Five Ways to Improve Hiring Success!
We’ve all heard the data – as many as 50% of all hiring decisions turn out to be hiring mistakes at some time in the first 12 months after hire.
That’s not good news, but even more interesting is the data that shows that a high percentage of these hiring mistakes are not caused by shortcomings in a candidate’s skills or expertise, but about mismatches in everything else. Disconnects between how the employee performs at work and the expectations that their manager, their teammates and their organization have about their performance is the primary culprit behind most hiring mistakes.
This blog addresses that issue, providing a short list of some changes you can make in your hiring process to avoid these disconnects. While we’ve tried to present these ideas as quick easy to dos, we recognize that several represent more foundational adjustments in how to think about the hiring process. Here’s our list…
Make sure your pre- recruiting homework refreshes you on the CONTEXT in which the job will be done!
As a third-party recruiting organization, we get 100s of requests each year for recruiting help. You might be surprised to learn how many times a hiring manager or an in house recruiter will give us a dusted off copy of a 10 year old job description assuming that’s all the homework needed.
“Hold on Kimosabe – we’ve got more work to do if you want us to find someone who is the right fit for this job.”
We’re not saying that job description aren’t helpful but we know we can’t rely on them to do things they weren’t designed to do. Based on what we know about hiring mistakes – that it’s not the skills, experience or other hard qualifications that determines hiring success – we need to spend more time up front identifying the context in which the work is done if we really want to add value to the hiring process. And these context factors are almost never described in a job description that at best contains a list of qualifications a candidate needs to have (skills, experiences and academics).
Here’s some examples of CONTEXT questions that we think the pre recruit homework needs to uncover….
- What will the employee who takes this job actually do – what will a “day in the life” of the employee who takes this job look like?
- What about the work have previous employees enjoyed? Not enjoyed?
- What obstacles or unique challenges are they likely to encounter?
- Why have previous employees quit or been terminated?
- How is the hiring manager likely to interact with their employees?
- What kind of feedback will they get on their performance? How often?
- How much (or little) training or support are they likely to get once hired?
- How does the hiring manager tend to evaluate employees? How do they measure and reward success?
- What kind of opportunities will someone have to advance their career if they take this job?
Get clear on what a successful hire will do!
One of the most powerful ways a hiring manager can improve their chances of hiring success is to get very specific on how they define success. When we can inspire a hiring manager to identify their expectations for “great performance” up front, or, even better, turn those expectations into a specific work or performance plan (what to get done by when) our chances of identifying and engaging candidates who can and want to meet those expectations increases exponentially.
Starting with a clear picture of hiring success and working from that point backwards makes the candidate search less about finding a candidate with the right qualifications and more about finding a candidate with a high probability of achieving success.
A pre-recruit work plan pins down what the hiring manager actually expects from their new hire and makes it easy to identify those candidates who can demonstrate that they have the talent and experience to achieve those results in your work environment. They’ve either accomplished similar results elsewhere, or have had experiences that have prepared them for what they will face now.
One more thing – when you share an actual work plan with a candidate, you can engage them with the unique challenges they will face once hired. Pointing out the challenges a candidate would face once hired is a powerful way to way to attract top talent to your job or organization. Your best candidates will always engage with the challenges of a job in ways they never could if the hiring process is only focused on uncovering qualifications. And candidate engagement during the hiring process will trump any A+ pay or benefit plan they will receive from a talent competitor .
Pre-hire work or performance plans are increasingly important with jobs with large spans of control.
When hiring a VP of Product Development, for example, the hiring manager might want to lay out a 12-month performance plan – what their new hire is expected to get accomplished by in 30, 90, 180 days to be considered a successful hire.
“Right now we don’t have a formal product development plan which is creating some frustrations on our team. My expectation is that by the end of your first 90 days, you will have completed your internal and external research at the level needed to create a detailed 12-month product development plan. We want all stakeholders to have clarity as to what they can expect in new products over the next 12 months.”
An admin assistant, on the other hand, might have a performance plan that covers only their first 90 days with much simpler objectives and shorter timelines…
“Our team is busy working on a big project that is going to change the trajectory of our company’s growth. We need you to jump in as quickly as possible to provide our decision makers with the support they need to give this project their full attention. By the end of your first week you will have had conversations with each of the 6 people you support and have gathered a clear understanding of the work they will assign to you and their most important expectations for how you will support them.”
