Corporate Leadership: Hire the right people

Last updated on June 9th, 2022 at 02:03 am

TEC (The Executive Committee) resource specialists Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard know a great deal about what not to do when it comes to making good hiring decisions.

Recently, they did an in-depth study of 225 executive-level hires in 134 different companies across a varied spectrum of industries. This month, I’ll summarize their results.

First, let’s look at the top 10 hiring mistakes that businesses make:

1. Faulty job descriptions. Inadequate job descriptions fail to clearly specify company expectations during their executive search. Companies have a tendency to describe the job, not what they expect from the person doing it.

2. Superficial interviewing. It isn’t the number of job interviews conducted with a given candidate. It’s the quality. Failing to verify a candidate’s claims about previous jobs or education, for example, and failing to check other facts submitted by the candidate are far too commonplace.

3. Inappropriate “knockouts” used too early in the interview process. Adhering to rigid education, technical training/skills and number of years of industry experience often eliminate qualified candidates.

4. Snap judgment. There’s an old saying that it “takes no more than 10 minutes to size a person up for the job.” Unfortunately, companies make too many final hiring decisions on that basis.

5. Historical bias. This is the tendency of companies to use past performance as the principal measure for predicting future results.

6. Performance bias. This is the failure to distinguish between interview behavior and job performance. The tendency is to offer the job to the best “actor” as opposed to the best candidate for the job.

7. Fishing in shallow waters. This is where the bottom-third of the qualified candidates are the most aggressive during the search phase. As a result, a company ignores well-qualified “sleeper” candidates.

8. Failure to probe for core success factors. Companies fail to find evidence that the candidate demonstrates these strengths: self-motivation, leadership, comparable past performance, job-specific problem solving and adaptability.

9. Ignoring the top candidate’s job needs. This is based upon the company making faulty assumptions about the top candidate’s job musts and wants. As a result, the candidate declines the job offer.

10. Desperation hiring. In pressure hiring situations in particular, companies have a tendency to not budget adequate time for the search and selection process, resulting in a superficial “going through the motions” exercise to fill the vacant position.

Deutsch and Remillard mention several other hiring errors that didn’t make the Top 10 but are important nevertheless: ignoring cultural mismatches; poor interview physical environment; lack of marketing “image” campaigns to attract top-quality candidates; waiting for resumes to magically appear and thereby missing out on “sleepers;” failing to prepare for the interview and having no written questions to ask candidates.

So what leads to these hiring mistakes? There appear to be three primary culprits:

1.Inadequate preparation. The company doesn’t take the time to outline what it considers to be the attributes of “success” needed to perform and excel at the position. Simply listing outdated or time-worn job specs, educational or experience criteria is insufficient. In fact, good search consultants will tell you that most job descriptions are lethal in terms of identifying qualified job candidates.

2. Lack of information. Unfortunately, those people who do the hiring have, in many cases, never been trained to conduct job interviews. Their companies also don’t give them adequate information, except for a resume, to really probe a candidate’s success factors as they apply to the job position.

3.Human nature. Have you ever heard someone doing the hiring say, “My gut never fails me when making a hiring decision”? This is a terrible mistake. It means that all preconceived human biases and nuances creep into the hiring equation. While this may be intuitively appealing, it has consequences.

Here, then, are the major elements for putting a “best practice” key employee selection  plan into effect that Wisconsin TEC members have shared with us:

•    A company should analyze job descriptions to ensure that they include the major success factors that will be necessary for the employee to do the very best job possible. The company must explain this, along with specific company expectations for the position, to whomever is recruiting candidates.

•    During the entire interview process, companies must consistently ask the right types of questions. For instance, if strong interpersonal skills are a major success factor, then the interview should include questions that illustrate and demonstrate proof of that.

•    Companies need to thoroughly train anyone assigned to a key employee hiring team and give them the information necessary to conduct effective interviews.  Many industrial psychologists can provide this training. Role playing is ideally suited for this purpose.

•    Before the job interview process begins, the company or its consultant needs to conduct background checks and reference assessments, and corroborate other facts that the candidate has included on the resume.

•    The company should instruct the person or agency recruiting candidates to submit a deep sourcing strategy to locate “sleeper” candidates during the search process.

•    A search consultant should review the company’s Web site to ensure that it’s attractive and appealing to potential senior executive job candidates.

•    At least one interviewer on the hiring team should focus the interview exclusively on identifying what the candidate will need after joining the company.

After the selection process is complete, you should thoroughly debrief the new executive and ask for feedback on the entire selection process, from start to finish. We all know that the cost of making a mistake, or a series of mistakes, while hiring a key executive is far greater in the long run than the cost of the selection process itself.  Hopefully, these guidelines will lead to best practice hiring in your business.

Harry S. Dennis III is the president of The Executive Committee (TEC) in Wisconsin and Michigan. TEC is a professional development group for CEOs, presidents and business owners. He can be reached at (262) 821-3340.

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