Hints to Avoiding Hazardous Hires
A recent Delfi client thought he had done everything right in hiring a great candidate for a critical position – an extensive search, right experience and qualifications, relevant experience, and an excellence performance in the hiring interview. Yet three months later, both the manager and the candidate were extremely unhappy and a separation occurred. The hiring manager was perplexed about whatever could have happened to this “perfect” employee . How did he ever miss the obvious mismatch between the requirements of the job – and the style, approach and behaviors that soon became evident on the job. But it happened – and as consultants we were reminded once again about both the weaknesses of many of our current hiring processes and the high costs on all sides of making a bad hire. So today’s Delfi column will focus of some of the ways to avoid the more obvious hazards in the hiring process.
Resumes are written, designed and crafted to create a positive image of the candidate in the eyes of the potential employer. Note to reader: over-stating rather than understating one’s capabilities and attributes is the norm in resume preparation! When a manager forms a quick positive first impression from scanning a resume, social scientists tell us that the manager will then focus on the information that is consistent with this first impression with a clear tendency to downplay or overlook information that contradicts this impression. Capability refers to the skills, tools and experience that the candidate needs in order to succeed. Managers sometimes overlook these basic factors when a candidate has solid academic credentials, and comes across as intelligent and confident in an interview situation. In order to be successful in your vacant position, the candidate must have the necessary skills to do the work, the experience applying these skills in a comparable workplace and the motivation to apply them consistently in your organization. Read and question carefully – and watch first impressions.
The careers or jobs that candidates pursue are often more influenced by societal influences and peer pressure, than by the candidates’ understanding of themselves, their strengths and personal needs from employment. Most employment mis-hires occur because of poor job fit between the needs of the job, and the personal needs, behaviors and interests of the candidate. Resumes and interviews are not sufficient to produce reliable information for the manager on the degree of fit between position and candidate. The manager needs to know the job, and the personal, behavioral and interest characteristics of those who are judged to be highly successful in this role. Then her best course of action is to hire others that show these same characteristics. Behavioral assessment tools can be extremely helpful in this fit analysis. And research consistently shows that those companies using well-developed assessment tools as part of their hiring process experience many fewer mis-hires in their staffing process.
We generally hire too quickly – and make termination decisions too slowly. A $50,000 annual salary cost is an investment will cost you millions in salary alone over a normal career. If you were buying a similarly-priced piece of production equipment to last you 20+ years, you would not rush into your decision without doing significant homework and due diligence. Rushed decisions are usually costly decisions – so give yourself enough time to get enough information to get it right.
Team members can play an invaluable role in your information –gathering process. They have a highly vested interest in getting the right person to join their team as they will be working along side this person every day. Find ways to get them involved – perhaps in touring candidates around, taking them to lunch or coffee before or after the interview, having them meet and have a team-based interview to supplement your management review. This decision is important enough to get a few more heads involved for different views of the candidate’s actual potential to make a difference in your business.
Hiring a candidate without checking references is a very dangerous activity. The references provided have likely stood in your shoes before, have seen the candidate work with others, have seen where she excels and where she stumbles. If there is an obvious recent employer missing from the provided preference, ask the client about the omission. It is always insightful to find out why your candidate has left previous employers. Be prepared for the reference conversation by having specific areas that you want to explore about this candidate – areas of concern, areas where you may have worries about lack of fit, feedback on interpersonal interactions with customers, with peers, with leaders. If you are using assessment reports as part of your hiring, then use the information to explore critical areas in greater depth. And finally – telephone reference discussions will almost always be more revealing than written references or e-mail responses.
There you have it – five tips on how to lessen the risks leading to hazardous hires. Managers and leaders are called on to make hiring decisions on a regular basis. There are many, including this writer, who believe that these are among the most critical decisions that you will make in your role. Work hard to be better at it – and may all your hiring decisions create a win-win for all concerned.