We think a pre recruit work or performance plan is one of the most powerful ways a hiring manager can do to reduce hiring surprises while also attracting high performance talent. Because pre-hire success plans are not the norm, its a great way to set your hiring process apart from what the candidate might be experiencing from a talent competitor.
Create a progressive and multi-step candidate vetting process
Hiring is not a one and done activity. It’s important to see how a candidate behaves in a variety of job relevant settings, doing a variety of pre-hire activities that approximate what they will be doing on the job. We think the steps in candidate vetting should be well thought out, starting with basic screening and evolving into increasingly more advanced evaluations. Each step should have a specific role in information gathering – an opportunity to learn something about the candidate that is likely to translate into on-the-job performance.
As an example, if a key component of a job requires the employee to prepare carefully for customer meetings, you will want to pay attention to how a candidate prepares for their interview with you. What research did they do before their interview? What questions did they come prepared to ask? Did they take notes?
A multi-step process in and of itself answers a lot of basic questions about a candidate…
- Are they motivated to do this job – are they willing to go through the steps needed to get it?
- Do they follow instructions?
- Do they tend to meet your bare minimum expectations, or do they go beyond?
- Can they arrive for activities on time?
- Do they come prepared?
Use your interview time to collect evidence about each candidate’s can and wanna dos.
Clearly, the most important step in any hiring process is the interview. Unfortunately a poorly conducted interview can become the reason for a hiring mistake. Interviews that don’t ask the right questions that gather up information relevant to job performance going forward, or fail to explore the candidate’s ability to handle a unique context, can be a waste of time.
Our evaluation interviews typically go thru the following steps:
- Prior to each interview, we give the candidate a copy of the job description and the proposed work plan (if we have one) and ask them to come prepared to talk about their relevant background and experience. We make it a point to let every candidate know what kind of information we want to uncover in our interview and what they will be expected of them once hired.
- We start each interview by asking the candidate to provide us with a review of their work history – in particular their reasons for taking and leaving each job, what kind of activities or results did they most enjoy, what were their primary challenges and successes. HINT: Do not rely on the resume to accurately describe what the candidate has done
- We then ask a set of questions designed to uncover if and how the candidate has handled situations in the past that they are most likely to face in this job (the context questions) ….
I want you to know that I do a lot of traveling and am rarely in the office to answer questions that might come up on an everyday basis. I’d love to hear how you would handle that. Describe a situation you’ve worked in where there was little to no supervision, and you were expected to figure out what needed to be done and how. How did you approach that situation?
- We end the interview giving the candidate a chance to ask questions about the job. Their questions tell us a lot about how they prepared for the interview and what is important to them.
I hope our readers will see that an effective interview doesn’t need to be complicated. When all candidates are asked the same questions, the interviewer simply has to be a good listener, using clarifying questions to make sure they get the candidate’s full story.
Make sure your hiring decision is about long term hiring success – not short term performance!
As you can see there are many variables involved in finding the candidate most likely able to achieve a hiring manager’s expectations for success. The decision-making process needs to emphasize the likelihood that the prospective employee will not only be able to meet your performance expectations but will continue to achieve success years from their hiring date.
Look for candidates who, during the hiring process, expressed excitement about the challenges they are likely to face on the job. They are comfortable in the unique elements of your work environment (including your management style). They have the underlying talent needed to achieve your expectations one, two, three years from their hire.
If your business is in a place where what you need is high levels of performance right out of the gate, OR you don’t have the patience or resources to support an typical employee’s need for professional growth, you might want to consider a different way to get work done – either outsourcing the work to an independent contractor or hiring a temp.
PACE Staffing Network is one of the Puget Sound’s premier staffing /recruiting agencies and has been helping Northwest employers find and hire employees based on the “right fit” for over 45 years.
A 5-time winner of the coveted “Best in Staffing” designation , PACE is ranked in the top 2% of staffing agencies nationwide based on annual surveys of customer satisfaction.
PACE services include temporary and contract staffing, temp to hire auditions, direct hire professional recruiting services, Employer of Record (payroll) services, and a large menu of candidate assessment services our clients can purchase a la carte.