In a coffee shop last week I asked three random people for their definition of integrity. They all played along.

Suited guy, “Doing what you say you are going to do.”


Brightly colored hair lady, “Being honest.”


Serious looking lady, “Choosing to do the right thing.”


Brightly colored hair lady, “So… why are you asking?”


Me, “Let’s pretend for a moment that all three of you are on the same hiring team and you are looking for integrity in candidates. You are all looking for behavior and words that are consistent with your individual definitions of integrity. As a group you think you are coordinating your recruiting efforts well by looking for “integrity”, when in actuality your coordination lacks, well… integrity.” (My meaning: all parts necessary are present.)

We Think We Are Coordinating

If we were in the 23rd or maybe the 24th century, perhaps we would all have the same answer artificially planted in our brain from Wikipedia’s thinking on integrity. It’s 2,624 words long and includes some representation from all the coffee shop people’s definitions. We aren’t in the future, so until then we have to have some way to gain a shared narrative quickly to have integrity in our team’s coordinated hiring process.

When adding new employees to a high performing team, we need a shared narrative to have integrity in our hiring process.  If your hiring team builds a shared narrative for integrity, you will each be looking for the same things as you engage with a candidate.

Shared Narrative

What is a shared narrative? It’s a common agreement of what something means, feels like, and looks like. In the case of hiring, the shared narrative is a common agreement of what the ideal candidate looks and acts like. How do you arrive at a shared narrative? The process of getting there has been called co-creation, meaning making, and social construction. For hiring, it goes something like this:

  • Gather the hiring team and important stakeholders that know what the ideal candidate should look like
  • Identify the values, practices, skills, and personality traits of an ideal candidate.
  • Go through each of the identified components and build a team definition for each. Remember, it doesn’t have to be the “right” meaning as defined by Merriam-Webster, it should be your groups’ co-created definition.
  • For each of the qualities or skills, sketch out a few behaviors that demonstrate an individual has or holds that skill or quality.

This construct of the ideal candidate is the purple squirrel you’ll be looking for. Likely you won’t find the purple squirrel, but you could get something really, really close by aiming for it. The actual discussion is where the meat is; by having the group discussion you internalize (or at least begin to internalize) the shared narrative. Walking out of the meeting your team will be well on their way to making a better hire.

A Gift

Co-creating reality is a powerful process for business leaders that want to build high performing teams and it is an excellent process for keeping team members engaged. Incorporating co-creation as a core practice is systemic for the business, each core system (sales, marketing, innovation, hiring, etc.) then becomes more effective for the whole. This article from Harvard Business Review – Creating the Best Workplace on Earth – dives into what it looks like for a business to have co-creation as a core competency.

In the long run, actually having a discussion about what you mean, even though everyone is nodding their heads that they know what you mean, can significantly shift the choices you make as you build your team. Create shared narratives. Know what your shared distinction is for integrity. Start to think about how you will incorporate co-creation more fully into your business.


Miche Rayment is the Founder and Chief Facilitator for The Hire Effect™. The Hire Effect’s clients learn basic coordination strategies for hiring and tactics like co-creation and meaning making that make life easier and more successful.