How to Improve Your Hiring Practices

If your employee made a huge, expensive mistake, what would you do?

Fire her?

Many of us would. Yet we could take a different approach and, like a CEO of a large corporation faced with this question a few years ago, view the expensive mistake as valuable training.

"You can't put a price on what she learned," the executive said, answering critics of his decision, "and the lesson should benefit this company, not our competitors."

Thus the employee survived her mistake. More importantly, she corrected it, and going forward her innovations positioned the company as an industry leader.

Clearly, you can safely say this CEO thought smart by thinking ahead. He knew termination, recruitment, hiring and training are expensive. Further, he had confidence in his hiring decisions because his company uses a best-practices hiring process. Despite her mistake, the employee who erred fit her role, and the CEO knew this.

Can you say the same about your hiring methods?

Here are ten questions that can help you better your hiring practices:

  1. Do I know how each job supports our company's key objectives?
    Answering this question becomes crucial when you revamp your action plan. If you adjust course but your employees perform their jobs the same old way, they hinder the company.
  2. Do we first consider highly qualified internal candidates when organizational opportunities arise? Is this policy?
    Internal "hiring" demonstrates that you believe in your company's training practices and recognize your workers' accomplishments. It encourages employees to take initiative and exercise creative thinking.
  3. Do our managers use objective evaluation criteria based on known outstanding performers in positions?
    If you want to ensure that your workers fit their jobs, measure how top performers in the same positions do their jobs. Now apply the same assessment to candidates for the position. How well do they match your top performers? This approach applies objective rather than subjective standards to the position.
  4. Is our compensation competitive based on current market rates for the job?
    Paying salaries commensurate with what employees can earn in similar positions elsewhere keeps your workforce motivated and attracts top talent.
  5. Do we apply a consistent selection process to all candidates?
    Further, are our selection standards job-related, validated and standardized? If you answer yes to these questions, your selection processes are objective, fair, and above all, will discourage (and withstand!) costly legal challenges.
  6. Do we include key stakeholders in our employee selection process?
    By stakeholders, I mean those directly impacted by whom you hire. Take hiring managers. Working with HR, hiring managers can identify and clarify their needs and help develop a hiring system that will yield candidates who will meet their needs. 
  7. Are our interviews structured? Are our interviewers trained in our employee selection process?
    Structured interviews ensure consistency. For a structured interview, select questions and tasks beforehand. Then coach interviewers so they understand the process and the reasoning behind it, and know what to do.
  8. Are our interviewers equipped to probe into a candidate's suitability?
    A recent study of 20,000 newly hired employees showed that “46 percent of all new hires fail within 18 months." They fail not because they lack technical skills, but because they resist coaching, have the wrong temperament, are not motivated or demonstrate other problems not assessed in interviews. To catch these mismatches, screening interviewers need expert coaching that helps them 1) look beyond technical skills and, 2) ask the right follow-up questions.
  9. Do we conduct comprehensive reference and background checks on job candidates?
    Employment experts estimate that almost a third of résumés contain false or exaggerated information. According to a Purdue University newsletter, applicants falsify their résumés most frequently by expanding dates to cover employment gaps.
  10. Does our orientation process help newly hired people become productive faster?
    According to a Bersin & Associates/Randstad case study, productivity measures increased by 25 percent among employees who are given training when joining a company. Job descriptions can help, too. They communicate the company's direction and tell the employee where he fits in the big picture.

So there you have them: ten questions to examine your practices. Use them, and you'll prepare yourself to hire only the best. Not only that, you'll prepare yourself to handle employee mistakes.

Tips: Five Steps to Hiring Smart

Are people problems coming between you and the commercial success you seek? If you're experiencing excessive staff turnover, or if you are finding that your new hires simply don't fit in, use these six steps. They'll help you get the people you need:

  1. Identify hiring problems and mistakes.  Ask department heads and human resources managers why some departments experience turnover. Conduct exit interviews. Ask your top people what they like about their jobs and how you can improve their jobs. Evaluate those responsible for hiring to determine if they need training, if they have a system that works and if they take hiring people seriously.
  2. Recruit people who fit your job.  First understand the job and develop a competency-based job description that encompasses technical, educational, experiential and industrial requirements. Second, match people to jobs. They must have a) the right level of learning ability, b) motivation to do the work, and c) the behavioral makeup or personality that equips them to do the job well.
  3. Prospect innovatively for candidates.  Consider using additional sources to find the right people for your jobs. Offer employee bonuses for referrals. Hire retirees. Contact personnel and department managers in organizations announcing cutbacks and describe the candidate you seek. Finally develop relationships with schools that support your industry through their curricula.
  4. Prepare for and conduct winning interviews.  Before the interview, clarify the job requirements and list the competencies you need. Then develop questions designed to uncover those qualifications. In the interview:
    a) Open by putting the candidate at ease. Build rapport.
    b) Probe the candidate to determine if he can and will do the job and if he fits your corporate culture.
    c) Close by allowing both sides to summarize and agree on the next steps.
  5. Continually refine your practices.  
    Books like Lou Adler's Hire with Your Head and workshops on best-practice hiring run by organizations like Profiles International can help you hone your hiring skills. If you are interested in a workshop on best-practice hiring, send an email to me for more information:

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