Finding what right looks like, part 3: Key performance indicators (KPIs) are “right” numerically expressed

This post series comes to you courtesy of our cofounder and co-managing partner Jeff Wilson. For more information on how Jeff can help you discover “what right looks like” in your hiring, please contact him at 317-598-1950 x102 or

Previous posts in series:

In this post, I’ll talk about the steps of our hiring process that are in bold:

  • Get to know the client and understand the client’s business and HR needs on a deep level.
  • Discuss and determine with the client the KPIs (key performance indicators) and specific metrics of the position.
  • Discuss and determine with the client the job duties and any skills and qualifications required to perform them.
  • Discuss and determine with the client the behaviors required for top performance in the position.
  • Write the behavioral interview questions with client input.
  • Conduct behavioral interviews and provide comprehensive feedback along with a summary of answers provided by the candidates.
  • Present the client with a short list of candidates qualified through the behavioral interviews.
  • Provide extensive interaction with the client throughout the interview process.

It’s our job to talk to companies about their hiring practices. Here is the kind of question we ask to get to know more about their approach to hiring and the particulars of a position:

  • How will you know if the new hire is successful after a year?
  • How do you measure performance for this position?
  • What are the metrics you use in regular performance reviews? (I.e., a review based on more than a general impression that the employee is performing well or poorly.)

All too often, the people we are talking to don’t have answers to these questions. In cases where there is at least some system in place, we often hear vague references to “goals” or “objectives”–but these are not well defined or numerically expressed.

But we have a solution to this issue. First, we get to know the client and the client’s business and hiring needs on a deep level. Then, using the SMART method (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely), we discuss with our client the specific KPIs of the open position. This is often the “ah-hah” moment for them, when they realize that they haven’t fully developed SMART KPIs prior to interviewing prospective candidates. When we collaborate with our clients and help them develop key metrics for the potential new hire, both the company and the new hire have a clearer picture of what “right” looks like.

Once we have the KPIs identified and quantified, we then turn our attention to the job duties and any specific skills and qualifications that might be required. Some examples:

  • A degree (BA, BS, MA, MS, PhD, MD, etc.)
  • Years of experience in an industry.
  • Specific knowledge of business, science, manufacturing, etc.
  • Specific business skills, manual skills, etc.

That said, our approach is to identify what is truly necessary for the position and not create a long list of “nice-to-haves.” Typically, companies have used such lists to filter out candidates when they have a large number of applicants. The result is often a new hire who has lots of superficially desirable qualifications but not the behaviors that actually lead to success in the position.

Introducing the concept of KPIs has revolutionized hiring at many of our clients. It is simple but extremely powerful.

Continuing with our detailed discussion of the steps in the KCS hiring process, we’ll cover Behavior trait selection matches the right behaviors to an open position.

The Key Corporate Services Blog Team
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