Hiring for This Job and Their Next Job

Hiring for a current need is actually pretty simple. The hiring manager defines some specific skills they need, recruiters then discount that profile by 30%, and then begins the process of sourcing, assessing, selecting, and closing an offer to an individual with the current skills and competencies.

Historically, most organizations have focused on hiring individuals based solely on current need (i.e., “this job”). However, for a growing number of organizations, hiring solely for “this job” is a model that no longer yields a workforce capable of executing in an era of rapid change.


As the book The World Is Flat points out, the degree of competitiveness in the world has increased dramatically, pushing forward the speed of change in business processes, adoption of technology, and product-development life cycles.

For organizations that truly compete on a global scale, hiring for current need is a strategy that leads to the creation of massive gaps in their succession plan. While it would be great if organizations had enough development opportunities and development resources to hire in and develop talent to fill succession needs, the truth is that few organizations can develop talent fast enough to meet the changing needs of the business. Just as product life cycles are becoming shorter, so to is the average tenure of an employee in a job.

At many leading organizations, it is rare for an employee to be in the same job for longer than 18 months. The probability of an organization having the exact number of development opportunities available to meet the growing demand for management-level opportunities at the right time is low.

For stable, highly mechanized organizations, the hire for current need model may still be appropriate, but the vast majority need to build succession capability into current hiring plans (i.e., hiring candidates not only for “this job” but for their “next job” as well).

A Strategic Fit for the Employer and the Candidate Market

Recruiting for current and future need not only helps fill the gaps in an organization’s succession plan, it also aligns the employment product with the expectations of the labor market.

According to employment value proposition research by the Corporate Leadership Council, future career opportunity is the second-most influential attraction factor among job seekers. Thirty-five percent of participants ranked future career opportunity as one of the top-five factors when evaluating opportunities.

Business Scenarios That Require Next Job Hiring

There are three potential courses of action to drive the “next job” hiring strategy.

First, organizations can hire for short-term promotability. Second, organizations can over-hire for current needs, selecting candidates with the skills that will be needed in the near future. Third, organizations can hire people who demonstrate agility and an ability to learn rapidly.

Each course works best under specific business circumstances, but it is likely that any growing organization would need to leverage all three. Three common business scenarios include:

  1. Rapid company growth. If your company is rapidly growing in size, you are likely to have many internal promotions. Identify the skills and responsibilities of the next level-up job and add them to the job specifications of “this job.”
  2. Rapid but predictable change. If your company operates in an industry that is rapidly changing and constantly adopting new but relatively predictable technologies and approaches, you won’t have as many promotions or transfers as in a growth scenario. However, the skill sets will continually change. In this case, expand the job specifications to include the “predictable skills” that the employee is likely to encounter as their job evolves in a relatively predictable pattern.
  3. Rapid but hard-to-predict change. If your company operates in an industry where change is constant and rapid, but the direction is hard to predict, hire people who are experienced at learning (i.e., recent college grads). Also, hire those who learn rapidly, those who can easily solve new problems, and those who are agile so they can grow into whatever the requirements of their “next job” are.

Advantages of Next Job Hiring

There are several reasons why firms should identify the key jobs where the skills change so fast that it makes sense to shift to “next job” hiring:

  • Your new hires will be more productive faster because they will have the needed skills for their next or their “changed job” without the need for large-scale retraining to prepare them for the transition.
  • Training costs will be reduced because the new employees already have the necessary “next job” skills.
  • You will need to release or lay off fewer individuals who will have become “obsolete” in your fast-changing environment.
  • Employees are less likely to resist change because they already have the appropriate skills and capabilities to handle new processes and approaches.
  • If new hires are fast learners, less formal off-the-job training will be required.
  • If you hire rapid learners, they may even be able to help identify the areas where processes and approaches need to change.

Possible Problems Associated With Next Job Hiring

Like any advanced strategy, there are potential problems associated with “next job” hiring. Some of them include:

  • Managers can be selfish and shortsighted.
  • The job analysis process must be more rigorous if it is to predict future skill and competency needs. In addition, corporate-wide competencies would need to be identified, added to the job specs, and then assessed during the hiring process.
  • In the areas where predicting “next job” skills are difficult, processes have to be developed to assess the ability of candidates to learn rapidly and to be agile.
  • Adding additional skills means that candidates will be harder to find and perhaps a little more expensive to hire. Because they are desirable, the retention risk is likely to be higher also.
  • Individuals hired with “next job” skills will get frustrated if they are not promoted, transferred, or placed in a position where their advanced skills are needed.
  • In the United States, there are some EEOC implications if you set the job specifications too high, because that excludes individuals and groups that historically have had less education, experience, and lower skill sets.
  • Predicting “next job” skills isn’t easy, and if you get it wrong, you might still need to do a lot of re-training or rehiring.

Leading Firms Use Some Form of Next Job Hiring

Hiring for both the current job and the “next job” is not a new concept. It’s been around awhile at firms like Microsoft (where testing for problem-solving ability is well known), but it is becoming increasingly popular across a range of firms because of the noticeably increased rate of change in business.

Google, for example, is perhaps the strongest proponent of “next job” hiring. Clearly, their senior management takes a broad view of hiring because it insists that individuals who are hired have the capability to learn and grow in an environment where assignments and projects change as often as the business environment in which they operate. Other organizations known for continuous internal movement (i.e., GE, IBM, HP, and Intel) have also used some aspects of “next job” hiring.

If you want to adopt a “next job” hiring strategy, work with job analysis, training, and business unit managers to determine whether your job skills and competencies are changing rapidly.

Next, determine which of the three business scenarios best fits your organization’s competitive environment.

The third step is to start small and focus on the high-priority jobs. This step requires you to prioritize by identifying the revenue impact jobs and the high-volume hiring positions. Look at historical patterns and then at the strategic business plan, business forecasts, new technology purchases, and upcoming changes in business processes in order to identify any upcoming skill and competency needs.

Final Thoughts

If you are a recruiting leader who is striving to be more strategic and to increase your business impact, using the “next job” approach is an opportunity to move in that direction. It stands out because it is future-oriented, providing the organization an opportunity to become more agile.

Another benefit is that it will provide you an opportunity to work with individuals who look forward to change because they are prepared for it. Compared to the “Homer Simpson” types, these rapid-learning individuals are a joy to work with.

In a rapidly changing world, having employees who learn rapidly and on their own is fast becoming the competitive advantage.

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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