Too often some great candidates don’t even get an interview. That is sad for the candidate and a big mistake that can cost a ton of money for the company. And then sometimes that great candidate makes it to an interview and one of two things happens:
The company fails to see how good the candidate could be or
The process used discourages the candidate from accepting the job.
Either way, with the labor market getting tighter, these mistakes are bad for both the candidate and the company. It is time to get a grip on the situation.
A client came to me with a history of hiring the “wrong” person. They had gone through two division managers in two years. Employee morale was low from all the starts and stops of new initiatives, and the client was starting to see some of the best employees leave for more stable environments.
They had been using a very reputable recruiting firm, and the candidates met the job posting requirements for education and years of experience. So why didn’t these people work out?
To get the answer we had to dissect the process they were using and evaluate it against what is known about the most effective assessment tools for identifying top performing candidates.
In this case, we looked at each step of their process from the job posting and job description to the step of making the final offer. Using the data from the meta-analysis conducted by F.L. Schmidt and J.E. Hunter of 85 years of research on “the validity and utility of selection methods, ” it was easy to identify several critical flaws in the process.
To begin with, the Schmidt and Hunter study cited above shows that years of experience and education are among the least effective predictors of whether someone will be a winning addition to the company. In the case of my client, they had very narrow parameters set for this position; 10 years’ experience in a specific industry and experience in a senior position plus a Masters or law degree. As you can well imagine, this narrows the field considerably -- and to what end? The result is one that discards many people who could be top performers. So the client was starting with a pool of candidates that had not been evaluated adequately.
Then we reviewed the process for interviewing the remaining candidates. Multiple studies have shown that unstructured interviews are no better than flipping a coin (46% predictive). Story after story exists about organizations that have created elaborate, multi-person interview processes, some of them with wacky questions and others that can last all day, none of which has been shown to improve the ability of an organization to select an excellent employee. Often clients will tell me that they create these elaborate processes to evaluate if the candidate will be a good cultural fit. Indeed, using interviews for assessing culture fit is one of the good uses for them. After all, hiring is not all about data and science, some of it is about judgment and personality fit. But an elaborate process, with many people involved, is very expensive in terms of time and lost productivity, so if you are going to spend that much money, then it is important that it works.
Two things would have strengthened this process without having to redesign it from scratch.
The first would be to introduce at least one type of assessment test much earlier in the process, even as early as part of the application. Using an assessment tool allows the client to relax the experience and education requirement to increase the pool and still find great candidates. (For more information on hiring top performers using high-quality assessments go HERE).
The second improvement to this process would be to use a structured interview. Structured interviews are not rocket science, but have been proven to be much more effective than unstructured interviews described above. As a matter of fact, the Schmidt and Hunter study ranked structured interviews in the top three employee selection tools, but an unstructured interview comes in as one of the least predictive tools.
Structured interviews require that you ask the same questions of all the candidates and that you have some criteria for a what a good answer is. It does not eliminate the wacky questions like: What animal would you be if you could be an animal? It just requires that you ask that of everyone interviewed, and you know which animals are “right” answers and which are not.
Usually, the orientation for the committee and the hiring manager would include a matrix with the questions to be asked down one side and a scale (1-5) for rating the answers and a place for comments for why each interviewer assessed the response that way. The committee received a copy of the job description; the performance model used to identify the characteristic of a top performer; a resume for each candidate, and the report from the pre-employment assessment test. Questions are prepared in advance and “good” answers discussed and agreed to by the committee before interviewing.
Using structured interviews and assessments is a straight forward and inexpensive solution that can make the human decision of hiring great employees simpler and smarter.