Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make Me A Match!

Okay, let’s get this straight from the get go, as a Middle the only real tools that you have (other than your attitude) to accomplish what your Senior wants you to do (if he or she even knows?) is your team, as known as your Teamers. You must make every effort to find, recruit, hire and keep the best talent possible for your team. As coaches in all sports often point out, “You are only as good as your players.”

Effective recruiting must be your first step in improving the overall performance of you and your team. You can’t improve your quality, productivity, planning, performance or communications without having the best possible talent on your team.

Perhaps you have noticed all of the new technologies available to help you in doing recruiting and job searching. Things have changed dramatically since my early days in the work force when you put an ad for a job and looked for a position in the local Sunday newspaper!

But one critical recruiting element is the same today as it was many years ago, that is you must know what you are looking for in a candidate. To help you have the most correct and clearest “vision” of what you want to find in a candidate, I offer you these two concepts for your consideration:

  • Job Success Talents – First off, you need to identify and define exactly what you want to find, that is the skills and strengths that you need for each of your Teamers. How can you effectively recruit if you don’t know the talents that you need for each of your Teamers to have?

  • The Job Description – A complete, formal, written and up-to-date definition of what you want each of your Teamers to do, including the talents need, special training required, supervision exercised and overall responsibilities.

Let’s go into each of these in more detail.

Job Success Talents

 “In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin; a grass-blade’s no easier to make than an oak.”

 - James Russell Lowell

Job Success Talents are the skills and strengths that a person needs to have or develop to do a job well.Perhaps you are wondering “what’s the difference between skills and strengths” but it is really fairly simple. I think that the best description of the real difference between skills and strengths is provided in the book Don’t Retire, REWIRE! written by Jeri Sedlar and Rick Miners on how to find fulfilling work after retirement. They focus on identifying your skills and strengths to help you find the right opportunity that matches them and you. They offer that the difference is this. “The most practical and useful way to look at it is that strengths are innate and skills are learned. Strengths are what you have to work with; skills are what you develop.”  

“Innate” means talents that you have from birth or that are native to you. You can’t learn them but you can improve them with training and practice. An example of a strength could be being “self-motivated” while an example of a skill might be “oral or written communication skills.”

Strengths would include:

Ability to Learn, Adaptability, Ambitious, Analytical, Attention to Detail, Caring, Confident, Controlled Demeanor, Creativity, Decisiveness, Determined, Direct, Energy, Ethical, Fair/Open-minded, Flexibility, Friendly, Goal Oriented, Hardworking, Honest, Logical, Initiative, Innovation, Integrity, Leadership, Motivation, Patient, Persistent, Resilience, Results Oriented, Self-Development, Self-Motivation, Self-Organization, Sensitivity, Team Player, Tenacity, Thoughtful and Trustworthy.

Skills would include:

Adapting, Analysis, Consensus Building, Counseling, Critiquing, Decision Making, Delegation, Empowering, Hardware Skills, Interpersonal Skills, Judgement, Leading, Listening, Managing People, Management of Meetings, Mediating, Mentoring, Motivating Others, Negotiation, Oral Communications, Oral Presentation Skills, Persuasiveness, Planning and Organization, Prioritizing, Problem Solving, Project Management, Research, Scheduling, Socializing, Software Skills, Strategizing, Stress Tolerance, Teaching, Team Building, Thinking, Training, Work Standards and Written Communications.

Please note that not all job positions have the same needed Job Success Talents, and not all job positions need the same level of Job Success Talents. For example, everyone needs to be able to write, but a professional writer needs to have a very high level of writing talent, while a graphic designer can function very effectively with a lower level of writing talent. I’ve worked with organizations that use “expectation ratings” for Job Success Talents. For example, “essential or must have,” “nice to have” and “needed but not essential.” Using these ratings can help when comparing candidates.

Developing the Job Success Talents for all of your Teamers is not easy and it will take some time. But how can you hope to recruit new Teamers without knowing what Job Success Talents each position requires?

I suggest that you ask your Teamers for help in developing the Job Success Talents for each of the jobs in your team. You should write a “draft” list of Job Success Talents for each job position, and then have your Teamers review them and make suggestions for additions and changes.

Once you and your Teamers have agreed to the Job Success Talents for each job position within your team(s) you are ready to start using them during recruiting, job postings, candidate interviews and Teamer performance reviews.

During your recruiting interviews don’t waste valuable time asking “generic” and really  “meaningless” questions like “why are you interested in joining our organization?” or “what do you feel that you can provide to help our organization?” During candidate interviews always ask targeted questions to determine if the candidate really has the Job Success Talents that you need. For example, if you need a person with great “oral presentation skills” ask them “what’s the best (or worst) presentation that they’ve ever done and why?” If you need someone who can handle stress ask them “how do you deal with stress?” If the person you need must be able to solve problems, ask them “what’s the biggest problem that you’ve solved?” Get the idea? A résumé tells you what the candidate wants you to know about them, but you need to ask the right questions during the interview to get a better idea if they really have the necessary Job Success Talents.

