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Making Bad Hires Optional

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Hiring in most companies is frustrating and unsuccessful. Employees are hired of course but rarely do the companies get the performance they wanted. An extensive 3-year study of more than 5,000 hiring managers revealed that only 19% of new hires went on to be successful in the opinion of the hiring companies. The 81% of unsuccessful hires included:

  • Candidates with superb technical skills and knowledge

  • Candidates who were successful in other companies

  • Candidates who interviewed beautifully, on video in some cases

  • Candidates with stunning resumés

  • Candidates who seemed to match the culture of the company

  • Candidates with highly respected educations

  • Candidates that matched profiles created by some assessment

These unsuccessful employees are being hired by intelligent people, using the best methods they could find. Many companies have adapted their decision-making and their expectations to these incredibly low results. It does not have to be that way. If so many different smart people are only successful one out of five times, perhaps there is a fundamental flaw in understanding the problem.

I suggest that the objectives of the hiring process are poorly or inaccurately defined. The true objective of hiring any employee is to rent job behaviors. These are the behaviors that the company needs to operate successfully. For example:

  • Directing the actions of other employees

  • Persuading prospects to make buying decisions

  • Accurately handling highly detailed information

  • Performing effectively in stressful situations

  • Projecting warmth and friendliness to customers

  • Complying with established rules and procedures

  • Performing a routine set of tasks on a daily basis

  • Solving unexpected problems

  • Delivering creative and innovative solutions

  • Reacting to unexpected events (walk-up customers)

Each of these is a specific job behavior that is critical to the business. If the employee fits the success profile but does not persuade prospects to make buying decisions, it is a bad hire. If a person interviews with energy and enthusiasm, but cannot deliver that same energy and enthusiasm on a daily basis with customers, it is a bad hire. Would it make sense to make sure that the job candidate can deliver the necessary job behaviors before hiring them?

Sports follow this principle. Ideally, the baseball team wants a player who hits .300 and is a wonderful teammate. They will take a player who is hitting .300 but is not a wonderful teammate in the clubhouse. They do not want and have no interest in a wonderful teammate who hits .150. Sports does an excellent job of separating the necessary job behaviors from the nice to have characteristics.

Today, technology enables companies to easily verify the job candidate's ability to deliver specific job behaviors. All job behaviors depend upon certain hard-wired traits and abilities. These are quickly measured in a 25-minute online experience and are translated into easily understood descriptions of each individual’s ability to deliver the necessary job behaviors. If they cannot, they can be exited from the selection process. If they can, then it makes sense to explore their skills, knowledge, experience, values, cultural fit, and other elements. This focus on job behaviors can dramatically reduce bad hires, even making them optional.

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