Executive Search Expert Steve McKinney on Hiring Based on Skills and Talents


PUBLISHED: November 15, 2023
Steve McKinney founder and president of McKinney Consulting

The days of lifetime employment where people stayed at one company, often at the same job, for nearly the entirety of their working ages are long gone. According to an analysis from Pew Research Center, only 44% of adults ages 18–34 in the U.S. indicated they’ve been with their current employer for at least three years. This trend has remained largely the same since at least the 1980s.

“My father, like most of his generation, worked at one company for more than 30 years,” Steve McKinney, founder and president of executive search and coaching firm McKinney Consulting, says. “However, lifetime employment has long been a thing of the past. Today, the fastest way to grow one’s career is often to find a better job at another company.”

Employees today must focus on developing what McKinney describes as “employability skills,” or skills that are valuable across multiple industries and situations. To achieve job security, people should continually evolve and upskill.

For example, the skills that can help an employee excel in the financial industry, such as analytical thinking, problem-solving and interpersonal communication, are also important in other industries, such as marketing, operations, construction and many others.

This is why, according to McKinney, employers should focus on identifying the core skills and talents needed for the job and look for these in the people they hire. He says that some companies look for a candidate who fits the job description perfectly, but the requirements are so specific and detailed that the person doesn’t actually exist.

Instead, companies should step back and evaluate what new hires would need to do on a daily basis and what they have to deliver and then work from there. There has also been growing discussion about the overemphasis placed on certain degrees—especially considering the increasingly high costs of traditional education—as people are starting to obtain skills through alternative means. McKinney believes the whole model is evolving and there will be more changes coming in the next few years.

On the flip side, job seekers should also identify the skills and talents for the roles they are applying for and constantly cultivate and highlight them.

“I’ve coached a lot of people who have skills and talents that they are not aware of because they do it so easily and so naturally,” McKinney says. “People need to think about their talents and skills and how they relate to their employability. While some people are more natural at some things than others, talents and skills can be developed through training and coaching.”

McKinney Consulting’s coaching service includes the Success Factors program, which involves an analysis of participants’ backgrounds and experiences. This enables them to identify the various qualities and factors that can help them succeed—or what McKinney describes as a unique pattern to success, similar to a fingerprint. As he coaches clients, he is able to determine their pattern, allowing them to seize future opportunities and apply their strengths in a way that’s most likely to result in success.

From McKinney’s experience, shifting to a hiring paradigm based on skills and talents instead of just someone’s resume or previous job titles has huge benefits for both employer and employee.

“The main benefit is that employees are more engaged if they’re doing something they love and are comfortable with,” he says. “If you can match the employees’ talents with the needs of the organization, then you’ve got a home run.”

Photo courtesy of Steve McKinney.

All views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and are not endorsed by or reflective of SUCCESS. As a reader-supported publication, we may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.