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How to Hire the Best People For the Job

Tips and tricks to find—and retain—the most fitting talent for your workplace.

Every time your organization makes a mistake and hires an executive or a manager who does not work out, it costs your organization about 3-5 times the person’s annual salary. This can be quite costly, particularly when executives and high-level managers are earning six figure salaries. When mistakes are made, your organization has, among other things, the costs of replacing them, the long-term costs of how they treat your customers, the costs of the negative things they say to their co-workers, and the anguish you have to go through in dealing with them. In this column, we offer you valuable ways to ensure that your organization hires the very best people it can.

Hire slowly and fire quickly. Quite often, we see some organizations do the opposite of this. They’ll hire applicants haphazardly because of pressure felt to fill positions “with a body.” Yet, later on, they realize that these same individuals weren’t performing their jobs well, and then they’d take too long in deciding to replace them. By hiring slowly and systematically, these organizations could make certain to put the right person in the right job in the first place, thereby not needing to replace them.

It’s impossible to hire the right person for a position unless you analyze the job with regard to the specific qualifications (e.g., experience, education) and competencies (e.g., leadership, time management, and communication skills) needed to be successful. This is best done by assembling a few people in your organization who are familiar with the position, and then asking them to list all of the tasks of the job, and then brainstorm all of the qualifications and competencies needed for success in the position.

If your goal is to hire the best, you will need to customize the hiring process for each job, or family of related jobs, within the organization. It is unrealistic to think that one interview and/or one set of tests could be able to predict the subsequent job success of applicants across a diverse family of jobs. This is comparable to trying to use the same exact set of hand tools for handling all construction jobs. The results of the Qualifications/Competency Analysis will dictate what interview questions and what set of tests need to be used.

Every organization has a unique culture or climate, just as every person has a distinctive personality. No matter how impressive applicants might be with respect to their qualifications and technical competencies, they will not succeed in their positions unless they “fit-in” with what your company stands for and how employees are expected to interact with one another and with customers.

We all have our pet peeves when it comes to making hiring decisions. Most of the time our idiosyncrasies contaminate our hiring decisions. A perfect example of this is something Thomas Edison, one of the foremost inventors of all time, did. He refused to hire anyone for his Menlo Park lab is they put condiments on their food before tasting it. If they did, they were finished as far as Edison was concerned. He concluded that they could not possibly be successful in his laboratory because they lacked poor planning skills.

More managers and supervisors need to learn how to interview applicants rigorously. Specifically, they need to learn how to compose interview questions that assess accurately the needed qualifications and competencies for the job, and are not fakeable. It is also crucial that managers and supervisors guard against falling victim to various judgment errors such as first impressions, leniency, and stereotyping.

Interviews and written tests can be excellent hiring instruments but, typically, they’re not enough. Why is this? It’s because neither of them delves into the applicant’s behaviors. As part of your hiring process, you need to design hiring systems that put applicants in situations that simulate what they would encounter in their jobs, if hired.

Every applicant needs to be given a “realistic job preview.” In other words, as part of the hiring process, they need to be told not only the positive things about the position and the organization, but some of the negatives as well. By doing this, you lower subsequent job dissatisfaction and turnover on their part.

A good hiring system should attain at least a 90-percent hit rate. In other words, for every 10 executives or managers hired, 9 of them should be “keepers.” Make sure that people in your organization are tracking the success of their hiring process. If your process is not achieving at least a 90-percent accuracy rate, then something is wrong.
If your hiring systems are failing to achieve hiring the kinds of people needed for your organization to achieve its strategic objectives and business plans, contact your HR department or seek outside professional help.

Kenneth Wexley, Ph.D. and president of Wexley Consulting HRD-LLC and Douglas Strouse, Ph.D. and president of the CEO Club of Baltimore, are both organizational psychologists.