The Consistent Risks Inherent in All Hiring Decisions
To err in hiring is human - and is considered to be very expensive. Many "standard" hiring procedures are actually common mistakes, so to choose more competent candidate, you need to be prepared to revise your hiring methods. Learn the consequences of the hiring errors managers often make, and then eliminate them from your hiring practices to help you choose only the cream of the crop. Most, if not all managers would agree that there are always risks when hiring new employees. These risks exist whether the new hire is a fresh-out-of-school Field sales rep. or a new chief executive officer.
Some concerns are rather low-level risk issues. "Does this candidate always dress like that?" Other questions are more qualitative. "Does this candidate's education and experience truly 'fit' the requirements of this open position?" Another important category is mostly subjective. "Does this candidate have the best personality and demeanor to provide positive 'chemistry' to the team on which he or she will work?" or to answer the biggest question, "does this candidate thinks and acts like the way we want him to do?". In most of the hiring decisions, the line Managers and the H.R tends to think if they can get the 'white elephant' out of the candidate that best suits their purpose.
Most of the hiring decisions are hardly based on a complete availability of information on the candidates and there is no much information available to carry out a full proof investigation on the candidature. Although it is argued that the real need of a 360 degree investigation is actually needed for an entry level or junior position and most of the senior hiring are through referrals and market knowledge but still their has been a dire need to re calculate the actual risk of hiring an wrong candidate at the senior management level than a junior management level. Hiring a wrong CEO can get the organization into doldrums of never ending problems or annihilate the corporation.
It is the most critical decision of a human resource professional, department head or a line manager to understand the sensitivity of a hiring decision. It is not expected that every time one makes the right hiring decision and every hire turns out to be a superstar in the organization, yet the damage can be controlled better if precautions have been proactively taken in every organization.
1. Too much of dependency on interview techniques to evaluate a candidate.
In an exhaustive research study conducted by John and Rhonda Hunter at The University of Michigan on the "Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance"1, the usefulness of the interview in accurately predicting later success on the job was analyzed. The surprising finding: The typical interview increases the likelihood of choosing the best candidate by less than 2%. In other words, it is just like tossing a coin and getting it correct almost 50% of the time and by adding the interview you would be right 52% of the time.
Why the interview is such a poor tool...and why is it still the most commonly used selection technique? Experts suggest three reasons.
• Most managers don't have a structure of an interview and assume to get the best of the answers before the actual answer is delivered (develop a scoring weight) by the interviewee. It is just like knowing the place before you have reached it.
• Managers often forget that a candidate who is an active job seeker has already undergone several interviews with other organizations and have developed his sense of anticipating the common questions asked by an interviewer.
• An interview does help evaluate "personal chemistry" and allow the manager to get a feel of how well they might get along and work together. This is an important issue and is known as the 'Halo effect' and even if it doesn't predict the candidate's future potential to succeed in the job.
2. Managers sometimes use too many criteria for selection
Ask a recruiter on the client response on the forwarded profiles for a position and to your surprise you will find that in most of the well structured selection process, their has always been a disconnect between the candidate expected by the decision maker and the candidate actually delivered by the recruiter. Even well designed job description sheets sometimes fail to eradicate this error. The reason being Managers sometimes forget that in the real world, getting the protagonist's ideal as per all your specifications (read 10/10) is an uphill task. No individual joins an organization knowing each and every aspect of the game and in time polishes to become a star in midst of the crowd. While making a hiring decision, managers must give priority to the major parameters rather than introspecting on the minor parts.
3. The "I need someone right now" or the Emergency syndrome.
This is probably the most common and, certainly, the most understandable hiring mistake. Most experienced managers have made this mistake, often with good reason. Does this scenario sound familiar? An employee resigns or is terminated for cause. Your five-person team is now a four-person team. The duties of your former employee are split up among the remaining team members, who are becoming stressed out and performance is starting to suffer. You need a talented warm body right now before you lose the rest of your team to exhaustion or depression. In most of the cases Managers tend to expedite the hiring process by over stepping hiring methods and lands up recruiting a wrong or average performing candidate. As the pressure mounts to fill a key open position, the time available to make a hiring decision appears to shrink. Blindly taking all representations made on a resume and/or in-person interview as fact heightens the risk of making a bad decision. You need to take the time to screen your preferred candidates as thoroughly as possible to eliminate those that have serious "issues", and help you make the best hiring decision based on reality.