The following is a list of sample interview questions to help you find out if a candidate has the Job Success Talents: that you are looking for.

Ability to Learn – What’s the most difficult “learning” project that you’ve completed recently and why?

Adaptability – How do you deal with change?

Attention to Detail – What’s the biggest “mistake” that you’ve caught and what did you do with this information.

Creativity – What is the most creative thing that you’ve done?

Decisiveness – How do you make decisions?

Delegation – How do you assign projects to your team?

Energy – How do you organize your day and why?

Flexibility – What do you do to overcome “problems” that occur during your efforts on projects assigned to you?

Initiative – What have you done recently to make your job easier or your team work together better?

Integrity – Give me an example of when you’ve had to “bend” a rule to ensure the success of team project.

Judgement – Give me an example of a good decision that you’ve made recently and why?

Leadership – Tell me about a project that you’ve recently done that highlights your leadership skills,

Listening – How do you make the person you are talking with feel like you actually hear what they are saying?

Motivation – What “things” motivate you?

Oral Communications – What’s the best team communication situation that you’ve experienced?

Oral Presentation Skills – What’s the best and/or worst presentation that you’ve ever done and why?

Persuasiveness – What’s the best idea that you’ve “sold” to a boss and why?

Planning and Organizing – What’s the biggest/most complicated project that you’ve done?

Problem Solving – How do you develop the scope of a project?

Resilience – How do you feel when your “idea” in rejected by the team?

Sensitivity – What do you do when you “find” a problem that needs to be addressed within your team?

Stress Tolerance – What do you do to address stress?

Tenacity – What’s the biggest problem that you’ve had to address in a “I just can’t quit” style?

Work Standards – What do you think of as “work standards” and why?

Written Communications – What’s the best and/or worst communication that you’ve written and why?

These are only sample talents and questions to help you start writing your own interview questions for you and your Teamers to use. As you develop questions you will also need to focus on your business and discipline to create the best Job Success Talents and interview questions for you and your Teamers.

Lastly, during the interview always encourage the candidate to feel free to respond to your questions with answers from their work life as well as their personal life, that is church, clubs, school and other life experiences. People often demonstrate a talent outside of their “daily work world” that could prove of interest.

 “We can throw stones, complain about them, stumble on them, climb over them, or build with them.”

 - William Arthur Ward

The Job Description

 “If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.”

 - Lawrence J. Peter

Simply stated, the Job Description is the “foundation” of all that you do with your team. Most people know what a Job Description is but few know what a Job Description can be. Most Middles see a Job Description as just as another piece of paperwork that you need to do to get a hiring approval from your Boss or the Human Resources group. Most employees see it as a waste of time, since it never really relates to what they really do, how they do it and how they can improve their performance.

Think of the Job Description as the following tools to address these critical needs:

  •  It’s an agreement between you and each of your Teamers on what you want them to do, what responsibilities they will have, what qualifications they must have or develop and how they are to work with other Teamers and the overall Organization.

  • It’s a tool to help you measure each Teamer’s performance.

  • It provides information for your Salary Administration group to determine the appropriate salary for each position.

  • It provides information for your Human Resources group to use for advertisements and internet postings for hiring. Think of it this way, how can you possibly develop a job ad/posting and recruit a person for your team without knowing what you want that person to do?

  • It provides standard expectations to feed your reward, empowerment and performance review processes for your Teamers.

A good Job Description is the “vision” of the person that you want to work with and have as a member of your team.

A Job Description should contain at least the following items or topics:

  • Position - The actual title for the job.

  • Date - The date of the most recent change to the content of the Job Description.

  • Supervision Received - Who is their boss?

  • Supervision Exercised - Who do they manage or supervise?

  • ·Position Summary - A high-level description of what you want this person to do within your team. What are they supposed to do each day? Here are a few examples:

    • Acts as a single point-of-contact for clients using the services of…

    • Responsible for providing project status information to clients…

    • Responsible for monitoring the client satisfaction for projects…

    • Administrator of the project time management system…

  • Responsibilities - Provide a specific list of tasks that the person filling this position must do. Here are some examples:

    • Work closely and proactively with team, clients, consultants…

    • Expedites all “crisis” jobs…

    • Monitor the results of client satisfaction surveys…..

