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Blog Post

Make Better Hires, Here’s How

By, Leadership Alliance, Powered by Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute

The Right Hiring Decision Comes First

It comes before successful product innovation. Before customer loyalty. Before operational efficiency. Every component of your company’s success depends first upon your ability to accurately predict which job candidate will be the superior performer and cultural fit. And yet, most organizations rely on traditional hiring practices: resume review, reference checks, and a standard interview. Pull a coin out of your pocket and flip it. Your ability to predict what side it will land on is just slightly less than your ability to predict if a candidate will be successful in their role based on interview alone. Let’s state that another way: when you select a candidate by the standard interview process your chances of choosing the best candidate are about 50-50.

With 80% of turnover being due to poor hiring decisions, not only do poor hires impact your company’s performance and growth, they also impact the individual, and the company’s reputation. Before we cast blame on the applicants, “they were just a ‘bad’ fit,” let’s think about the role the organization plays in the hiring. Albert Einstein once said that if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will spend its whole life believing it is stupid. Harsh, but we can unwittingly do this to the people in our span of care. Placing people in the right role is a caring act of leadership. Obviously, the right hire is good for business and good for the person. Let’s explore how to better hires through integrating pre-employment testing and improving your interviewing skills.

Assess More than IQ

Hiring managers’ judgment and experience must always play a role. But high-performing organizations are replacing traditional, subjective selection practices with data-driven pre-employment testing. And they’re achieving a competitive advantage. This testing is well beyond your typical personality assessments and behavior indicators. These are gold standard and rigorously verified personality assessments that require credentialed practitioners to access and deliver. Research has repeatedly shown that pre-employment testing is a more accurate predictor of job success than any other selection method including interviews, reference checks, and grades in school. Used at the Director level up to the C-Suite, these tests provide insights in four critical categories:

  1. Can Do
    • Critical Thinking/Analytical Reasoning
    • Tolerance for Ambiguity
    • Intellectual Horsepower
    • Strategic Mindset
    • Financial Acumen
  2. Will Do
    • Cultivates Innovation
    • Interpersonal Savvy
    • Drives Results
    • Collaboration
    • Courage
  3. Will Fit
    • Learning Agility
    • Culture Fit
  4. Can Lead
    • Drives Engagement
    • Develops Talent
    • Directs Work

Pre-employment testing for cognitive ability and personality factors are not “pass/fail.” The results are scored against pre-identified competencies necessary for the specific role. As an example, you might imagine the competencies needed for a senior leader overseeing a department for innovation would be quite different from a senior finance position. Testing of this nature gives the hiring manager information on how well the candidate matches against the competency (from poor to superior and if it is overused) as well as derailleurs. Derailleurs are behaviors such as being: defensive, argumentative, and avoiding conflict. Not only can these tests help with the hiring decision, but these tests can also provide insight into a candidate’s potential for long-term success at the organization. Lastly, more progressive, and intentional companies integrate the results of the testing into the new team member’s on-boarding experience, working relationships, and follow-on development planning to increase the chances of success in the role. Rather than providing your new hire a list of rules and policies to sign, give them insights about themselves, tips on working with their leader, and how the company is working from day one to increase their chances of success.

No tests are 100% accurate to determine a candidate’s potential success. However, organizations using pre-employment assessments can see success rates of up to 94%–meaning that one year later, candidates are excelling in their roles. Pre-employment testing is one piece of the puzzle. Organizations that see success rates in the 90th percentile also employ skilled interviewing techniques.

Better Interviews, Better Hires

Studies show most of us think we are a good interviewer. Clearly with the overall success rate of 50% this is not true. Let’s get smarter about this critical conversation. After all, even a skilled interviewer can always improve. Here are 8 practices to help:

  1. Prepare for success. Ensure your interview experience is planned well by clearly identifying the skills and traits necessary to succeed in the role. This will allow you to make better decisions on what candidates fit the profile the best. We recommend preparing a set of standard questions by role so that all candidates are asked the same questions, which allows for better comparisons. Also, coordinate a game plan with other interviewers to avoid overlap and cover the most ground.
  2. Ask better questions. Good interview questions tend to be open-ended (cannot be answered with a yes or no) and cause the interviewee to provide a thoughtful and unrehearsed answer. Instead of asking about strengths and weaknesses, two of the most rehearsed interview questions, ask the following:
    • Tell me a time where you received feedback that was challenging to hear in the moment but has served you well in your career.
    • What made you interested in the job?
    • Tell me about a high point and low point in your previous role.
    • What are your long-term career goals?
    • Tell me about an event in your career that you learned from and how you continue to use that learning today.
    • What is the biggest misperception people have of you?
    • What else should I know about you that would be helpful as we consider you for this role?
    • Tell me about a time you made a strategic decision—what was it and what did you do?
  3. Avoid leading them on. Leading questions, or questions that prompt or encourage the desired answer, can lead to less than authentic responses. As an example, “how often do you take a leadership position with your peers?” shows that you are interested in candidates that often take leadership positions. Instead, change this around to, “tell me about a time you took a leadership position with your peers.” You will be better able to gauge the candidate’s true leadership qualities.
  4. Get down to specifics. A great interviewer doesn’t settle for softball answers. If a candidate responds with a generalized answer or uses “we” too often, follow up by asking them to “share an example” or “explain more about how you personally contributed”. The goal is to break through the surface and get down to the substance of the matter.
  5. Learn to be comfortable with silence. Don’t feel like you need to fill the pauses. Let the candidate think and ponder, without jumping in or feeling like you need to save them. A good guideline to follow is the 80/20 rule of interviewing which is to let the candidate talk for 80% of the time while limiting your portion to 20%. On the flip side, be sure to engage enough so that you establish a good rapport, and the candidate has a positive experience.
  6. Know what a great answer is. For every question you ask, identify what constitutes a great answer, an average answer, and a poor answer. As an example, if you ask the question mentioned above on strategy, know what constitutes a great answer: “shifted our business focus ahead of market trends/pressures,” vs. an average answer: “provided additional resources to a new department,” vs. a poor answer “used search engine optimization to refine marketing messaging.”
  7. As applicable, use the pre-employment testing to inform follow-on interviews. Test results can provide insights an interview cannot. In subsequent interviews, the results can also give guidance on areas to further probe and explore with the candidate. As an example, if the test results revealed a potential concern of impulsiveness, a question to the candidate such as, “when did you take a “ready, fire, aim” approach that didn’t work out; what did you learn from it?” could reveal more insight.
  8. Turn the table. Before concluding the interview, ask the candidate what questions they have of you, the role, and the organization. What a candidate asks, and in what order, can be insightful. Are they inquisitive about the strategic direction of the organization or are they more personal and asking questions about the specific role?

Replacing a team member can be expensive to the business and frustrating to the candidate. Total costs can reach 200 percent of the employee’s annual salary. Better hiring also provides the ability to move forward effectively on business objectives rather than allocating resources to manage the results of previous poor hiring decisions. Lastly, using pre-employment testing along with skilled interviewing techniques brings higher productivity, improved morale, stronger customer relationships, as well as objective, inclusive and equitable hiring practices. Using testing and better interviewing techniques not only increases the chances of a successful hire, but the same practices can also be used for promotions to the next level of leadership.

Ready to learn more? Contact us to make better hires and promotions.


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