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Candidates Are more Than Just Their KSAs

Season 4, Episode 8:


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This week on Recruiter Fuel, Steve sat down with Scott Wilson, Principal Consultant with our executive search business to discuss – what happens after the hire?

Hiring for Attitude

This topic stemmed from a book Steve read titled ‘Hiring for Attitude,’ by Mark Murphy. In the book, Mark said that 11% of the time when we fire somebody, we fire them for skill. 89% of the time we fire for something behavior or competency related. Scott said “When hiring managers are interviewing candidates, they are focusing on the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that someone, somewhere put on a job description a long time ago and said this is what we need to hire. They’re not taking enough into account, the pieces of the candidate outside the KSAs, such as what’s in their head and what’s in their heart.”

Wait a minute, a human being is more than just knowledge, skills, and abilities?!

Surprisingly, yes! There is a lot more to a candidate than just their KSAs. Scott said many years ago when he started recruiting he was taught to focus on the KSAs but there is a lot more to it now.

“…But more and more, people are talking about ‘competencies’ in their job description; is it getting any better?” asked Steve.

“No, you can come up with a list of competencies for a job, but what you’re not doing – you’re not asking the right questions around those competencies. You’re not asking for situational results-based questions, so you’re really making assumptions,” said Scott.

Managing role/candidate expectations

Steve mentioned a scenario where he had a hiring leader and HR executive sit down together and create a job description for a position they were trying to fill. He continued, “Yet, when I asked them to compare the job description to the person most successful in that job; they didn’t have any of those skills.”

Scott adds that isn’t uncommon. “You have to always make sure there isn’t a disconnect between what HR is saying you need for a role and what the hiring leader is saying you need for a role.” Scott said you need to ask yourself, “how long ago was that job description refreshed? Who was involved in refreshing? If you’re hiring the same JD that you were hiring 10 years ago, that’s going to create a big problem for your organization.”

If two people are hiring for the exact same position and using the same job description, their expectations could still be completely different.

This includes their communication, how they go about doing their job; things that aren’t reflected in the job description.

“I think that there is always going to be a bit of a gray area when it comes to 2 or 3 people involved in the hiring process looking for the same thing? That’s where you have to meet in advance and discuss what you’re truly looking for in the role and person and start crafting your interview questions on more than just the KSAs,” said Scott.

Recruiters need to focus on three things – KSAs, head, and heart

Do they have the knowledge, skills, and ability? Do they have the heart and the passion? Do they do the job the way you want them to do it?

“Human beings are made up of all three of these things and if we’re only hiring based off of KSAs, we’re basically interviewing for one-third of a human being!” – Steve Lowisz

“We hire for skill and we fire for personality,” added Scott.

When Scott has an intake call with a client, he wants to know about the last person who was in the role and the person before that. We always try to see if there is a pattern or behavior with candidates as to why they’ve left previous roles, but we need to be doing the same thing with hiring leaders.

If we’re firing 11% of the time for their knowledge, skills, and abilities, and were firing 89% of the time for the other stuff, it generally means we’re not screening for the other stuff. Steve jokingly said, “I think it’s time we start hiring for the three-thirds.”


About Recruiter Fuel

Recruiter Fuel is a weekly video series dedicated to all-things recruiting and talent acquisition. Learn more about our mission and how you can submit a topic, be featured in an episode, or nominate an expert to guest star on an upcoming episode.

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