Hiring employees: 5 ‘lacks’ in (almost) all HR decisions
Updated on March 14th, 2020
5 Mistakes in hiring employees & HR decisions
Every organization has to hire people. Most, though not all, do only a mediocre job of this. This is despite hiring mistakes being one of the biggest costs to business.
The most important task of any manager is to hire the right people.
Nothing is more important to that person’s success and to the prospering of the whole organization. Nothing!
Yet, there are a number of limiting factors in the hiring process that commonly occur. These can be anticipated and in doing so, solutions found for all of them.
The purpose of this article is to describe these, along with suggested solutions.
1. Lack of a Structured Selection System to Follow
It’s rare for a company to have a standardized approach to selecting staff. More commonly, each person (or each department) makes it up as they go along. No one is really sure of what questions are better than others. As new people come and go, the approach can change dramatically. What served as a template for one round of recruitment can easily change for the next round. The practical experience of earlier staff is lost as new ones effectively start over.
A structured system is designed to help solve this problem.
It means knowing in advance what step comes first and then what comes next—all the way through to making the final decision. Criteria are established for deciding when applicants should be advanced in the process or when they are considered unsuitable.
The interview questions are all carefully thought out. They are tailored for the particular vacancy to be filled. All applicants—and I mean all—are expected to complete each step of the process.
The best staff are kept involved in hiring for at least several years. Appropriate training is provided at the outset. Strict criteria are set for what a new team member must do before being allowed to interview applicants.
Most importantly, all this is documented so that someone new can pick it up quickly.
2. Lack of Techniques to Probe Beneath the Surface
The candidates are there to get the job. They are expected to sell themselves. They will emphasize their strengths and will be reluctant to reveal any past problems.
Questions like “Tell me about your weaknesses” or “Describe a difficult problem you successfully solved at work” are very unlikely to yield useful information.
A glance at Amazon books will show you the extensive manuals available to help applicants answer the toughest interview questions.
On the other hand, some questions are very likely to give you information that would otherwise be unavailable. For example, “Suppose you could instantly change anything about your personality, not counting your height, weight, or eye color. What would you change?”
This is a question that applicants are very unlikely to have prepared for.
The response given is therefore much more likely to be revealing.
Another powerful approach is the Skills Demonstration. This requires the applicant to actually demonstrate the relevant skill. This is quite different to describing what they would do in this situation.
Let’s assume this is a sales job. One of the expectations is dealing with unsatisfied clients who complain that an expensive purchase isn’t meeting their needs. The job requires resolving this problem.
One panel member asks the candidate about this ability, who will invariably talk about their skill in managing these situations.
The panel member then says: “We’d like to see you do this.”
Turning to another panel member, the candidate is told “This is one of your customers. He’s quite unhappy about a recent purchase and wants to discuss it with you.” The second panel member begins his complaint.
If the candidate says “What I would probably do is…” he is interrupted and reminded that “We want to actually see you do this”. If the candidate makes reference to role playing, the same instructions should be repeated. (The only person who is role playing is the panel member “being” the unhappy customer. The candidate is demonstrating his skill.)
This task is impossible to prepare for. It can be designed for an endless number of jobs. The way of dealing with this will give you a powerful look behind the mask.
There are many other powerful approaches. To be appreciated here is that the “standard” approaches to an interview are often ineffective.
3. Lack of Training for hiring employees & HR decisions
There is a belief that once someone is promoted to a leadership role, they automatically know how to select staff. This is obviously incorrect.
Choosing who to hire is both a technical skill and an art. Much of it can be learned with appropriate training.
In reality, most people learn on the job. This means that they are improvising most of the time. Often their teachers don’t know very much about hiring, because they have been muddling along for years. This is a very in- efficient (and expensive) way to learn.
There are courses and workshops on learning to hire. Find a good one and go. There are also a number of excellent books on hiring. Go to the library, get them and read them. Based on this, choose a couple of practical tips that can be introduced to hiring at your organization.
4. Lack of Practice with Hiring Decisions
We get better at things with practice. Think of how hard it was to drive when you were learning. After lots of practice, it became automatic. This is true for most skills we learn.
Learning to hire staff is the same, but for most people, practice comes only intermittently. Think how often you are called on to make a hiring decision. It’s difficult to develop real skill when only practicing occasionally.
The next critical element of learning a skill is getting feedback on how accurate you are.
Practice and get feedback for hiring employees & HR decisions
Imagine learning to hit a golf ball. Would you want to know where each practice shot landed? Sure you would. Now imagine hiring staff and never having a really clear idea of who was a good choice and who wasn’t.
If you’re involved with hiring, mark your calendar for a follow-up three months and six months after each person starts. Have a brief chat with their line manager. If there are problems, go back to your original notes to look for clues that might have been missed.
5. Lack of Time to Hire Employees
People assigned to hire someone will commonly report that they don’t have enough time. What naturally happens is that interviews get squeezed into an already busy day, and there is a strong push to “hurry up.”
The job application materials can be given a cursory glance rather than a careful study. Interview questions get made up on the spot.
Under these conditions, hiring someone can seem like just another task on the to-do list.
The effect of making the wrong decision is overlooked
Things might change when a problem performer is invited to join the team, but even this isn’t enough to prompt a rigorous review the system.
The reality is that selecting the right people takes skill, determination and patience. It should not be rushed. It is always better to hire temporary or contract help, rather than hire the next problem person who has to be performance managed.
Once you get started, take your time. Meet each serious candidate at least twice, in two different settings.
Get others involved for hiring employees and HR decisions
For a manager this should include the person to be reported to, subordinates and peers.
Make sure that the “powers that be” appreciate that this is a risk assessment decision. It takes time to do the job properly.
Ask everyone involved to start with the correct question: “What is the cost to us if we get this wrong?”
Summary: Hiring employees & HR decisions
These five “lacks” are universal. Whether you work in a large multinational or a firm of five staff, you can expect to encounter at least one—and usually more. You may need to change the mind of the decision maker about how that person wants selection to be done. If you are the decision maker, I’d suggest reading this article again until you have it memorized. Yes, it really is that important.
This article is adapted from Dr. Byrne’s newest book, Seeing Behind The Job Applicant’s Mask Before Hiring: Secrets of a Corporate Psychologist.
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About Dr Ken Byrne
Dr. Ken Byrne is one of the leading experts in the psychological profiling of applicants to jobs that involve protecting the safety of others.
Over the last 35 years he has worked extensively to develop cutting edge psychological profiling tools designed to identify high risk applicants to these jobs.
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