Make Informed Hiring Decisions

Make Informed Hiring Decisions

The need:
At a recent business conference, a number of people told me that they are struggling to hire  qualified candidates who perform at or above expectations and stay with the organization.  Research shows many CEOs and other executives believe that their competitive advantage  and, in some cases, survival is based on the quality of the employees in their organizations.  That means the organization must be great at hiring and retaining top performing employees to
survive and thrive.

One hiring challenge has been “instinctive” hiring, where the interviewer/ hiring manager makes  a gut decision based on instinct.  This is usually  caused by a lack of reliable, objective  information about candidates.  This gut feel hiring has an average  success rate of 25%, meaning that  75%  of the time you will end up with  an employee who does not meet  your expectations in some fashion.

Our traditional information sources such as applications, resumes, and  interviews all provide candidate information with questionable validity.  How can we make good hiring decisions with poor information?

Objective information:
One popular approach to gathering objective candidate information is  using candidate assessments in your hiring process. This has become a $400 million industry  and is growing by 8 to 10% annually. Bersin (a Deloitte company) estimates that 90% of top  performing organizations use assessments in some fashion.

A Harvard Business Review study found that a candidate’s reasoning ability, personality  traits and interests are key indicators of success and retention in a job. Psychometric  research supports the HBR findings. This candidate information is not easily gathered through  traditional interviews, applications, etc. Assessments give reliable information on these  candidate characteristics.

As an example, high reasoning ability means that the candidate can learn quickly and process  large amounts of information effectively. This characteristic is critical to success in information  intensive jobs. On the other hand, if the job is repetitive an employee with high reasoning ability  will get bored and disengage, leading to poor erformance and/or turnover.

Consider a personality characteristic like People Contact. This is the tendency to be outgoing,  people oriented, and to participate with others. A high score in people contact is important to  performance in a customer service related job but could be detrimental to an engineer or  programmer who needs to work independently for long periods of time.

Our “Workforce” assessment measures Conscientiousness, a measure of one’s willingness to  work with honesty and integrity, and to follow rules. Are these characteristics important to your  entry level hiring? Do you have any other reliable way to evaluate this candidate characteristic?

Gathering objective information on a candidate’s reasoning ability, behavioral traits and interests  is only helpful if you know what you are looking for. Studies show that employees who are  well matched to their jobs are 2.5 times more productive. This means you should first  define a benchmark of characteristics that make an employee successful in the job. Once you  have a benchmark, you can compare a candidate’s assessment results to gain insight into  job-fit.

There are a few ways to create a benchmark and it is much easier that most people think. The  most objective approach is to assess top performing employees in a job in your organization,  then use their results to form the benchmark for that job. You will see top performers cluster  together in important characteristics for success.

Often, you won’t have the luxury of having enough top performing employees in a job to use as  benchmarking models. Fortunately, there are preliminary benchmarks available for most jobs  which can be used as a starting point and adjusted as needed for your specific job  responsibilities and organizational culture.

Assessing candidates:
Once you have a benchmark of success characteristics, you are ready to assess candidates.  First, decide when, in your hiring process, to assess. Some organizations assess early in the  process in order to avoid wasting time on candidates who clearly don’t fit. Others choose to  wait until later in the process to control the money spent on assessments. Whatever you do,  just be consistent with all candidates within a given hiring requisition.

Most modern assessments can be administered via the internet. This can help make sure you  aren’t slowing your process down by adding assessment information. Choose an assessment  that is scored immediately and provides reports usable by a typical hiring manager.

Compare your candidate’s results to your benchmark. Some assessments do this for you as  part of the report and even suggest interview questions. If not, make sure you consider your  benchmark as you review the report. Note that the assessment should not dictate a hiring  decision, but will provide great information to assist your decision.

Finally, don’t throw this information away once you make the hire. The information from the  assessment can be very helpful during your new employee’s on-boarding and beyond to help  understand their strengths, weaknesses and motivations leading to longer term retention.

The author:   Phil Devendorf has been helping organizations improve hiring and management decisions by implementing assessments for over 20 years. See the assessment offerings at the  PDServices web site. Contact Phil at or 740-326-4494 to discuss how  assessments can be valuable for your organization.