    • Develop and implement processes to improve productivity…

  • Qualifications - Provide a specific list of skills, talents, strengths, characteristics and educational needs. Here are some examples:

    • MBA preferred

    • Must work well under pressure

    • Must have great organizational skills

    • Must have excellent attention to detail and ability to meet target dates

Your Job Descriptions must include the Job Success Talents mentioned later primarily in the Responsibilities and Qualifications sections.

Ask your Teamers for help in writing and updating Job Descriptions on a regular basis, but you are the one to start the process by writing new or updating existing Job Descriptions and having them reviewed by your Teamers and include their suggested changes. They are the people actually doing this work. They know what it takes to do their job. Trust them and always work to include their changes and comments!

 “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boast the self-esteem of the personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

 - Sam Walton

And now I’d like to offer you a process for your consideration that I’ve used for almost my entire career as a Middle, that is doing team interviews of candidates during recruiting. Ask and encourage your Teamers to help you interview and hire the talent you and they need. Don’t be egotistical and try to do all the interviewing on your own. Two heads are always better than one and three and four are even better. Use targeted questions during the interview to help determine if the candidate really has the talents that you are looking for. I have found team interviews to simply be the best possible approach for finding the right candidates for you team!

Ask Your Team For Help!

 “When you’re drowning, you don’t say ‘I really would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,’ you just scream.”

 - John Lennon

I’ve work with lots of Middles that think that asking for your team to help in recruiting new talent is a sign of “weakness.” I think that is completely wrong. Asking your team to help interview and select new talent that they will be working with makes perfect sense to me. Why keep it a “management thing” or a “select standard group” for interviewing and hiring decisions? 

I would always select a variety of Teamers from different “disciples” to do the interviews. For example, if I was hiring a marketing writer I would ask a graphic designer, another writer, our editor and the project manager to be a part of the interview process. You get different ideas and opinions from a true cross section of your team. I kept the interview to no more than four Teamers and myself. I would do the opening and closing of the interview process. Make sure that everyone uses your Job Success Talents and appropriate targeted interview questions, but of course not the same ones.

The following presents a sample team interview agenda including phases, time estimates, topics and questions for discussion for team interviews that I’ve often used. If you follow a schedule like this you are talking about a half day total interview time for a candidate.

  • You – 15 minutes or so to open the interview with introductions, overview of the Organization, overview of your team and describe the team interview process that’s coming up.

  • Teamer #1 – 45 minutes for Job Success Talent questions on the Ability to Learn, Delegation, Judgement, Oral Presentation Skills and Sensitivity.

  • Teamer #2 – 45 minutes for Job Success Talent questions on Adaptability, Energy, Leadership, Persuasiveness and Stress Tolerance.

  • Break – restroom break, drink offer….

  • Teamer #3 – 45 minutes for Job Success Talent questions on Attention to Detail, Flexibility, Listening, Planning and Organization and Tenacity.

  • Teamer #4 – 45 minutes for Job Success Talent questions on Creativity, Initiative, Motivation, Problem Solving and Work Standards

  • You - closing the interview with a discussion on the candidate’s salary requirements, availability, any questions they may have and thank you’s and goodbyes.

I always had a meeting with everyone that was part of the interview process as soon as possible after the interview. Before the interview started, I would have a pre-interview meeting and ask that the Teamers doing the interview “set aside” time around the closing of the interview to get together to present and discuss their opinions and suggestions on the candidate. Doing a group debrief meeting immediately after the interview keeps everything fresh and you’ll make better decisions.

The following provides you with a sample “evaluation form” that you can use to develop your own for team interviews. It’s just a simple approach to rank and compare candidates from the interview team’s opinions to gain collective agreement on each targeted Job Success Talent for each candidate.

 Candidate for Employment – Evaluation Form

Name of Candidate:



Stress Tolerance


Attention to Detail

Planning and Organization

Work Standards





Controlled Demeanor


Oral Communication


Ratings Scale

5 – Much more than acceptable

4 – More than acceptable

3 – Acceptable

2 – Less than acceptable

1 – Much less than acceptable

Interviewer’s Name:

During group debrief meetings make sure that everyone shares their opinions freely and openly. Share the ratings from each person’s evaluation form. Gain consensus by collecting your Teamer’s ratings for each Job Success Talent. Keep these records with your recruiting data. Use these rankings to compare potential candidates. Make a group decision on hiring, if you’re not comfortable doing this, don’t! I always have, and the group’s best candidate selection has always worked well for me.

 “Every time you take a risk or move out of your comfort zone, you have a great opportunity to learn more about yourself and your capacity.”

 - Jack Canfield

In closing, I want to remind you that recruiting must be viewed as a process, not just an event that you perform when you have a position to fill. You must keep the Job Success Talents and Job Description for each position in your team up-to-date so that you will know what you are looking for when recruiting starts. I suggest an annual review of these items as you do your Performance Reviews with your Teamers.