performance profile for the above role might look like:

  • Attain a monthly target of 20 new customer acquisitions
  • Efficiently handle multiple projects within a high-pressure work environment
  • Arrange and submit sales forms and payment transactions to accounting
  • Successfully meet a quarterly sales quota of $20,000
  • Analyze performance patterns to enhance the rate of successful customer acquisitions

There are significant differences between these two approaches, which (speaking from decades of experience recruiting) in turn attract different types — and a different quality — of candidates. Using an approach closer to the performance-profile example above, focusing on the desired outcome and goals, significantly improves the quality of applications you receive thanks to much clearer communication of what the job entails and how success will be measured.

Better Interviews, Better Retention

The use of performance profiles in job postings helps facilitate focused discussions during the interview process. That’s partly because after reading a performance profile, candidates innately understand the need to address each objective and demonstrate how their past accomplishments or existing skills can benefit your company in these very specific ways.

On the other hand, with traditional job listings, a candidate could feel they have all of the qualities listed but still lack the experience to guarantee the clear outcomes detailed in the performance profile example. Thus, using performance profiles simplifies the candidate-identification process to ensure that only those who most closely align with the job requirements apply.

Moreover, when the right individuals do so and are hired, they are far more likely to thrive in their new roles and exhibit long-term loyalty to the company because they understood exactly what was expected from the jump.

Implementation and Internal Buy-in

To reduce employee turnover, it is essential to reevaluate your hiring process regularly — everybody knows this. But are you starting with the right employees?

Enhancing job descriptions serves as a great initial step, and it isn’t a massive lift, which can be a key point when “selling” recruitment changes to your internal leadership team. Your HR pros will have to revamp some templates and rewrite a few current job descriptions, of course, but it’s a change that can and should start immediately to get ahead of the curve.

When moving forward with implementation, ensure those doing the work understand how this is going to pay off for them. Communicate the benefits clearly: fewer interviews, with more qualified candidates, who are more likely to succeed and stay for longer.

All so that you aren’t filling this same role again within 90 days.

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