Why Achievements and Evidence Are Today's Best Hiring Metrics

Published: May 19, 2010

Why Achievements and Evidence Are Today's Best Hiring Metrics
By Mel Kleiman

As companies do more with less, each and every employee becomes increa-singly more valuable. That’s why there has never been a more critical time to ensure your hiring system gets you the highest caliber employees available – so you and your company can succeed in an increasingly competitive market-place.

In many industries and job classifications hiring may well be a buyer’s market for some years to come and it may be the case you have more applicants for a given position than you would ever be able to interview.

However, just two years ago, the Society for Human Resource Management forecast this decade would bring 22 million new jobs for American workers, but only 17 million new workers to fill them — and many of those workers wouldn’t have the technical and interpersonal skills necessary to do those jobs.

No matter how the economy and employment market fare, what’s certain is employers will find themselves in an endless game of musical chairs and those that fail to put a winning hiring system in place will find themselves without a place to sit.

Adding urgency to the situation, the U.S. Department of Justice reports one-third of all employees are hard-core thieves; according to news reports, theft is occurring at all levels of employment. Figures from the U.S. Department of Labor reveal 50% of all new, hourly employees either quit or are fired within their first six months on the job.

Since no one intentionally hires an employee who steals or can’t last at least six months, something must be wrong with the way most employers screen job candidates.

A Job Description Is Not a Shopping List

Everyone knows employers need to have written job descriptions to meet hir-ing law requirements. The problem is while job descriptions comply with gov-ernment regulations, they are not written to describe what success on the job looks like. Because job descriptions list the various tasks, abilities, and re-sponsibilities associated with the position, people think they are complete and suitable guideposts for the recruitment and selection processes.

While job descriptions are necessary, they don’t really create an accurate pic-ture of what the best employee really looks like. Job descriptions are about requirements, like being able to lift 50 pounds while standing on one foot and hopping backward at the same time. A job description might require a college degree, which your best prospect — who just spent five years doing this job elsewhere with great success — doesn’t have. Job descriptions don’t say what the employee must do succeed on the job; they only say what the person needs to know or be able to do on the job.

A recruiting shopping list, on the other hand, defines everything the person you hire will have to do to be successful.

A great way to write a recruiting shopping list is to think about a few of the best employees you’ve ever had or the best people you’ve ever worked with. When you do this, what do you see? What did these people do and how did they to it that really made them stand out and made you know you hired the right person? Turn that vision into your shopping list.

The Fallacy of Behavioral Interviewing

Another (and perhaps larger) problem is most interviewers have come to rely almost exclusively on behavioral interviewing techniques. Today, however, virtually every job applicant knows the most critical interview questions will concern past behavior – which is all but impossible to document. With just a little bit of thought, it’s easy for applicants to fabricate answers. (If they can not fabricate their own answers, they can always go to the Internet and find great examples of answers to use.)

The premise underlying behavioral interviewing is past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior and that is as true today as it was when it was first introduced over 40 years ago.

Trouble is, it doesn’t go far enough longer. A myriad books, articles, blogs, job boards and computer programs have taught jobseekers how to give the kinds of answers behavioral interviewers want to hear. The result is today’s applicants know the kinds of questions interviewers will ask and are prepared to give the kinds of answers interviewers want to hear.

This has led most interviewers to make hiring decisions based more on an ap-plicant’s presentation and storytelling skills rather than on the abilities and at-titudes needed for job success. (Many interviewers even begin their discus-sions with applicants by describing exactly what the job entails and what the ideal employee looks like and then ask the applicants if they think they fit the bill!)

How to Hire Great Employees Instead of Great Applicants

The sooner you move interviewing away from first impressions and canned answers toward verifiable facts, the sooner your hiring effectiveness will im-prove.

You can hire great employees instead of great applicants when you first clearly identify what you want your new employee to accomplish and what it takes to succeed at the job. This can only happen when you use a hiring system built on the solid foundation of the following five essential achievement-based in-terview questions. (All will be explained in detail in the sections that follow.) As you read each one, stop for a moment and ask yourself how you would re-spond if you were the applicant being interviewed.

Essential Question #1: “Tell me about your very first paying job.” Early ex-periences usually evoke strong emotions, which is why this the first question interviewers should ask. Applicants’ first work experiences shape their expec-tations and mindset for future work. Tip: The applicant’s history and learning curve make a lot more sense when you hear about it from the beginning.

Essential Question #2: “Which achievement at work, in school, or in your personal life makes you feel most proud?” The achievements we value the most reveal both our strongest character traits and our strongest desires. Ap-plicants’ knowledge, skills, aptitude, and personal characteristics (KSAPCs) speak volumes about the kind of employee the applicant has been and can be-come in the right job environment. Tip: The number of an applicants’ KSAPC’s aren’t important; what they do with them is.

Essential Question #3: “On a scale from zero to 10, how would you rate yourself?” How people see themselves may not be how others see them. It’s how they expect others to see them, which is even more important in hiring. Tip: It’s all about competencies.

Essential Question #4: “Let’s talk about your last performance review.” Tip: The best source of references is sitting right in front of you.

Essential Question #5: “What is the most important thing you would like to ask me about the job or our company?” The answers to this question reveal applicants’ concerns and motivators and provide interviewers the opportunity to probe their own concerns about applicants. Tip: This “role reversal” is al-ways informative.

Each of these questions is covered in greater detail in the pages that follow. For now, just know these five questions will get you the information you need to make good hiring decisions.

You can then verify what you learn in achievement-based interviews through evidence-based selection, which calls for performing thorough reference and background checks.

In light of the statistics from the Departments of Justice and Labor mentioned before, we cannot emphasize too strongly the need to check references and perform criminal background and drug tests.

Remember, the most important job any manager has is hiring the right people. Dilbert said it best: “Eighty percent of managing is hiring the right people and 20 percent is leaving them alone so they can do their jobs.”

Mel Kleiman CSP: Helping companies build a frontline that will help them build their bottomline. Visit www.the5firsts.com and www.humetrics.com.

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