IT IS common to see in job advertisements that employers are looking for “people who are passionate, keen to face challenges and learn on the job”, yet most companies do not know how to hire for passion.

Many HR executives tend to fall back on traditional modes of hiring based on job description rather than competencies.

The difference between the two is that one hires for tomorrow and the other hires for the next three to five years.

It has been reported that there will be an increase in hiring in all seven main industry sectors in Q2 this year (Manpower Group). So it is critical that companies learn how to look beyond job description and have systems in place to hire on passion.

It is no secret that hiring the wrong person and high staff turnover can take a huge toll on the organisation’s competitive edge.

At the same time, Gallup Poll reported in 2012 that Singaporeans are the unhappiest employees in the Asia-Pacific. The study showed that 76 per cent of Singapore workers are disengaged.

Could it be a sign that hiring has been very mechanical, to fill job posts rather than to engage employees’ spirits and harness their full potential?

One might say that passion is not easily detected on the resumé or interview. But there is a proper way to assess a candidate.

First, understand that hiring on passion means you want the candidate to be part of the organisation and stay for the long term. So the approach is always long-term, based on what the company needs in the next three to five years.

Factors such as gender and ability to work long hours may not be that important. Here are factors to take into account when hiring on passion:

Know what you are looking for

The most critical step is to identify specific competencies needed for the role, not just for the immediate needs but also for the long term.

Another factor not usually thought through is how your organisational culture affects the competency and type of person you are looking for.

HR managers need to move away from traditional job descriptions that focus on required skills and experience and adopt a performance-based description in their advertisements that clearly define tasks the candidate will be required to complete as part of the job.

For example, instead of listing the desired quality as “Able to handle stress and tight deadlines”, rephrase it as “Able to complete a maximum of five projects within two working weeks”.

Prepare before the interview

Many HR managers focus on the interview process itself and miss out on what needs to be done before the interview itself. Mismanaging these factors can be unfair to either candidate or the organisation when wrong assessments are made.

Pre-interview preparations include:

•  Allocating a specific time and informing the candidate of it.

•  Choosing a suitable location. Having an interview at a restaurant or café may make the candidate uncomfortable as others can overhear the conversation. Therefore his responses may not be forthcoming.

•  Removing all potential distractions. Taking phone calls, walking in and out of the interview room and so on, shows that the interviewer is not taking the interview seriously. It will affect the morale of the candidate.

Prepare an opening script

The first thing to do is to put the candidate at ease. Have a welcome script prepared and aim to build rapport with the candidate. Here you need to re-state the expected time of the interview.

Use this interview technique

The Competency-Based Interview Technique (CBIT) is regarded as the best way to assess candidates’ competency and potential. It helps interviewers craft questions that will draw out the real competencies of the candidates.

Instead of asking direct questions such as “Have you managed development of marketing collaterals? Tell me more about it”, CBIT encourages you to ask more revealing questions, such as, “Describe the most challenging marketing collateral you had to work on. How did you handle it?”

Here, the candidate is expected to share his actual experience and the interviewer will assess him on how he dealt with the situation.

Taking it a step further, HR managers can devise point systems to assess candidates so the interview process becomes more objective.

End on a good note

This is especially important when the candidate has moved on to the second or third interview and he has not made the cut.

Always follow up with an e-mail or phone call and give a quick explanation. This leaves the candidate with a good impression of the company.

Stop the vicious circle

Bringing in managers and leaders from outside the company seems like an easy alternative. But this sends a message to the staff that there is no real potential for growth within the company. This will contribute to a high staff turnover and the vicious circle continues.

Article by Amos Tay, chief recruitment officer and founder of Job Hatch Singapore. He has 14 years of experience in corporate human resources.