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Blog and News

Invest Now or Pay Later
08/22/2013 Doug Beckley

As management consultants, we spend our days working with organizations to achieve goals and solve problems. In this work, we have learned one important lesson above all - the limit to a company's success is defined by the limitations of its people. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great tells us, "Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth is the ability to get and keep enough of the right people."

Time and again, we are astounded by the half hearted effort most businesses put into selecting and hiring good people. Lazy and shortsighted hiring processes are so widespread in the business world that it has become the norm. It is the most important contributor to poor company performance. And yet, managers rush through and short cut the hiring process because they have to "get back to work". Not until leaders realize that selecting the best talent IS their job will the tide turn on mediocre performance.

Lucky for you, you are reading this article. In the following paragraphs, I will outline a few universal but essential practices that exponentially improve the quality of performance and longevity of your people. However, let me warn you that the process outlined will take time and energy - when it comes to hiring, there is a universal truth ... Invest now or pay later.

  1. Begin with a Clear Job Description: You can't hire effectively if you have not thoroughly outlined the responsibilities and required competencies of the job, and are able to assess candidates in these areas. You must be extremely clear on the skills, abilities and competencies you require. Interviews must be based upon this criterion, so that you know what to ask the candidate.
  2. Pre-screen Applicants Over the Phone: The hiring process is made much more efficient by eliminating weak candidates in a short pre-screening interview, before time is wasted on full interviews. The purpose here is not to identify great candidates. The purpose is eliminating candidates who should not proceed to the next step in the hiring process so that you can focus on the ones who should.
  3. Conduct Candidate Assessments: There are number of effective, inexpensive, web based pre- hiring assessments which will provide you with highly predictive data on character, work ethic and job fit. Make sure the assessment results are received and reviewed before the next step in the process.
  4. Interview Comprehensively: Once you have eliminated weak candidates, conduct extremely thorough interviews with viable candidates. Have your questions prepared in advance, in writing and ask all of them. A critical rule underlying this interview is that the best predictor of future job performance is past job performance. Thus, ask in depth questions about past work related accomplishments and failures. Ask how the candidate's prior managers rated their performance, strengths and weaknesses. Probe into past performance to help you develop a picture of likely future performance.

    Another useful tool is called behavioral interviewing. This is where, in a polite but focused way, you put the candidate on the spot with a series of specific "what-if" questions. Ask, for example, how the candidate would handle a disgruntled employee. Don't settle for generalized answers; instead, drill down into the scenario, getting the candidate to flesh out exactly what he or she would do in a difficult situation. The right candidate will be ready with the right answers.
  5. Candidate Arranged Reference Calls: You have gained the candidates perspective on past performance, but now you go to the source - references calls to prior managers. This step is essential! The problem of prior employer unwillingness to provide a meaningful reference can be overcome by instructing the candidate to cue up the reference calls. Tell candidates that you would like them to contact their last 3 managers and request that these managers take your call and participate in an honest reference interview.

In this challenging market, mis-hires will degrade performance and a key mis-hire can be devastating. This process is designed to make certain that you have the very best opportunity to add only A Players to your team and avoid the staggering cost of human resource mistakes.