Hire right the first time with a successful search process

There are a couple of old familiar sayings that summarize some of our communication, recruitment and selection challenges in the workplace. The first is, “you hear what you want to hear” and secondly we often realize that people have a “tendency to oversell their abilities.” All my years of experience allow me to corroborate these statements, as I have seen both of these communication translations create problems in the workplace following a candidate search.

Managers are especially at fault when they attempt to describe their workplaces. One of the first things I do as a search professional is to assist clients in reviewing and assessing their current culture, the current duties and tasks in the job profile and the competencies required in order to be successful. Without a refreshing examination of these details, interviewers have a tendency to reflect back on a former incumbent instead of focusing on future needs and requirements. This results in a skewed overview of a job as well as the organization culture.

At the same time, I know that candidates legitimately make every effort to sell themselves to a prospective employer. While not intentionally exaggerating, many candidates take credit for accomplishments where credit is not truly due to them. After all, leaders have drilled into employees that teamwork is key to success and as a result, many candidates actually lose sight of what they contributed individually versus the overall team accomplishments.

All of these issues lead to the importance of accurately describing the job for which you are recruiting, accurately describing the organization culture and accurately describing the challenges a new employee would face. If this initial information is inaccurate, successful candidates will quickly determine they made a mistake and will regret accepting their new position. As the employer, you will soon see this error in hiring as well.

However, it is rare to see an individual resign after only a few short months. Instead they simply hunker down and do their work, and all the while they are looking for another job. As you can expect, little work productivity and engagement will result and the employer will soon be trying to fill the position again.

This exact situation was recently reported in a survey conducted by Developmental Dimensions International, a US-based research firm. In their study, one in eight new hires was declared unsuccessful with individuals terminating their job in the first year. According to their survey, the number one reason for hiring mistakes was over reliance on manager evaluations. While the survey was not specific, I can say that my experience suggests again that a poor description of the job at hand and an unintentional misrepresentation of organization culture is often a key part of those manager evaluations. The result, of course, is that the wrong person is hired.

Yet equally as important, the survey also indicated that only 30 per cent of hiring managers are skilled at conducting high-quality interviews. In my view, this isn’t unusual since most hiring managers are not conducting interviews on a frequent enough basis and, in fact, many have not conducted interviews in many years.

When managers are inexperienced interviewers, they fail to develop a connection between interview questions and the competencies required by a successful candidate. As indicated earlier, the managers simply review an old job description and don’t pay any attention to identifying a set of competencies required for the job. Then again, many managers may rely on gut instinct alone rather than assessing the candidate’s responses to objective interview questions.
What executive search professionals have to offer in this case is objective views, consultation and advice on getting the right candidate the first time. We focus on identifying the key competencies, the key challenges a candidate might face, the nature of the organization culture and that of the department in which the candidate will work. I also focus on the reporting structure and the leadership style. Once this is complete, I am able to draw up a set of competencies that will ensure success in the role.

At this point, I apply my expertise to developing questions for the interview. The best questions ask for examples of direct experience including what was the situation, what was their role, what action did they take and what was the result. When candidates are able respond in a systematic and logical way, the interviewers will be able to more accurately assess the best cultural fit and the best fit of skills.