Tips for hiring for entirely new roles

We’re now a 35 person team at Akkroo, and in the last two years, we’ve hired a lot of people into roles with job descriptions that hadn’t existed in the business previously.

Clarifying a new role often presents a dilemma, as it’s sometimes hard to assess what exactly you’re looking for when there’s no existing definition of that role within the organisation.

While there fewer than 15 people at Akkroo, this wasn’t really much of an issue because everyone was more or less a generalist, however as we approached 20 in the team, it really started to become noticeable that we needed a tighter process around creating new job specs.

What usually prompts the need to hire someone into an entirely new role is usually the identification of bunch of “rogue responsibilities” which start to accumulate with one or more individuals in the team (or are not handled by anyone at all), and it becomes obvious that it’s becoming less and less sustainable for it to be left this way.

Sometimes it’s pretty obvious what the role should be, however, most of the time we don’t have a 100% accurate picture right away. It’s hardest when you aren’t an expert in a particular field but are still responsible for hiring the right person.

The technique I use for dealing with these situations is three part.

Part 1 is to draw up a broad and exhaustive list of all the responsibilities that seem to be accumulating in this “gap”. For example, we recently created a list for an emerging challenge around a build up in legal work and on our list were things like “assisting with contracts” (something a number of us had to get involved with in the past, including external counsel) and “investigating and achieving relevant international business standards” (something we want to do, but no one inside the team is really equipped to own it). A good list of responsibilities should be quite long, and shouldn’t be edited down quite yet.

Once I’ve got a comprehensive list of responsibilities, I then work together with other teammates to establish what's essential and what's a nice to have. We also identify which skills are unlikely to be found together in one person (for example it’s rare to find someone who is truly exceptional both operationally /and/ strategically).

That usually means the final list gets split into two. When we write the job spec we now have two useful lists to include. If some of the initially listed responsibilities are not included in the job spec that's fine, we now have a remainder list and can look to solve that challenge separately.

Part 2 is research into existing, well-understood job titles. Once you’ve got a defined list of responsibilities, it’s much easier now to ask around and try and choose a sensible title to market it under. In our example above, it became clear what we needed was a Contracts & Compliance Manager (the first time we’ve hired for such a role). If you don’t do this research into existing role names, you can invent a great job title that no one is looking for, and you’d be lucky to find the right person because no one is searching for it. It’s worth remembering it’s quite unlikely you are really the first person to ever have encountered this set of circumstances before, so you need a really great reason to reinvent the wheel when you title a new role.

Part 3 is to seek out results orientated candidates. I think this is good advice for any hire, however in cases where you cannot yourself judge the quality of a person in a role because you are no more expert than they will be (like in the case of Contracts & Compliance, as I am not a lawyer) there are two obvious options: either train-up to become an expert yourself so you can make that judgement call — or the more realistic option, which is find candidates who are great at expressing how they measure success and failure.

For example, with the Contracts & Compliance Manager role, where I am no qualified legal expert, it was critical to find someone who could clearly evaluate their own performance and easily communicate it to a layperson.

Therefore I wanted to find an individual who when asked “what does success look like?” doesn’t give me a list of the tasks they know how to complete well, but instead illustrates a clear understanding about why those tasks are indicators for success in the role, and how they would measure them, so I can share in that evaluation easily.

What’s great is this turns out to be a great razor. Half the people know how to do this sort of self-evaluation well, and half the people do not. As a consequence, we tend to hire people in the second category.

Worth mentioning: we are actively hiring for a number of roles at Akkroo right now. If you’re open to a new challenge and would enjoy working in a smart, kind, growing team who are helping businesses across the world to modernise event lead capture at trade shows and exhibitions, please check out our jobs page.

This post was first published on Sat Jul 21 2018 originally on, my former personal blog

Andy Higgs
The author

My name is Andy Higgs and I am a business founder, design leader, occassional surfer and travel enthusiast based in the UK.

More of my travel and business writing can be found here, or you can subscribe to the feed for these posts here.