4. The "I hired this person because I got a great referral from her sister, father, or close friend who works for our organization" or the Neighbor syndrome.
Over the time recruiting through referrals has become one of the major recruitment sources. There are many companies that encourage referring family and friends of current employees as there are that totally prohibit this practice. Hewlett Packard recruits almost 40% of its recruits through a referral program. There is no harm in hiring a close family member or friend but, the fatal error is not screening these referrals as you would other candidates. Simply because someone is the brother of one of your key top performing employees does not guaranty that he is of the same caliber. Check out any family and friend referrals just as you would a candidate with no prior connection to your organization. Various recruiting and placement agencies report a fairly high percentage of false information presented in resumes and job applications. In a recent study conducted by Kelly Services, a fortune 500, global staffing organization; as many as 15 to 20 percent of job applicants try to hide some dark chapter in their lives. For some positions, one out of three resumes submitted may contain false information. In order to arrest this situation today companies are hiring professional employment verification companies to dig in additional information about their potential hire. An individual who twists the facts to get a job will probably bend the rules on the job and in turn put you and the organization in jeopardy. Checking references may seem tedious, but it also beats the frustration and cost of hiring someone you need to fire in a week time.
5. The "I hired this person because they said they liked to do the work I hate to do" or the Action Leader syndrome.
This policy is more common than most managers are willing to admit. For example, you're hiring for a position that will allow you to divest yourself of some of the duties you absolutely hate to perform. You find a candidate that expresses great love for these duties. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!" Your normal thoughtful consideration, careful screening, and pointed interview questions are reduced to "When can you start?" You might seriously regret this approach and your decision. Candidates with opposite likes and unlike sometimes create opposition to the positive ideas and actions which you need sometime to drive internally.
6. The "I must hire this candidate because he/she is just like me" or the 'Halo Effect'.
This common mistake is probably made every five minutes or so around the globe. But - unless you are charged with hiring someone who is going to replace YOU, you should strongly resist this temptation. Recruiting a successor who has worked with you for couple of years for a strategic position can be done in this fashion as you have ample information on the individual's working style, relations and performance. Different positions often require a professional personality that 'fits' the duties and responsibilities expected. For example, a research position, with typical days spent in a cubicle staring at a computer display, may be a poor fit for an outgoing candidate. Conversely, a team leader position, requiring constant oral communication, one-on-one or group interaction, and vocal leadership activities, may be ill suited for a talented, but reclusive candidate. Even hiring a candidate who is your clone may be inappropriate if you are replacing yourself. Getting carried away by the individual personality or charisma rather than the actual competency and skill fitment will land up making a wrong hiring decision and will not lead to a good hiring decision.
7. Evaluating "Personality" instead of the required Job Skills
The biggest discontent with common sense is that it is often based on anecdotes and circumstantial examples rather than real and objective research. Many consultants and test-sellers, for example, have offered psychological theories to support their belief that certain personality factors are critical to success in management, sales or other types of jobs. In fact, few of the theories go to the extent to compare and contrast human personality factors with the job Skills.
Solid statistical research reports that from many objective sources, there is very little correlation between any personality factor and any specific job. Competent and reputable "personality" type test producers (like the Myers Briggs, 16 P.F, etc) readily admit their tools are useful for self-awareness and training but are not suited for hiring candidates. Only the "skills-based tests" or the job knowledge tests have consistently been proven to predict success on the job.
So while it might be nice to know that a sales candidate has self-confidence a high energy, it is far more likely that it is critical to know whether he or she can retain and penetrate existing customers or develop new ones. In most of the hiring decisions, in most of the hiring decisions the Managers tend to give more importance to the job skills and the personality of the individual rather than his competency and business insight which he has developed over the years.
