One-third of all hiring decisions fail, according to management guru Peter Drucker. No other aspect of business would ever be allowed to tolerate such a high failure rate… why do we accept it as a given here?
We must stop relying on hunches, gut feelings, and first impressions, because those methods are flawed and unproductive. According to Lou Adler, “First impressions based on emotions, biases, chemistry, personality, and stereotyping cause more hiring mistakes than any other single factor.”
As a direct result of poor hiring decisions, managers spend a lot of time trying to bring poor performers (about 16% of the workforce) up to average performance levels. They rarely spend time encouraging the top performers (also about 16% of the workforce), even though the top performers are responsible for most – often 80% or better – of the organization’s productivity.
Companies should identify their top performers and focus on retaining those employees. (One method is to tie managers’ pay to retention of top-performing employees.) Qualities that tend to define top performers are:
- They learn quickly, and can easily distinguish what’s important and what’s not.
- When they make mistakes, they take personal responsibility.
- When they succeed they identify everyone who helped them. (Low performers do the opposite.)
- They have a sense of humor that defuses stress and conflict in the workplace.
- They fit in with the team.
- They are not looking for work, but they may be bored at their present jobs and open to advances (often because their managers don’t give them enough praise and encouragement).
Simply stated, people whose values and personal standards align with yours and those of your company are likelier to stay longer, perform better, set a higher standard for their co-workers and represent you better to your customers.
Some questions you can ask all your job applicants that elicit information about personal standards and values:
- What was the best job you’ve ever had? Why did you like it so much? (repeat for ‘worst job’)
- Think of the worst supervisor or manager you’ve had. What characteristics made that person a poor manager, for you? (repeat, for ‘best manager’)
- What traits do you most (least) admire in co-workers?
- What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you at work?
- Do you consider yourself a lucky person? What evidence do you have to support your opintion?
Hone in further on the applicant’s values and attitudes, even before scheduling a face-to-face interview. Use the candidate’s answers from the narrative application (using the questions above) as background for a 10-minute phone call to follow up with the applicant, drilling down for more detail about standards, values and attitudes. Ask promising applicants to complete an online assessment. Use a validated assessment tool that measures qualities relevant to your company’s needs. Online assessments should include external distortion scores that quantify the likelihood that the applicant is telling the whole truth.
By the time an applicant comes in for an interview, you have invested less time and gathered more useful information for assessing the candidate’s values and attitudes than is likely the case today.
Jan van der Hoop is President of Fit First Technologies. Jan can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]