Guest post by: Peter Gilbert
To err in hiring is human – and very expensive. Many “standard” hiring procedures are actually common mistakes, so to choose more competent candidates, prepare to revise your hiring methods. Learn the nine hiring errors managers often make, then eliminate them from your hiring practices to help you choose only the cream of the crop.
Mistake 1: Relying only on interviews to evaluate a candidate
In a University of Michigan study titled “The Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance” John and Rhonda Hunter analysed how well job interviews accurately predict success on the job. The surprising finding: The typical interview increases your chances of choosing the best candidate by less than 2 percent. In other words, flipping a coin to choose between two candidates would be only 2 percent less reliable than basing your decision on an interview.
Experts offer three reasons why interviews, while the most common selection tool, are such poor predictors of sales success:
• Most managers don’t structure an interview beforehand and determine the ideal answers to questions (develop a scoring weight).
• Candidates do much more interviewing than most managers and are more skilful at presenting themselves than many managers are at seeing through their “front.”
• An interview helps managers evaluate personal chemistry and determine how well candidates might work together with others.
Mistake 2: Using successful people as models
Duplicating success may seem like a good idea, but the reason people succeed are not clear from just measuring the characteristics of top performers. More important are the differences between top performers and low achievers. For example, a comprehensive study of more than 1,000 sales superstars from 70 companies showed that the top three characteristics shared by high achievers were (1) the belief that salesmanship required strong objection-answering skills, (2) good grooming habits, and (3) conservative dress – especially black shoes. However, a study of the weakest performers at these companies revealed that the same three characteristics were their most common traits as well. The lesson: You must “validate” critical success skills by comparing large enough samples of top performers and weak performers to find the factors that consistently distinguish the winners from the “also rans.” Otherwise, you may select well-spoken, energetic candidates who fail quickly but with style.
Mistake 3: Too many criteria
Only through a method called “validation” can you make more effective hiring decisions. The U.S. government originally used validation research to prove that employments selection practices predicted job success and weren’t discriminatory. Similar to a process insurance companies use to predict accident risk or the likelihood of health problems, validation can dramatically improve your odds of hiring the right people. Not only does it identify critical job success factors, it weights each factor’s importance. Consider these two surprising and important findings from validation research:
• The most critical factor for predicting success in any job is usually as important or more important than all other factors combined.
• The most accurate prediction of success on the job is based on no more than six to eight factors. Add any more, and you risk diluting your criteria, watering down the prediction of success, and killing selection accuracy.
To hire winners, decide on six to eight factors that separate them from losers. Ignore factors that are not validated, or you may end up hiring nice guys who finish last.
Mistake 4: Evaluating “personality” instead of job skills
Certain personality traits – high energy, honesty, a solid work ethic – seem to practically guarantee success, yet they don’t. Many consultants and distributors of pre-employment tests maintain that certain personality factors help ensure management or sales success and offer psychological theories to support that belief. However, solid statistical research from many objective sources shows little correlation between any personality factor and any specific job. Producers of competent and reputable “personality type” tests (like the Myers-Briggs) admit their tests are useful for self-awareness and training but not for hiring. Only tests of job skills or knowledge are proven to predict job success consistently. You might enjoy knowing your sales candidates have self-confidence and energy, but knowing whether they can answer objections and close sales is definitely more important.
Mistake 5: Using yourself as an example
Your own sales success might lead you to believe you can spot candidates with potential, but don’t count on it. A famous lawyer once said, “The attorney who would represent himself has a fool for a client” –a saying that also applies to managers hiring new salespeople. Many managers who reached their position by virtue of their sales success, believe they can instinctively recognise a good candidate, when they are unconsciously just using themselves as a template. When you use yourself as a model, your ego often gets in the way, and that “bias” can skew your objectivity in judging others – a fatal hiring flaw.
Mistake 6: Failure to use statistically validated testing to predict job skills most critical to success
In some companies, committees use deductive reasoning or brainstorming to identify criteria for candidate selection. This technique may encourage team building and a spirit of cooperation and participation, and may even focus the organisation on the importance of hiring the right people. Unfortunately, two main flaws make it less effective at pinpointing why candidates fail or succeed. First, the committees tend to focus on theories instead of facts – theories that suggest, for example, that high self-confidence guarantees a better employee. Second, they focus on attitude and experience instead of ability and skills. Skills are a much more significant and consistent indicator of success potential. Incentives can motivate a skilled person, but motivation and good intentions won’t improve an unskilled candidate.
To explain why managers often rely on reasoning or common sense to assess candidates’ attitude and personality, experts suggest that doing so is easier than measuring their skills. Gauging skill levels often requires carefully developed tests or on-the-job trials many managers are unwilling or unable to conduct.