8. Lend an ear to the candidate. Hear him loud and test his emotional intelligence.
You will agree to the fact that in most of the interviews much is spoken than listened. Managers forget that the real purpose of the interview is not only to evaluate the candidate's job skills, competencies and experience but also his emotional intelligence and corporate citizenship which is also equally important in a rating scale. Most of the structured interviews are seldom expressive and demands to the point answers from a potential candidate. Interviewer must also have the patience to hear the candidate express his thoughts and counter questions to clarify all his doubts before he make the decision on his probable employer. This helps in reducing the communication gap and also helps the manager to judge the candidates actual motive towards the job. Asking questions like how was his last weekend or about his pets or social network, gives a better sketch on his personality.
9. Failure to have a sales mentality and obvious enthusiasm about your organization when speaking with a candidate.
Like a shiny new car inside the showroom, unblemished by rain, road dirt, pebbles, etc., your organization should sparkle to a potential candidate. Most of the H.R people fail to take this opportunity to sell their organization and its virtues to a possible employee. In fact many expect the potential employee to be well prepared and know all about the organization before they come for the interview. Better choice: A major portion of your recruiting communication plan should be enthusiasm and total positivity about your employer. Prepared candidates often know their talent level and acceptable compensation range, which sometimes makes a choice difficult if they receive multiple offers. Since they cannot truly know an organization's corporate culture, they often decide based on how they "feel" about a prospective employer. Professional search firms understand this and typically do their best to "sell" a potential employer to a qualified candidate. HR professionals should adopt this valuable strategy to avoid this hiring mistake. Enthusiasm and positive comments about an employer can get you the right candidate in the perfect position. Proactive candidate briefing is a part of employer branding activity and has to be meticulously designed and presented to any of the prospective employee.
10. And finally, hiring a candidate who is a good "job" fit, but not a team or organization match.
While rarely a major consideration in past years, this philosophy has become a primary hiring error in the twenty-first century. The importance of "team", corporate culture, and organization chemistry has become an often critical component of successful modern business operations. Better choice: When considering otherwise qualified candidates, add an evaluation estimating their potential compatibility with the team they may join and the organization as a whole. A perfect job candidate with a personality or demeanor that conflicts with team or organization chemistry can quickly result in, not just one unhappy employee, but a production downgrade in an entire team. Avoiding this error and hiring a person who's a good team and corporate match may add value, beyond the simple sum of the parts calculation, to a group and an organization. In fact, hiring a person at the leadership role with a good fit to the organization and corporate culture helps in reducing the attrition and promoting strong team spirit and positive energy.
Recruiting and hiring the best candidates for your organization is a challenging responsibility. One or more of these hiring errors are often made by even the most experienced HR professionals unknowingly. Avoiding these mistakes is not really difficult and can make a measurable positive improvement in your organization operations. The personal "star rating" of HR professionals, who avoid these errors, may also rise noticeably.
Hiring is both an art and science and its root is embedded in the field of behavioral and social sciences. Hiring is an on going process and is considered to be a pivotal and strategic part of the H.R function in an organization. Although the list of common hiring mistakes is exhaustive and several studies have been conducted in this regard. The risks will always exist, but being aware of them should greatly improve your managerial scorecard and the ability to recruit the right talent. With the discovery of hiring mistakes comes the opportunity to make positive change. Even if you are content with most of the people you have hired so far, remember that continuous improvement is key to success.
By Mayuk Dasgupta, R.M South, H.R Services Business, Glodyne Technoserve Ltd.
The author can be reached at mayuk.dasgupta(at)glodyne.com
1. John and Rhonda Hunter, "Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance"1, Psychological Bulletin, July 1984, p. 90.
2. Edward A. Robinson, "Beware -- Job Seekers Have No Secrets", Fortune, December 29, 1997, p. 285
3. Human Resource Champions, Dave Ulrich, 1997
4. "The Smart Manager", Kelly Services Global insight, 2008, http://www.kellyservices.com