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Become Thirty Percent More Effective in Selecting People

Andrew Cox

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Success starts with the right people in the right jobs. Particularly in leadership positions. But if that's really the belief of most organizations, why is it that so many selections fail at their jobs - or - even worse, just hang on and take up space?

Based on feedback from any number of studies, candidates hired for leadership or emerging leadership positions are successful about a third of the time, with success being defined as meeting or exceeding the expectations of the organization. About a third fail, with failure defined as not meeting the expectations of the organization, and about a third survive, with survival being defined as getting close enough to meeting expectations to avoid being let go.

Often the rationalization for this level of performance is that the best hitters in baseball only get a hit about 1 out of three times at bat - and they're considered stars. The difference is that once the batter ends an at bat - it's over.

But when a failure to get a hit in selection occurs, the problems are just beginning. Low morale, increased turnover, missed goals, reduced profit, possible lawsuits and lowered standards of performance are all part of a poor selection decision. And those problems just get worse as the decision on what to do gets put off - no one likes admitting to a mistake. And the biggest cost - the opportunity cost - the cost of not having the right person in the right job - is by far the biggest cost of a poor selection decision.

And yet, many organizations that are constantly striving and working toward improvements in quality, customer service, sales, and profits appear satisfied with the status quo in selection. While they are convinced that standing still in so many areas is actually losing competitive advantage, they don't see the same thing happening in selecting the right people for the right jobs. To the extent they stand still on improving in this most vital of areas, theyre losing competitive advantage.

It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, every organization striving to improve their selection batting average can become at least 30% more effective.

How can you add 30% effectiveness to your people selection processes - selection including hiring, transfer, promotion and team membership?

Here's how:

1 - Start with a critical position that has been hard to fill - where turnover and failure to perform have been a problem. Or a critical position where fit with the existing organization is essential to success.

2 - Look for biases that have no bearing on the job that may have limited the applicant pool. I don't mean the mandated of race, sex, ethnicity, religion - those should have been dealt with long ago. I'm talking about ensuring your pool of applicants/candidates isn't being restricted by biases and assumptions and cultural differences that have no real basis from a organizational standpoint.

3 - Create the key accountabilities for the job using the key stakeholders. . Prepare to be amazed at how different one key stakeholder sees them from another. Get agreement on the top three to five - even if that means having to really negotiate to agreement. This is key at the beginning of the process - agreement here will go a long way to ensuring the people involved in the selection are all on the same page. And the recruiting is targeted.

4 - Have the stakeholders identify the education, experience, industry experience, and other hard data elements. These are the quantifiable data points that every candidate must have for further consideration.

5 - Identify the behaviors, motivators and personal skills that have been successful in the job. Get them from the people who have been successful in the job, from the people with close contact and interdependence with the job, with the people who manage the job. If assessments of behaviors, attitudes and skills are currently being used, use the results of past assessments to help create the profile. If they are not in use, or the assessments in use don't lend themselves to this process, get ones that do.

6 - Have the stakeholders meet to review the findings and to use them to arrive at a profile of the ideal candidate and to prioritize must haves, want to haves and nice to haves. Use assessments to help the stakeholders in this vital step. The process is benchmarking- creating the benchmark against which all candidates will be measured. No more letting the candidate pool set the standards for success.

7 - With this information in hand, train and develop an interview team to use it in creating a coordinated interview process. And have the candidates that pass the education, experience and other hard data elements take the same assessments. Review the assessment reports of the candidates against the behavior, motivators and personal skills profile created by the stakeholders in the organization.

8 - Use what was learned in this first benchmarking project and apply it to other high value positions. The process has value at all levels - but it does take an investment of time and effort, and the early efforts should be directed at the highest potential gain positions.

Organizations that have followed this process have seen major improvements in selecting the right person for the right job. Organizations have seen their comfort level and support for newly selected people jump because there is a firm foundation for the selection decision. And the profile completed by the stakeholders provides the blueprint for development and success of the person selected. Success and retention rates have increased well beyond the 30% level in many organizations.

Examine your own process. See what tools you are currently using. Don't be satisfied measuring activity - when evaluating your current process measure results in the success of the selections. Don't confuse survival with success. Survival is a roadblock to increasing the level of excellence in the talent level of the organization. Real improvement comes with the right person in the right job. Use this process for your own success.

Andy Cox is President of Cox Consulting Group LLC. The focus of his work is on helping organizations and their people increase their success in the hiring, developing and enhancing the performance of leaders and emerging leaders. Cox Consulting Group LLC was started in 1995, and has worked with a wide range of organizations, managers and leaders - helping them define success, achieve success and make the ability to change a competitive advantage. He can be reached at


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