Why Selecting Candidates Who Fit the Job Is Critical!

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Anyone with the responsibility for hiring or promoting employees knows how aggravating it is to select a candidate that seemed right during the interview process only to realize later the new employee isn’t really a good fit for the job. Both the company AND the employee suffer for it. Poor job fit often results in lost productivity, the need for tough management, conflict, burdens placed on other employees, acceptance of sub-par performance, lack of engagement, poor retention and more – all costly issues for today’s lean organizations. Many companies calculate their costs associated with turnover; that is one measure. But the true cost includes all of the above and more.

Admit it, we sometimes (or is it ‘too often’) hire the wrong person for the job.

First, let’s acknowledge that selecting the right candidate to work for you is hard. Here are just some of the reasons (e-mail me with yours):

  • A number of people who make hiring decisions are not trained selection experts.

  • Candidates are often ‘less than honest. ’

  • Resumes leave out all but the good and safe stuff.

  • There is a lack of clarity (by the hiring manager) about what is required – beyond hard skills, experience and training - to perform the specific job well.

  • Candidates are often hired because they have skills and are likeable.

  • Candidates know a lot of people in the industry often have an advantage – even when not justified.

  • Candidates are often better prepared for the interview than the interviewers (especially true of candidates presented by some recruiters).

  • Candidates who are not a good fit – and the hiring manager knows it – get hired anyway. It’s the “Who knows, maybe they’ll surprise us". (How scary is this one. )

    How can you prevent hiring the wrong candidate in your organization?

    1. Define the ‘hard’ needs of the job including experience required (and in what), knowledge of industry, training and education, consistency of work history, willingness to travel, what they need to be proficient at (like using Excel or driving a truck). A review/background check is mandatory. Information provided needs to be verified. Examples include the candidate’s experiences, references, education, skills and training. All of this tells us WHAT they can do and whether it matches the requirements of the job.

    2. Develop a list of 3-6 key accountabilities (goals) that the employee in this job will be held accountable for accomplishing. Accountabilities are the reason the job exists. They must be measurable. And these key accountabilities should occupy about 80% of the employee’s time and focus. (Note: From my work with clients, establishing key accountabilities is the most important pre-hiring activity and the one most often neglected. )

    3. Benchmark the job. We find that those companies that effectively benchmark the soft skills required for success in the job have the information they need to look for the right candidate. And the information is objective (helping to eliminate bias). Notice I did not say benchmark your top performers in the job (such as sales). The reason is that your top performers may just be top performers in your company. It is not unusual for a company to benchmark the job and then assess their top performers and find this to be the reality. All is not lost. Two opportunities present themselves:

    a. Using the benchmark you can upgrade the talent in the position.

    b. Using the benchmark and the reports generated from our assessment reports, you will have great information with which to coach your current top performers into even greater performance.

    Also, using a predetermined benchmark is fine for comparison sake, but it may not be accurate for the specific job you are filling or for succession planning.

    4. Assess top candidates versus the benchmark. By using validated, legal assessments designed for use in selection of top candidates, assessing candidates’ soft skills is easier today than ever before. You can have the candidate complete assessments via Internet access. And you will often have their reports within minutes. The candidate’s reports should align with the benchmark which makes your analysis easy and quick. In areas that are marginal, the candidate’s reports should guide you in asking interview questions that target the soft skills that are most important to success in the job.

    Soft skills are really important in all jobs?

    There was a time when it wasn’t very fashionable in business to focus on soft skills. The trend was to focus on hard skills (Can they DO the job?). Today, though, we have matured and understand that soft skills (sometimes called personal skills) often have more to do with success and failure in a job than hard skills. For example, I have heard more than one client say “We can train them to do X, but if they aren’t good team players (a soft skill), they can’t be effective. " One of the early proponents of soft skills was Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence. Soft skills comprise a person’s job attributes, their motivators and their behaviors.

  • Attributes are a cognitive measure of how strongly a person values certain competencies like customer service, leading others, quality orientation, flexibility, internal self control or self management. Attributes help us understand if the candidate WILL do the job. If a person does not value an attribute critical to success in the position, they will not consistently use that attribute.

  • Motivators tell us WHY a person does what they do. There are six primary Motivators: Theoretical, Individualistic, Social, Utilitarian, Traditional and Aesthetic. Here’s an example: Someone who is highly Utilitarian is motivated by results. They are profit-driven and bottom line oriented. They are driven by competition, challenges and economic incentives. If the job provides and rewards these characteristics, the individual will be motivated. If the job does not, the person will not be motivated by the job.

  • Behaviors tell us HOW the person prefers to and does work - were once thought to be the key to success performance in a job. While still seen as important, Attributes and Motivators are often more important because it is easier to adapt behaviors to the situation. That said, Behaviors can cause a person to fail in a job or feel a great deal of stress because their style is not a good fit for the job. For example, if someone is outgoing, putting them in a job that has little people contact will be very frustrating for them. Someone in a position of authority who has difficulty making decision will have trouble leading. In addition, an understanding of one’s behavioral style and that of others seems to be critical to effective interpersonal communication.

    (The right) assessments are the key to successful hiring.

    What is really powerful about the use of assessments in the selection process is that they can provide us with objective, job related information that can really help us make good decisions – information that is very hard to get to in interviews. The right assessments are designed to help you understand a candidate’s attributes, motivators and behaviors. Comparing a candidate’s assessment reports to the job benchmark can help you understand how good – or poor – a fit the candidate will be for the job. Assessments help you get under the resume and the candidate’s interviewing persona. The right assessments will unearth a wonderfully rich body of information which you can use to help you continue the interviewing process and make your decision. The information you get from a candidate’s reports can even serve as a coaching guide for those candidates you hire or incumbents you are working to develop. One of my clients, who has been using assessments for the past three years, says “I don’t know how we could effectively make a hiring decision today without the information we get from these (assessment) reports. " Another client says “These reports have saved me, more than once, from making a terrible hiring mistake. "

    The benefits of hiring employees who fit their job.

    Managers who are clear about the requirements for success in a job - including the ideal profile of personal attributes, motivators and behaviors - will have high levels of success when they select the candidate to hire. Filling each of your job openings with candidates who really fit the job is simply good business. It improves productivity, morale, and ultimately, the success of your organization. It reduces the burden on the manager because the employee will like their job. It creates energy for those who work around someone who likes their job. It creates loyalty (yep, there is still such a thing as loyalty). It inspires creativity. And finally, it saves money and reduces disruptions to the business which is the result of having to fire someone or having them quit (whether they actually leave or not).

    Copyright © 2005 Joe McKenna, founder of The KENNA Company, is an expert in the areas of employee selection, succession planning, executive coaching, communication skills and team building. He can be reached at (816) 943-0868 or info@kennacompany.com. Find Joe on the web at http://www.kennacompany.com.

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