Do you really believe that you are that good at predicting whether a candidate for a job in your organization has the potential to become a “great” employee?

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During the past 15 years, I have worked as a psychologist helping public and private organisations with their hiring needs. I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of great organisations that needed to fill different key positions.

Many employers continue to rely heavily on an individual’s job résumé as theirmain screening tool and a general, unstructured interview as their main selection tool. I have asked many employers why they choose to rely so heavily on a person’s job experience and a job interview to make an important — and costly — decision — hiring an employee. The most frequent answers were:

  • “The interview I use gives me enough information to allow me to make a sound hiring decision.”
  • “The position I am filling does not require a lot of skill (anyone can do it).”
  • “I’d rather just try a candidate for a couple of months and fire them if they are not good.”
  • “I’m just hiring an employee for a 3-6 months contract; even if I chose the wrong candidate, he or she is unlikely to cause substantial damage to my company.”
  • “I don’t have time to assess candidates.”
  • “Tests can be expensive and time-consuming, I can’t afford using them.”
  • “I don’t know which tools to use.”
  • “I don’t have the luxury to be that selective as I generally have few candidates who apply.”

and the most frequent reason:

  • “I know my field of work and can generally tell within the first five minutes of talking to a candidate if he/she will be a good employee.”

I’m surprised about how confident employers are at being able to make an accurate hiring decision based on spending a few minutes with an employee usually during an unstructured interview. Initially, I even questioned myself as to whether there was something I was missing. Is it possible that I was not as good at making hiring decisions as most employers even after studying human behaviour and work psychology for so long and working in the field for over 15 years?

I had to further investigate and gather some of the facts so I could counterbalance them against the perceptions that some employers have of their ability to hire the right candidate. I began by challenging those ‘confident’ employers to look at their hiring record in the past three to five years. What was their retention rate? How many hires left within the first year? How productive were these hires? How much money did they lose by hiring these candidates who left or, even worse, stayed and were not productive? It is surprising when employers reflect on these questions and realise that, in effect, their predictive ability of a candidate’s potential is usually no better than 50%. In essence, they are only right in their selection decisions about half of the time. Differently worded, 50% of their new hires will not reach their expected potential, are likely to leave within the first year and will incur additional costs to the employer (such as having to hire another employee to replace the one that left; incurring training costs; making a lower return on their investment, etc.). Even when proven that their hiring record is not that positive, most employers choose to remain oblivious to the cost of such errors (usually estimated to be between 20% and 35% of the annual salary of the position that has been filled). Instead employers will focus on the minor costs they have saved or the little time they had to invest instead of using a more structured or comprehensive hiring process.

In my experience, the hiring managers are much more likely to seek help from hiring experts when the position they need to fill is key to the organisation (or costly) and when selecting the wrong candidate can have significant negative impacts (e.g. financial or safety) on the organisation or the public. As such, typically, help is more likely to be sought when there is a need to fill managerial, key professional positions and public safety positions (the latter being ones that have access to weapons or sensitive information). In such cases, Y2CP experts are often called to help with different aspects of the hiring process (e.g. the recruitment, the assessment and the selection of the candidates).

Employers tend to be particularly interested in the leadership ability or management potential of a candidate. Different psychometric tools exist to assess different work styles (e.g. ability to lead/motivate/influence, ability to analyze and make decisions, job attitude, ability to manage stress and attain results, etc.). Many employers seem to believe (or hope) that if they have a good leader, he/she will be able to attain the targeted results regardless of which team of employees he/she has to manage. As such, in most cases, less effort is invested in filling most other (non-management or less senior) jobs, which is often the vast majority of the employees in an organisation (e.g. those in hourly, non-managerial or technical jobs).

Can you imagine a professional sports team only investing effort in hiring the right coach assuming that he/she will be able to win games and be the best in the league regardless of the players that he/she is managing? Hollywood screenwriters have elegantly and successfully told the stories of several college teams that, in spite of lacking raw talent, nevertheless succeeded to win because they had the right coach. Such stories unfortunately remain exceptions to the rule. In fact, most successful teams invest as much, if not more, into hiring the right players as they do in hiring the right coach. It can be safely stated that it takes a great coach and players who possess the right skills and attitude to really succeed in the long run.

