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March 14, 2003

"Most of the things we decide are not what we know to be the best. We say yes, merely because we are driven into a corner and must say something."
--  Frank Crane, Essays
Do You Hire Like Everyone Else?
These days it is easier to find good employees, but keeping them once you find them is another issue.  With high unemployment across the board, it is easy to get overwhelmed with candidates and lose sight of what it is costing you to look at all these candidates. Good training is needed more than ever for this very reason, yet it could also be your own albatross.  This should cause us to examine hiring procedures closely, and look for ways to do a better job at retaining the employees we already have, before we let them go.

A survey done by Professor John Hunter of Michigan State University indicated that typical employment interviews are only accurate 57% of the time.  This means only about 60% of our hiring decisions can be successful. 

In another survey, 95% of managers say they have made bad hiring decisions, yet good hiring is either first or second in importance to their personal success.  Also, 95% of these managers said they didn't like the hiring process.  They also said that a "no" decision can be made with confidence in less than 30 minutes 90% of the time, while coming to a "yes" decision with confidence takes one to three total hours of interviewing.  Then these same managers said that it takes at least three weeks to three months after a candidate starts a job to determine true competence, most of the time. 

We can see that the typical interview process is a flawed way of hiring.  Emotions, biases, chemistry, and stereotypes have too much influence on the decision.  The competency of the interviewer is often questionable, true job knowledge is weak, and candidates can give misleading information because they are not asked good questions.

Standards for hiring fall as desperation grows.  What actually happens is, most hiring decisions are dependent on the interviewer- candidate relationship developed early in the interview, and not enough on job skills. 

Even though hiring decisions are some of the most important decisions ever made, most are made in less time than it takes to order lunch.  According to the experts, most hiring decisions are made in the first seven seconds of the interview!  The rest of the interview is spent gathering information to rationalize the emotionally based decision that has already been made. 

A Better Way
What is a manager to do, with all these factors working against them?  Hiring right is the first step to good retention.  Prepare properly and gain objective information about the candidate's ability to do the job, then make an objective assessment to assist you in making the hiring decision after the interview.

Maintaining objectivity is easier said than done.  It starts in the recruiting process.  The first step is to design a description of the job that focuses on the results that you need from the position. Those results need to be specific, measurable, action oriented, results based, and time bound.

Next, you need to plan your strategy for finding the right candidates. This means designing the "advertisement" for the opening, and choosing the methods that will deliver the message to candidate prospects.  The third step is to execute that strategy and competently screen the resumes that come in. 

Once you have chosen resumes that qualify, conduct a telephone interview looking for the candidate's biggest accomplishment. If that candidate has a lot to say about that accomplishment, schedule an interview.  If the candidate stumbles, move on.

When you get to the interview stage, focus on performance first and personality last.  Too many managers do the opposite, because it is a natural tendency.  Look for energy, drive, and initiative in your questioning.  This doesn't mean that you are looking for an "extrovert."  This is about the candidate showing that they take the initiative over and above the typical employee.  Get examples of the candidate exceeding expectations.

Other things to look for are performance trend over time, comparability of past accomplishments to your position's objectives, experience, education and industry background, problem solving and thinking skills, overall talent, technical competency and potential, management and organizational abilities, team leadership abilities, and then character, personality and cultural fit.

After the interview, rate each area on a scale; thinking objectively about the information you were able to get in the interview. Total the score and compare with other candidates you interview. Hire the candidate with the highest score.  Once you hire the candidate, manage them according to the objectives you created for the position and used in the interview.  One of the best things you can do beyond hiring effectively is to be a good leader. But that's another article.

By Jim Anderson, who is dedicated to helping business owners and executives improve their competitive advantage through more effective people strategies.  http://www.lighthousehumancapital.com
1.     This week, if you are responsible for hiring new people,
        what will you do differently?

2.     Do you need to communicate these changes to the HR
        department for alignment on the key attributes of the
        ideal employee?

3.     I found Jim's last step very important.  If you are interviewing
        a number of people for a position, the candidates can get
        blurred.  Better to do your rating as soon as you finish each

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