Why Trying to Hire Superman and Wonderwoman Is a Mistake

"I don't understand why I haven't been able to hire competent people who want to stick around," Bob, the CEO of a medical devices company, shared as he vented his frustration about continual turnover in several key roles in his organization.

"Let's look at one of the specific roles that you're referring to," I suggested. "Let's do a job benchmark--an online assessment--on that particular role. It will tell us what your real expectations are. It will also reveal the most important qualities about the candidate who will be successful."

Bob agreed to answer the questions about the job, and I generated the report. As I looked it over, it became crystal clear why no one wanted to "stick around."

"Well," he prodded. "Can you help me hire a candidate who can do this job?"

I replied, "No one can. What you're looking for doesn't exist."

I turned to the page that showed the 25 skills we measure. "You believe that in order to do this job, someone has to have all 25 skills highly developed. Most CEOs have 6 competencies in the highly developed category. I hate to break it to you Bob, but outside of comic books, Superman and Wonder Woman don't exist."

Bob sighed. He saw the data in front of him. He finally understood that he had been hiring talented people, but his expectations were so unrealistic, no one could achieve success in the role. Who would want to "stick around" when the bar for star performance was impossible to meet?

This was just another situation where I was grateful to have a tool--an instrument validated by research--that dispels the fog of perceptions and provides clarity around the hiring process.

What steps can you take to stop the revolving door on your team?

  1. Identify the top skills required for success in the role. Not 25. Not 10. Focus on the ones that are MOST important. Need to see a list of the 25 skills we measure? Click here to see a sample assessment and scroll to page 54.
  2. Examine your expectations. Are you creating timelines that only a superhero could meet? Are you burning people out by expecting 20 hours of productivity in an 8-hour work day? Take an honest look at what you're asking your team members to do and make sure you're not asking for the moon.
  3. Clearly define what success looks like.  Make sure your team members know exactly what they have to do to achieve star performance and that it is achievable. Spell out the metrics, the results, and the tasks they need to accomplish.
  4. Provide the necessary support. Need a team member to accomplish something outside his skill set? Create a culture of collaboration. Pair him with another team member who has the right skills or direct him to an outside expert who can help. Make sure people on your team have the tools, the know-how, and the support to do what you're asking them to do.

The good news for Bob? Over the course of our conversations, he saw that he could hire Superman and Wonder Woman as long as he didn't expect them to be one person.  Together, we used the job benchmarking process to create an executive team that collectively had all the "superpowers" Bob had been looking for. Even better, the revolving door at his company stopped revolving, saving time and money on hiring and training expenses.