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How to Eliminate 150% of All Hiring Mistakes

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You can’t solve a three-dimensional problem with a one-dimensional solution.

Every year about this time I get interviewed by some magazine about what I think will happen in the upcoming year to improve quality of hire. This year is no different. And neither is my answer. There will be no difference.

The reason why is explained in the table showing the best and worst predictors of on-the-job performance. Too many interviewers focus on the wrong predictors of success and even worse, most interviewers fail to fully consider the fit factors. These are the essential predictors described in the bottom of the table – fit with the job, fit with the hiring manager and fit with the company culture.It took me 30 years to make this chart, observing hundreds of candidates after I interviewed them and tracking their subsequent performance for years. Part of this tracking included working with candidates who were not hired at one company but were hired at another one. Many became my hiring manager clients. This offered me a unique perspective on the entire sourcing, interviewing and recruiting process.

As a result of all of this, I can say with the utmost confidence that most interviewers are biased and few have a clue on how to interview properly.

Eliminating 150% of all hiring mistakes might seem a bit odd on the surface but there is a rational explanation. A third of the errors in hiring are attributed to not hiring the best person, either because the person didn’t find the job attractive, the person was improperly recruited or the person was box-checked out on factors that don’t predict success. Another third of the errors are due to the use of flawed interviewing practices. And the final third are caused by an inability to close the offer due to weak negotiating skills on the part of the recruiter and/or hiring manager.

In most cases these problems are caused by using job descriptions that emphasize skills, experiences and competencies. Few top people – whether they’re active or passive – find these jobs worth considering so they don’t even apply or return calls to recruiters reaching out directly to them.

To start attracting and hiring stronger talent throw away your traditional job descriptions and describe the work that needs to be done. Every job can be defined as a series of 5-6 performance objectives describing the task, the action required to complete the task and some measure of success. For example, “During the first year develop a non-destructive test to determine the maximum speed a big brick can be sucked through a 12-foot diameter tunnel before exploding.” This is much more accurate and more exciting a job requirement than saying the person must have 10+ years of experience understanding the quantum physics of turbulent airflow, a PhD from a top school and strong communication skills.

If you can prove the person can do this work and is passionate about doing it, he/she will have exactly the skills, experiences, motivation, competencies and academic credentials needed AND the compensation/location/title will be less important. As part of the performance-based interviewing process I advocate, I ask candidates to provide in-depth examples of accomplishments for each of the required performance objectives. This approach provides all the evidence needed to assess all of the strong and essential factors shown in the table.

It’s important to recognize that even if a person possesses all of the strong predictors of success, the person will underperform if the essential predictors (the Fit Factors) aren’t carefully considered. The person must be passionate about doing the actual work required and the person must be able to work closely with the hiring manager. Often these factors are only superficially considered. As part of the interviewing process, I ask how the person’s different managers impacted his/her performance and where the person naturally goes the extra mile. This provides great insight on these two fit factors. Assessing cultural fit is relatively simple as long as you recognize that company culture is driven largely by the growth rate of the company, its decision-making process, the politics and its financial performance. As you dig into the person’s accomplishments ask about these points to ensure a strong culture fit.

You need to appreciate the fact that top people will get counteroffers and they will get better offers from other companies. So if you can’t close the deal within your compensation range you’ll lose out on hiring the person even if you see the best people and conduct a very accurate interview. That’s why I urge talent leaders and business executives that they need to be 150% better to hire better people. This is a three-pronged problem and why piecemeal solutions are ineffective. It all boils down to the fact that you can’t solve a three-dimensional problem with a one-dimensional solution.