6 Reasons to Set Success Expectations

By Paul Slezak - Dec. 8, 2013
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performance profile, candidate, interview, job descriptionI have asked hundreds of employers the following question over the years:

When you are looking to bring somebody new into your business, what do you think is more important: a candidate’s ability to get the job or their ability to succeed in the role?

Obviously these are both important factors to consider.

Having a well-written job description will certainly help you assess a candidate’s ability to actually get the job. After all you can easily match their experience outlined in their CV with any key points outlined in your job specification.

However in order to determine whether a candidate will excel in the role, you need to define your expectations of their success in that particular role from the outset.


Just think of an Olympic coach for a moment. They would define the success of their elite athlete in terms of wins or record race times well before a major event. While an actor’s agent would define the success of their client by the number of film scripts run past them, ideally the number of roles they are cast in, and perhaps even by the number of award nominations they receive.

As an employer looking to hire somebody new into your business, even before you start the search you should be able to define your new team member’s performance in terms of the successes you want them to achieve. This can be applied to every single role in your business.

Setting success expectations will help you:

1. Writing the job description

A job description is more than just a list of duties and responsibilities. By including a series of success measures in the document you will be able to hold yourself accountable when benchmarking different candidates during the selection process.

For example, exactly how much new business are you expecting your new sales manager to bring in … and in what timeframe? Or if you plan to employ a new web designer, when specifically do you need your new website to go live?

2. Writing the job ad

Remember a well-written job ad ideally needs to eliminate those candidates who are not suitable for your role. If you define how you plan to measure the success of the successful applicant, this will certainly help filter out those who realise they might not be cut out for it after all.

Will you be measuring the success of a marketer by an increase in product awareness or new campaigns? And as for a new IT support consultant …  make it clear that their success will be measured by the speed with which problems are resolved or better yet prevented.

3. Screening applicants

Whether you’re doing your first round of candidate screening over the phone or via video interview, the more specific questions that you ask around their past successes will help you make a better assessment in terms of whether or not to bring the candidate in for a face-to-face interview.

4. Interviewing candidates

If you’re ever stuck for ideas of what questions to ask a candidate during an interview, there’s an awesome list here.

However once you have identified your core selection criteria, ensure that your questions are targeted around the candidate’s past successes as this will help predict whether they can really succeed in the role you have in mind for them.

5. Conducting reference checks

This is one of the last opportunities in the recruitment process that you have to determine whether the candidate you have identified is really the right fit for the role. It’s the perfect chance for you to ask a past employer about their past successes. Forget about only asking about punctuality and attendance, or whether they got along with their peers. Ask a former manager about how they actually succeeded in their role.

6. Reviewing staff performance

Before you commence the recruitment process, you should ask yourself what you expect from your new team member (in terms of their performance) at say the three, six, nine and 12-month mark. What new tasks will they be taking on? How many new products will they be responsible for? How many new customers do you want them to bring in? What revenue targets might they need to reach?

If you have thought about it early, then when it comes to reviewing their performance, you will easily be able to compare their results against what you had expected in terms of their success.

Remember you are running a business and your staff (both existing and new) are helping you reach your goals.

No doubt you have expectations of your own (and your organisation’s) successes.  You also need to know what you want out of any new team members … well before the actual recruitment process even starts.

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.


Paul Slezak

Cofounder and CEO at RecruitLoop. I've been a hands on recruiter, manager, trainer, coach, mentor, and regular speaker for the recruitment industry for nearly 25 years.

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