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Letter to Leaders

There’s no “Holy Grail” in hiring

Just last week, a client came to us asking what we thought of a proposal they’d received from a vendor.  The vendor was offering a pre-hire screening program that purports to screen out applicants who have a propensity to steal, use drugs, lie, etc.

This is a question we frequently get; it seems that every employer is looking for the ‘holy grail’ of 100% certainty in hiring.

I’ve personally interviewed thousands of candidates in my career.  I’ve seen and used virtually every personality, IQ, and behavior test in existence.  I’ve read dozens of books and worked with clients around the country on improving hiring techniques, and I know one thing. There is no ‘holy grail’ of 100% certainty in hiring.

I think I’m as good as anyone in hiring, and even with all my experience, I’m going to be wrong 20% of the time. So if there is no one thing that can give you certainty in hiring, what can you do?

For one thing, the C-Suite and HR professionals need to understand that today, a 70% or above success rate in hiring is very good.  (I’d define success as an employee who does a good job and lasts at your business for 3 years or more).

Every business is different, with their own unique culture, but here are some techniques I use when helping a company improve their hiring success rate:

  1. Train hiring managers on how to interview and what to look for.  It constantly amazes me that the vast majority of managers who interview have never actually been trained in how to interview! It’s a lot more than just providing a list of questions to ask (or not ask).

  2. Develop a better process of interviewing.  We worked with a bank in Arizona last year whose interviewing consisted of meeting with one manager who had the sole authority to hire or not.  At that time, 4 out of 5 new hires were not successful.  We redesigned their hiring process to include multiple manager interviews, a meal with potential peers, and a final interview with the CEO.  Hiring success has doubled since then.

  3. Less emphasis on an interview and more on character and culture fit.  Most industries are extremely insular.  I guarantee someone at your company knows someone who your candidate has worked for previously.  Call your contacts and networks – they’ll be a lot more open to talk to you about the potential for success than a blind call into the HR department of the previous employer where the standard response will be “That person worked here from this date to that date.”

  4. Spread a wide net.  A typical process for considering candidates might be to phone or skype screen 15-20 candidates and interview 5-10 candidates.  Yes it’s time consuming, but it will give you much more information and ability to determine the best possible hire.

After all, what could possibly be more important than who you hire?

This post was modified from an article Eric recently wrote for the Western Independent Bankers magazine.  As always, thanks to Mel Kleiman for the last sentence!


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