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  • Writer's pictureRobert A. Dougan, M.A.


I once worked with a client who was looking to fill an administrative position in their office in Cleveland, Ohio for an insurance agency.

This agency had had a lot of trouble finding the right person; they had even gone through a couple hires—whom they called ‘desperation hires’—who just didn’t work out. They just couldn’t find the right person and at the same time they needed someone to fill the role. Like most employers, they always got to the point where they would hire just about anyone.

Eventually, someone from the agency reached out to me; I used to help them review the personality assessments of their prospective hires. But, this time, they wanted to see if I could help them find the right hire; of course, I obliged.

My first question to them was “What type of person are you really looking for?” They then began to list all the skills they were seeking for the job. I then told them “This is important, but what type of person do you enjoy working with?”

Maybe they were surprised by my question, and they paused for a moment, then said, “We like happy and positive people.” They continued, saying, “The last hire we brought on was very negative, and after a while it got quite tiring for us emotionally and we needed to let them go.” They also noted they had let two people go in the last six months because they were very negative and a poor fit.

I began to probe a little more: “Have you put in your job posting that you are looking for happy and positive people and described the environment you provide?”

They thought it was an odd question I proposed; they couldn’t see the benefit of doing so. I explained to them that it was important to put these details in the job description because this was really important to them. You can train skills, but you need to hire for a certain personality or behavior. Lastly, I mentioned that if they wanted to get more applicants who were happy, they needed to broadcast this out to their network and explain this was what they were looking for. After some convincing, they were open to giving it a try.

With all my insight, the next thing they did was add a section to their job description that explained that they wanted someone with energy and positivity, and that only these types of people should apply, because they are a happy place to work! While this may sound a little unorthodox, it really isn’t; the people looking at the posting knew what the agency represented and what kind of person they wanted to hire.

After a few short weeks, they had an abundance of applicants, among whom were a couple great candidates. In the end, they found their person who is an absolute joy to work with, and everyone is happy!


What is important about this story is that too often when we are hiring, we can feel desperate to fill the role and focus too much energy on the hard skills we need versus the people we enjoy working with.

Certainly, employers should be focused on hiring candidates who will not only perform well, but will further be engaged and retained in their companies. All of these things are important when hiring. But in order to achieve these results, we need to be very clear about our expectations with the marketplace.

At the same time, candidates want to know what you are like; they will be looking for employers who are honest and authentic. They want to know what their potential future employer’s promises are if they join, and if those promises resonate well with them.

It always needs to be a win-win situation when marketing your careers; it is not always about the skills required to do the job.

The number one reason most people leave a job is their fit to the manager or corporate work environment. If they are not aligned well with both, then it not only creates an uncomfortable work environment, but also increases the odds of poor employee retention.

For these reasons, it is important to put yourself in the candidates’ shoes to consider how well they will respond to the messaging in your job posting. Be specific about the types of candidates you are looking for. You don't need a novel in your job description; instead, add clear bullet points or a succinct statement that represents what you are looking for and what your company is all about.

As you saw in this story, when you neglect what is important to you, you also neglect important qualifiers for candidates. So, the next time you are posting a job, be honest about who works best in your company and the types of people you want to apply.

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