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How to Define the Ideal Employee

August 12, 2014

451660107Have you ever been asked the question “how would you define the ideal person for this role?” or “what are you looking for in a candidate?” by a candidate you were interviewing? If so, how did you respond? What types of things did you list as being important, and what was the basis behind your response? Everyone wants to find the “ideal” employee, but how do we go about defining the ideal employee? The answer starts with and revolves around identifying the competencies that are critical for success on the job.

Competencies are clusters of related job knowledge, skills, abilities, motivations, personality traits, and other requirements necessary for successful job performance. Competencies are the essential pieces and parts of the hiring process that we should be examining when looking for the ideal candidate for a particular role. When deciding what the ideal candidate would be, the following questions should be asked:

  • Job Knowledge: What on-the-job experience does the candidate need to have in order to perform the job successfully? Is it important that the candidate has worked in this type of position before?

  • Skills: What areas of expertise does the individual have? What certifications, credentials, trades, or other areas of knowledge does the candidate have that are required for the job?

  • Abilities: With or without reasonable accommodation, is the candidate able to perform all of the necessary requirements of the job? As examples, are there any physical requirements of the job or environmental factors that candidates must be able to work in?

  • Motivations: Is the candidate a good fit for the particular environment, culture, or organization of which they will be working in? Will the candidate like performing the specific task requirements of the job?

  • Personality Traits: Does the candidate display the right behaviors needed for success on the job? Does the candidate contain the traits and characteristics needed for successful job performance?

  • Other Requirements: What other requirements are needed for successful job performance?

In order to begin answering the above questions, we need to have a thorough understanding of the target position. But, to have a comprehensive understanding of the job, a job analysis needs to be conducted.

In-depth information about how to conduct a job analysis can be found here.

First and foremost, a job analysis should be conducted to ensure that all of the appropriate job variables are being considered when defining the ideal employee. By conducting specific job analysis activities, which may include, holding focus groups with subject matter experts, making observations of employees performing job tasks, and collecting survey data about the job, a more accurate picture can be painted regarding the necessary competencies needed for the job.

After completion of the job analysis, we should examine the quantitative and qualitative information collected to help determine which competencies are important for success in the job. Once competencies have been identified through examination and analysis, certain tools, such as applications, fit assessments, in-depth assessments, and structured interviews can be used to determine whether or not an individual meets the particular competency criteria important for success on the job, or an ideal candidate.

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Lindsey Burke Lindsey Burke is a Consultant based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. She is largely responsible for client support and managing clients in industries including manufacturing, sales, and healthcare. Lindsey completed her M.A. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from Xavier University and earned a B.A. and B.S. in Psychology from Kent State University.