CAP – Looking for Mr/Ms. Right-for-the-job

You’ve been assigned the task of looking for two new employees. The skills you require are blah blah blah technical stuff, a degree in yah-yah, x years of work experience, a self starter with good communications skills and the ability to work in a dynamic team environment.

The advertisement went out and now you’ve got a half meter stack of resumes on your desk. You wittle it down to a stack of 10 resumes. You contact the people you wish to interview and send the DCU-WCY letters to the rest of the pile. Now you have to pick the top two from the bunch. How do you decide which ones to hire?

I once had a interviewer ask me the lamest question of all… "We’re interviewing 20 people today for this job. What is it that distinguishes you from the rest of the people we are going to interview? " basically he was asking me."Why should I pick you?" Well I didn’t have a good answer, and I didn’t get the job. But I think if I had that chance again, this is what I would say…

I have found you have to look for CAP. The three things that make someone as an individual very employable are Capability, Attitude and Presence (CAP).

Capability – is the ability to learn, to aquire new skills, to adapt to change, to be flexible in all things. When looking for someone with a specific set of skills you will rarely get a perfect fit. I might have x years of experience but I may not be a guru in blah blah techology. The secret is to identify the individuals with the ability to adopt new skills, try the untried, adapt to change and learn quickly and decisively. That is the person with the Capability to succeed in what ever task is presented to them.

Attitiude – in resent years this term has come to mean something very negative – as in "Man has that guy got an attitude." The adjective BAD is left out but implied against the word attitude. This is not what I mean, infact I mean the exact opposite. Your needs will be filled by a person with a GOOD attitude. He’s a good man in a storm. She’s a real contributor. He works hard until the job is done. She gives 100%. (some people say 110% – but we all know that is unrealisting – giving 100% is all you can give — most of the time people give about 60-70% – the rest is coffee time and hanging out at the cooler). This is the person who can roll with the punches and not be too discouraged when things go poorly.

Attitude is probably the most important of the three attributes you’re looking for. A person with the right attitude knows that their success is contingent upon organizational & project success.

Presence – is a function of bearing. How well does this person carry themselves? Do they take care of themselves physically and mentally? Are they alert and with it. Are the lights on and somebody is home. Could they give a presentation with very little notice? There job may not require them to give presentations. But if you want an effective employee you have to find one who can express themselves in a way that gets heard. Some one with brilliant ideas is useless to an organization if they are introverted and never leave their cubicle. People with presence are calm, cool and collected, even when they are under pressure. I don’t mean someone who is always "on" and performing, I mean someone who genuinely exudes confidence in their dealing with others. Shy and withdrawn don’t cut it, neither do outgoing and loud. 

The challenge to you as an interviewer is to gauge CAP. CAP is hard to measure in an interview. The interviewer rarely has the right questions to ask, and probably doesn’t have enough time to truely measure how the interviewee would react in many difference situations. The interviewee on the other hand is on his best behaviour, dressed in his Sunday best and primed to answer all the questions in the just the right way to land the job. How can we cut through all that and get to CAP? 

First, don’t ask the lame question I was asked above. For Capability ask a real question like…Please describe one life skill (anything doesn’t have to be work related) that you plan to aquire in the next three to five years? The answer to this question will tell you if they are still growing as individuals or if they are settled into a single life pattern.

For Attitiude and presence put together a hypothetical situation — maybe a real problem that the company has faced in the near past. Describe the problem, give the interviewee a couple of minutes to come up this a plausible solution and then have them describe in on a white board.

For Presence, well use your eyes, ears and gut feel here.

Not everybody has CAP. Not all jobs require CAP. But if you can find a person with CAP filling the position becomes much easier.

footnote DCU-WCY – Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You. typically this letter has two paragraphs. Thank you for your interest in xyz company. We have reviewed your skills an feel that at this time they do not meet our requirements. We’ll keep your resume on file and contact you in the future if something should come up. 

  1. Jim Reply

    I think what you are saying is really right on.
    One of the interesting questions to ask yourself as an employer or or hiring a consultant, do you want somebody who exactly meet your skills requrirements but is not motivated or somebody who has most of the basic capabilities but really is motivated. I think the motivation is much more important than the experience with a certain technology.
    Another way to think about it is do you want somebody on your project that has work for the last 15 years on the same technology? I really would prefer somebody who wants and willing to new things.

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