Being prepared

When Mary Alice Ryan is interviewing for new members of her executive team, she thinks about her siblings.

As one of 10 children, she says it’s OK for a group of people to have different personalities, but it’s essential that everyone has the same values.

“It’s important you hire people not only because they have the best qualifications but because they also have the ability to fit into your culture and your team,” says Ryan, president and CEO of St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors, a $65 million company that owns and manages housing and care facilities.

To find a surefire match for her team, Ryan prepares for interviews with the candidates by first narrowly defining the position. First, you first have to identify the position, its mission and its qualifications to use as a guide throughout the process. Second, you have to understand the leadership traits that your ideal candidate would possess. For each interview, Ryan uses a list of 15 traits that, she says, has “turned my whole world around.”

Smart Business spoke with Ryan about how to prepare for interviews to ensure you find the ideal candidate.

Decide what the position calls for. I start off the process by writing and then rewriting what I call a position profile. This is one page — almost in a way, an ad — but it’s a simple one page that tells what’s the position, what’s the mission of the position, what are the qualifications, what are the core responsibilities and a little bit about who we are.

We use it to enthuse a person or attract them so that every word in this is not only what you need to have, but it’s written in a way to attract them to get excited about this kind of position.

It’s the document I use as I go through the entire process, so everything that I want is really defined in here.

You’ve got to write it very tight. Every word needs to convey something so that they’re not supercilious because people don’t like to read a lot. Any executive is skimming things, so what you want to do is minimize code words. A lot of people, unless I’m getting someone who is very technical in my field, may not know those code words.

I also want to say it in a wording that is simple; that way, everything that they want is on here. What is the mission of this job? It’s really a one-sentence-type thing that says what we really want you to accomplish in the world is this.

This has worked out really well for me because if you just put a simple, little paragraph that you send out to all of your networking friends and you say, ‘I’m looking for a person to do billing,’ or, ‘I’m looking for a CFO,’ that doesn’t say enough.