Mistake 7: Not researching why people have failed in a job
Research consistently shows that people fail in a job due to factors different from the criteria used to select them. Though most managers can list the most common reasons people have failed, they seldom make the information part of the process of choosing selection criteria for new candidates. Managers who identify these “failure points” and build them into the selection process can reduce hiring mistakes by as much as 25 percent. In most competitive sales situation, for example, the average prospect buys from a new salesperson only after six contacts. The average unsuccessful salesperson gives up after three contacts. While some of that salesperson’s techniques may be adequate, the tendency to give up after three rejections was never uncovered or evaluated.
Mistake 8: Relying on general “good guy” criteria
Everyone may want to hire good people, but being a good person does not ensure success on the job. Sales success skills are now so specialised that you need specialised hiring criteria as well. A coach filling a spot on a cricket team, for example, bases qualifications on the team’s skill. At the prep-school level, the selection criteria for a player – dexterity, confidence with the ball, desire to play – are broad. As we reach the high school or university level, the criteria are more specialised, focusing on the four general skills required for success: bowling, batting, catching and fielding. At the international level, different fielding positions require such highly specialised skills (e.g. Fielding at slip or short leg,) that no coach would rely on four general cricketing skills to choose a test player. In sales, too, reserve broad, “good guy” criteria for entry level hiring. When you need a more experienced salesperson, use more specialised criteria.
Mistake 9: Bypassing the reference check
Various recruiting and placement agencies report a fairly high percentage of false information presented in resumes and job applications. As many as 15 to 20 percent of job applicants try to hide some dark chapter in their lives. For some positions, one out of three resumes submitted may contain false information. To find out who’s pulling the wool over your eyes, make the extra effort to verify the information your applicants provide. An individual who twists the facts to get a job will probably bend the rules on the job. Checking references may seem tedious, but it beats the frustration and cost of hiring someone you need to fire after two months.
With the discovery of hiring mistakes comes the opportunity to make positive change. Even if you are content with most of the people you have hired so far, remember that ongoing improvement is key to success. When you are willing to revamp your standard hiring procedures, you open the door to a stronger sales team that can lead your company in a new and more profitable direction.
Hiring Managers Speak Out: 9 Things That Seal the Deal
By Rachel Zupek, CareerBuilder.com writer
One thing about the hiring process is true: It leaves much room for speculation. Whether you got the job — or you didn’t — most job seekers want to know why. Why were you chosen over the next guy? Or, better yet, why weren’t you? Was it your experience, your attitude, your interview answers, your outfit?
We decided to ask hiring managers directly: What seals the deal when you choose to hire a candidate? Why do you choose one person over another? Their answers will give you some insight as to what you should pay attention to the next time you’re up for a job.
Here’s what hiring managers had to say:
“One of the big things for me is [following] up. If I’m on the fence about a candidate but they take the time to e-mail me and thank me for having them come in, it shows me that they are motivated, tactful and professional. On the other side of the coin, if I interview someone and they are using lots of banal business speak and don’t give me any impression of what their personality is like, I will usually pass. I hate when I ask a candidate what their favorite thing to work on is and they say ‘everything’ — it leaves me with the impression that they either have no personality or won’t speak their mind.” — Keith Baumwald, interactive marketing analyst, Shoplet.com
“I know I have a good candidate for hire when they come in prepared with as many questions about the job and company as I have for the candidate — especially when their questions go beyond just the pay rate and benefits. By showing interest in learning more about what the job opportunity actually involves, it shows that the candidate is just as concerned about this job being the right fit for them as I am.” — Angie Nelson, marketing coordinator, Les Bois Federal Credit Union
“A quick deal-killer for me is people who are trying to answer questions the way they think I want them answered. Honesty in the interview is refreshing. I appreciate applicants who tell the truth without trying to sugarcoat things. I am not as concerned with bad things that have happened in their past as much as how they dealt with those issues. That shows their true character.” — Phil Wrzesinski, owner, Toy House and Baby Too
“Confidence is important, but there is a fine line between that and arrogance. I once had a candidate state numerous times he was the one and that no way anyone else could be better. This is not only arrogant, but demonstrates ignorance on the part of the candidate. One does not always know who they are competing with or all of their qualifications.” — Thomasina Tafur, president, Thomasina Tafur Consulting
“When interviewing candidates to join our firm, two things can be deal breakers: attitude and core values. You can’t teach attitude, but you can teach skill. A positive attitude, strong work ethic and strong values should trump more experience and skill. I also make sure the candidate demonstrates our company’s core values. I ask them to tell me their ‘story’ of their professional journey. Through their story, I get a better understanding of the decisions they made and the values they have (or don’t have).” — Michelle Roccia, senior vice president of corporate organizational development, Winter, Wyman
“When a candidate is displaying a true desire to come work for your company, they are often the one you want to hire once you are looking at the finalist pool. The fastest way to end up with a short interview and ruling yourself out from being considered is to arrive to an interview to only lack energy, give short answers and show no excitement to be there.” — James Thompson, vice president of business development, JMJ Phillip
“When I hire, I hire for ‘right fit,’ which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with experience or training. A ‘right fit’ candidate is someone who is aligned philosophically with the company, has a passion for the products or industry, and believes that the kind of work that they do is their mission, not just their livelihood. For example, when I was staffing a green business in Orange County, Calif., I didn’t hire the people with the longest résumés and the most degrees, I hired the people who were passionate about the ‘green’ cause and had demonstrated that in some way in their personal life. What we ended up with were employees who were willing to do whatever it took to make the enterprise successful because they were driven by an inner belief, not by a paycheck. They were engaged at an extremely high level from the first day they walked in the door. I hire for passion, and then train for skills, if necessary.” —Barbara Farfan, management and retail consultant, Authentic Communications
“During the interview process we tend to ask oddball questions and gauge [a candidate’s] reaction and the actual answers they give. This will give us an idea as how they will fit with our company and everyone else who works with us. For the upcoming semester we chose one intern over the others solely based on her answer to ‘If you were a candy bar, what kind would you be?’ She sat for about three seconds but didn’t think we were crazy for asking it. She smiled and said ‘I’d be a Caramello because they’re awesome and hard to find, but when you find them you get a happy feeling inside.'” — AmyLynn Keimach, Border7 Studios
“When having difficulty narrowing down a short list of qualified candidates based on their experience, skills, upward potential and education, I tend to put significant weight on the candidate’s passion for what we do as a company and how we do it. If the employee can show evidence that they genuinely align with our company values, purpose and mission, the likelihood of success increases tremendously, in my opinion.” — Matt Arrigale, vice president, human resources, Schott North America
Rachel Zupek is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow her on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CBwriterRZ.
