Selection Errors and Minimizing Selection Errors
Here are the top six selection errors that you need to avoid.
- Subjectivity over objectivity
Using your gut to find great talent is fine as long as you gather facts (objective information) to confirm your gut feelings. A Harvard study revealed that the use of interviews only as a means for selection were successful 14% of the time. I bet you have experienced a quick hiring decision based on gut feeling that resulted in poor performance or poor chemistry for the organization.
- Making hasty decisions
There are tendencies, in over 63% of selection interviews, to make the hiring decisions in the first four minutes of the interview. Don’t do this. It takes 90 minutes of a patterned or structured interview to get to real behavior. Many professional recruiters suggest that you not form any judgments in the first 30 minutes. If you do, you are in danger of missing out on potentially good candidates who do not interview well, or worse, hiring a poor fit because of the candidate’s ability to interview well.
- Accountability for selection errors
An even worse selection error is made when managers don’t view selection as an important job responsibility. This occurs often in companies that do not train their managers in this critical leadership task.
- Lack of good information on candidates
We have learned that interviewing alone is ineffective. The best selection processes include many tools like checking references, performing sample job tasks and conducting a second interview. Reference checks are often not performed and when they are, companies usually only verify information like employment dates. Most resumes are marketing tools—they often exaggerate accomplishments. In my experience, many times recommendations are positive because the person doing the recommending is hoping to move an underperforming employee out.
- Untrained management
Make this error and it will lead to an organization that perpetuates degradation of talent. In other words, if someone is a 10/10, he or she will hire at best 9/10. The 9/10 will at best hire an 8/10. Over time, this erodes the depth of talent. Strong talents (10/10) will not remain in an organization when they are hired by 5/10 managers. People do not leave jobs—they leave unskilled and poor leadership.
- The wrong people are doing the hiring
In large organizations, you often find the wrong people are selecting new hires. Human resources sends the line manager poor talent. The manager and his team can’t get the job done because the unit’s not fully staffed or capably staffed and the manager doesn’t have the time to interview and train. This catch-22 thrives when team leaders don’t regard employee selection of talent as their responsibility. The talent problem gets compounded when HR departments cut back in difficult times.
Some Things You Can Do to Minimize Perception-driven Hiring Mistakes
- Wait 30 minutes. Hear all of the evidence, pro and con, before making any decision. In the case of interviewing, wait for at least 30 minutes after the interview starts before concluding if the person is a possible hire or not. This forced delay will minimize the impact of first impressions. After 30 minutes you’ll discover the good aren’t as good as you thought, and the bad aren’t as bad.
- Don’t give anyone on the hiring team a full yes or no vote. I use a talent scorecard listing all of the competencies and factors driving on the job success to make the assessment. There are about 10 factors on the form including things like technical ability, leadership, motivation, problem-solving, and cultural fit. Instead of assigning each interviewer all of the factors to assess, each interviewer should be given only 2-3 to “own.” During a formal debriefing session each interviewer is then required to substantiate his/her ranking with facts and evidence.
- Ask people you like tougher questions. When you like a candidate, you naturally go into sales mode, ask softball questions, and ignore or minimize negatives. To overcome this natural tendency, force yourself to ask tougher questions, digging deep into the person’s accomplishments.
- Treat people you don’t like as consultants. When a candidate makes a weak first impression, we typically either tune out, ask hardball questions, cut the person off, and ignore or minimize any positive information. Sometimes candidates are nervous, sometimes they’re different in appearance or personality, and sometimes they talk with accents you don’t like. And sometimes, these are great people. To find the truth, assume they’re great, and treat them as expert consultants. Give them the benefit of the doubt and assume what they’ve done is remarkable. After 30 minutes you might discover they’re not so bad after all.
- Ignore fact-less decisions. During the debriefing session, ignore assessments that include these terms: feel, think, like, dislike, bad fit, too soft, too aggressive, anything about personality good or bad, or the term “soft skills.” Also, ignore anything similar that smacks of bias, emotions, prejudices, or hasty judgments. These are all clues that the candidate was interviewed through the wrong filter. Unless the interviewer can attach concrete evidence to the assessment, it has minimum predictive value.
- Don’t conduct short interviews. If you want to make the wrong hiring decision, have five or six people each spend 30-40 minutes with the candidate, and then add up their yes/no votes. If it takes three to six months after the person is hired to determine true performance, how is it possible to predict this in a short 30-minute get-together? Instead, follow all of the rules in this list and either have each interviewer spend at least an hour with the candidate one on one, or conduct a panel interview with 2-3 people for about 60-75 minutes.
- Conduct phone interviews first. Conduct a 30-minute exploratory phone interview before meeting the person in-person. Review the person’s work-history looking for the Achiever Pattern and ask about a major accomplishment most comparable to the performance profile. Not only will this indicate the person is a strong match for the job, but will naturally minimize the impact of first impressions when the interviewer actually meets the person.