Mary Gay Townsend is the Senior Managing Director of Managed Services for OneWire.


The time comes for every young company when the addition of a COO or a dedicated IT specialist is required. In the face of a growing talent shortage and a war for the best employees, however, adding the right people to your team can be a large task for a growing company.

What can you do to manage this challenge and create the best team in the business? Consider the way you look at resumes. Are you reviewing an applicant based on their title?

While it might be tempting to search for candidates who have experience in the very role you are looking to fill, take a more creative approach and look for applicants with the skills you need rather than the title you want.

Here are a few ways hiring based on titles alone fails to serve the needs of a growing business.

1. It limits you to one skillset

Take a look at the skills required for your open position. All companies, from startups to corporate giants, have a way of growing organically and the needs of your company may change over time.

Approach this process with a thoughtful and honest attitude to reveal the core skills your new hire should possess.

Once you have identified the skills necessary for the job, do not fall prey to the temptation of deciding what position would best suit your needs. This can lead to overlooking candidates who bring a variety of marketable skills to the table.

For instance, when looking to fill a sales position, you can consider applicants from backgrounds as varied as marketing and professional sports. These professions all share certain key characteristics: They are high pressure environments that encourage agility, creativity, and teamwork.

Banking juggernaut Goldman Sachs recently hired former U.S. Treasury Department aide and presidential spokesman Richard L. Siewert Jr. as global head of corporate communications because he was “low-key, knowledgeable and battle-tested.”

2. Rethinking roles based on skill reveals gaps

As you discuss what skills are necessary to fill an open position, consider what skill gaps exist within your team that could be incorporated into the position. Are you in need of better office management? Do you have gaps on your finance team? Perhaps there is a growing need for graphic design capabilities that no one on your team possesses.

As your business grows, you need to constantly assess and reassess the needs of the business and fill gaps when they form.

Professional agility in a candidate can be more profitable than a job history directly matching your job description. Whereas as a CFO with 10 years of experience may have a difficult time stepping out of that role, an applicant with a different title may have the skill to move into different positions, put on different hats for different situations, and adapt well to your group.

3. Endless interviewing is a time sink

Whether you have just started your business or have been growing for many years, you are susceptible to making the mistake of dragging out a candidate search. CEOs and managers who do not take the time to sit down and review the needs of the business as previously discussed end up ferreting out this information over the course of interviews.

Interviewing to discern your needs is an incredible waste of time, but not uncommon. The time it takes to fill an open position has doubled since 2010.

Lengthy interview processes can be avoided with a bit of planning. This planning also ensures you build a team with the long-haul in mind. Employers who hire based on skill have experienced a 25 to 75 percent reduction in turnover, creating more opportunities for your business to grow with ease.

4. Discourages growth within your existing team structure

Take a close look at the skills your current employees already possess. Is it possible to foster that talent by assigning new roles to existing employees?

Investing in talent you already have builds loyalty and helps your employees feel that they can grow along with your business.

Another benefit of doing this is the flexibility you gain when creating new positions. By transferring some aspects of an open position to another employee, you are free to be creative with adapting the open position to best suit the needs of the company.

5. It limits you to one market

As you embark on the search for killer new talent and review the gaps you need to fill, educate yourself on the industries that surround those skills. Find groups in those industries that may be struggling to find a job. You may be surprised at the plethora of talented professionals you can pull from.

For example, 39 percent of employers in the U.S. report difficulties filling positions, with jobs in IT among the most difficult to fill. If hiring managers get creative and look outside their immediate industry, they might see opportunities to hire from pools of talent in different areas of the field.

For instance, the high-tech firms of Silicon Valley had long been enjoying an explosion of business until late last year, when a slump began to cause layoffs. Outsourced workers from these firms would be an excellent sector from which to pull talent, as these employees have the core IT skills necessary for the job and will further come equipped to deal with high-pressure environments.

Many young businesses become successful because they are run by highly creative minds. Look at your workforce as you look at your product — with an eye for how adding different skillsets could take your business to the next level.

What do you think? How do you think hiring for skills can help your company grow this year?