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February 28, 2018

4 Must-Have Screens to Hire the Right Internal Communications Professional


Our clients often share how hard it is to find the right candidates to fill openings on their Internal Communications team. The time, risk and disruption that it commonly causes makes it one of the biggest concerns keeping them up at night.

It takes time to hire smart and the stress of an open head count can test the existing team who’s already stretched thin and your reputation with key stakeholder relationships. What’s even more frustrating is hiring and onboarding a new member of the team only to find out they’re not the right fit… then you’re back to square one.

Hiring internal communications professionals is challenging. The role typically has so many dimensions – from trusted advisor, planner, business strategist, change agent, facilitator, trainer, writer, editor, publisher, issues guru, researcher, and the list goes on and on. It’s no wonder finding the right person who can do it all is so tough.

Four Screens to Consider

Our clients often involve us in the screening and selection process of internal communications professionals to join their team. While there are many skills and attributes to look for, here are four top qualities we pay special attention:

1.  Knows (and loves) Internal Communications: These are people who have been there and done that with other organizations – and want to keep going there and doing that. For example, if you’re looking for someone to lead the internal communications function, then it’s critical that the person you choose has already led the function somewhere else. There’s too much riding on the role to take a chance on someone’s “potential” no matter how good they seem. The way we see it, a bonus is if the person has worked in the same organization or industry. It’s easier to teach someone the business than to teach someone internal communications.

2.  Integrates strategy and tactics: The best internal communication professionals can’t (or at least shouldn’t) separate strategy from the tactics. Unless it’s a truly unique situation, be weary of people who say they’ve already done certain aspects of internal communications and want to spread their wings to focus more on strategy. We screen for people who seamlessly combine best thinking with best planning and best doing, and can flex their styles and skills. We dig deep to find out how good (and how willing) they are at doing both.

3.  Is savvy: Communications team members are often in the middle of complex strategy, sensitive business topics, and lots of change. Look for those who know how to navigate these waters in a respectful, professional, humble way to build trust and get results; who can flex their skills and toggle with ease between meetings with the CEO and writing communication plans and editorial content.

4.  Puts their skills to the test: Interviewing communication professionals is tough because in many cases, they’re great at communicating! But how can you be sure the talk matches the walk? Get beyond the script and the surface. Dig deep in your questioning. And, literally, give them a strategic thinking test that helps you see how they think, write and interact with you and your team.

Increase Your Chances of a Successful Hiring

We develop customized tests for our clients to give to candidates during the interviewing stage – because basic HR writing tests are never enough. Our tests are simulations that screen for many work characteristics and skills that are critical to the position, including internal communication acumen, knowledge of strategy and tactics, professional demeanor, work effectiveness and timeliness, written and verbal communication skills, and ability to operate under pressure. Through this process, we learn priceless insights about the candidates in every interaction. We learn cues and clues that make for more meaningful interviews, uncover potential watch outs, and inform how to set selected candidates up for success as they onboard. The test uncovers so much more than what usually comes through during typical interviews.

We know how tempting it is to hire and hope for the best. And, we know the disappointment (and wasted time, money and confidence) that comes when you find out the person doesn’t have what you need. Take some of the risk out of the equation and take control with a smart, thorough, thoughtful approach to hiring.

How might you adjust your selection and hiring process to increase your chances for the right fit?

—Kate Bushnell

About the Author

kate-peters1.jpgKate is President of The Grossman Group and leads the team of thoughtpartners™ to deliver innovative and strategic communication solutions for clients that address their everyday and defining business challenges. She works with leaders across a variety of functions and industries, including Astellas, Health Quest, Hill-Rom, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, Lockheed Martin, MARS Incorporated, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Motel 6, NYU Langone Health, Tenneco and Wyndham, among others. Read her complete bio here.

Click below to download the eBook—Top 10 Barriers Communicators Face: How to Get Your Leader on Board With Internal Communication—and get the tools you need to break down the barriers when working with your leaders:

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