In the past several years, I have been trying to sensitise employers to the following:

  1. Given the complexity of human behaviour, it is nearly impossible to accurately predict the potential of a candidate without relying on a structured hiring process and adequate assessment tools. Even the most seasoned work psychologists and human resource consultants can’t guarantee positive results without using a structured hiring process and using some psychometric tests. If experts in the field are unable to do so, then employers must question their own ability to do so. It makes sense to seek help with certain complex aspects of managing a business — such as hiring.
  2. All job positions within the organisation are key and can impact the organisation’s reputation and survival. As such, even entry-level jobs need to be filled with a minimal but sufficient level of assessment of candidate’s skills, aptitudes and work styles/work attitude.
  3. You can have an effective hiring process that is simple, affordable, automated and effective. Most employers can find hiring processes that meet their budgets. No need for expensive hiring tools or solutions. Many affordable automated solutions exist on the market today; these allow employers to recruit and manage applicants. Such solutions help employers get a sufficient number of applicants for a job.
  4. In terms of assessing candidates, several specific tools have been developed and validated for different job positions (e.g. managerial, client-service, public safety). Some psychometric tools cost as little as $20 and help to assess different work styles believed to be predictive of employee potential. Structured interviews and other assessment tools (e.g. technical job questions, reference check questions) can be purchased or developed in house and used as needed. Once you have developed a hiring process that is simple, affordable and effective, you will save significant effort in only reviewing the job résumés of the candidates who have the right experience, just interviewing the few best candidates, and only hiring the right candidates.
  5. Having realistic expectations is important. Employers should know that, even if you have an effective hiring process, you can still select the ‘wrong’ employee. However, the chances of making errors will be significantly diminished — depending on the process, by 20%, 25% or even as much as 50%. In other words, you can find yourself in a situation where 8 out of 10 candidates you hire are productive, have the right job attitude, and will remain within your organisation.
  6. Assessment results do not only tell you whether you should hire a candidate or not. Results also tell you what are the strengths and liabilities of the candidate. Such information is key in helping employers minimize liabilities and provide targeted training or coaching to the hired candidates.

Noting the challenges that most employers face when it comes to hiring and the high level of confidence they have about their ability to hire without using a structured or effective process, my business partner and I dedicated significant effort in developing a comprehensive hiring solution that will help small to medium size organisations with their hiring needs.

We wanted to develop a solution that is automated, paper-free, easy to use, effective and most importantly affordable. This bilingual solution (English and French) specifically targets small to medium size organisations that generally are busy running their business and have little time to invest in the hiring process. Our team of work psychologists and human resource management consultants worked on developing this solution for over three years. We have finally attained our goal and have started selling our solution to different organisations in the past year. Our customers’ feedback is extremely positive.

Our solution (iRecruitment) is a unique, comprehensive online and automated (paper-free) applicant tracking system (ATS) that allows the following benefits:

  • Helps employers to post an unlimited number of job offers online on different job posting websites in order to get job applicants;
  • Helps employers quickly assess candidates’ key and relevant work experience through targeted screening questions, résumé uploading, and a CV video;
  • Offers automatic and integrated assessment of candidates’ work styles/attitude (e.g. teamwork, client service, stress resistance, attaining results, likelihood of counter-productive behaviours at work) and judgementat no extra cost and unlimited use;
  • Provides different behavioural interview questions to help the employers ask candidates pertinent questions that help with hiring decisions;
  • Provides automated and simple reference checks by candidates’ former employers in a click of a button;
  • Offers different pricing structures – customer satisfaction guaranteed:
    • For those who only hire a few times per year: Affordable, low and competitive fee per job-posting (with full access to the ATS and assessment components. Prices are as low as 200$ per job posting);
    • For those who hire regularly: Affordable low monthly-unlimited use of our entire iRecruitment system (with full access to the ATS and assessment components).

Please consult our website for further information: www.i-Recruitment.ca

Feel free to ask questions or write comments about this blog.

Dr Yaniv Benzimra
Dr. Yaniv M. Benzimra, Ph.D.
Clinical & Work Psychologist
Y2 Consulting Psychologists
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