Excitement is in the air after a successful final round interview for both you and your top candidate. After weeks/months of interviewing you have finally identified the right person! The typical reaction is to drop everything and run over to your HR team to “put through the offer paperwork”. It is important at this stage to take the emotion and excitement out of the equation and focus on taking the necessary logistical steps to guarantee a successful offer acceptance and start. It is critical at this stage in the game to communicate with and understand your candidate’s situation holistically.
Many hiring managers will often avoid discussing an offer directly with the candidate and instead rely on an HR person or an e-mail to extend the offer. While this approach certainly works, it doesn’t work all the time and as the market continues to get better it’s going to work even less.
Understand the candidate’s decision process
Candidates are receiving multiple offers and it is critical to understand where they stand in their decision process. This shouldn’t be taken personally, but instead discussed just like any other business decision.
Who’s involved in the decision?
People don’t make decisions in a vacuum and most of the time they are heavily influenced by certain people they trust. Have they talked with their family and/or significant other? Have they mentioned the opportunity to a mentor or anyone else in their inner circle? What are their thoughts?
Are all questions answered?
Do they have all the information they need to make a decision? Don’t assume that benefits have been discussed just because they met with your HR person for a few minutes at the beginning of the process. Double check with them and provide them the information personally. A quick e-mail is a small price to pay to guarantee they show up on their first day.
Know their expectations
Make sure if you are selling your opportunity that you sell to their desires and needs. Do they understand the expectations and opportunities within this position and your organization? Even though a path to management might excite you, it’s not for everyone and you should understand their career goals before making an offer for a position that involves management or other duties they may not be excited about.
Commute and hours
Even though your candidate and you may see eye to eye and everyone loves the idea of working together, they still have to make the drive most days. Have you covered the logistics of actually getting to and from work, schedule, hours, etc? Make sure you find out how long it will take to commute to and from work, if they have done that commute before, and what traffic patterns look like. The last thing you want is for someone to leave in 3-4 months because of a hefty commute.
Setting up the offer
Timing and delivery of extending an offer is the most critical and misunderstood part of the hiring process. A written offer is a necessity but it shouldn’t be sent without talking through the offer first, and sent off as a formality. The real offer should be personal, exciting, motivating for you and the candidate. This person will be working for YOU and a big part of the reason they are taking the job is because of you. Pick up the phone, call them, and simply tell them what you liked about them, why they would be a great fit for the position, and why you are excited for them to join the team.
What to offer
It is important that you put your best foot forward and extend one offer that represents your BEST offer. Be firm and fair with this. If they are paid fair market value at their current job, give them a fair bump in pay (typical is 7-10%) that will show you are putting your best foot forward and get them started with the right mentality. The advantage of this is that you know right away whether this person is going to accept your offer, and they aren’t going to go out shopping it around to try and re-negotiate after the fact. The last thing you want is resentment from a candidate who feels they were offered an unfair wage based on the market and their earnings history.
Time to decide
Once you have extended your offer and notified them that this is the best and only offer they will receive, give them 24-48 hours to think about it. At this point, there is no reason anyone needs more than a full day to think about a job offer. They have no doubt been talking about their job search with friends, family, and mentors for weeks and would have already been thinking about this in detail. Anyone who takes longer than 24-48 hours to accept a job, probably isn’t going to accept it. Think of it this way: If you were to propose to you girlfriend and she said “let me think about that for a couple days…” it would seem that either you rushed to judgment or you’re not getting married anytime soon and maybe you should now try online dating.
Remember: If your offer isn’t accepted, it’s not the end of the world. Not everyone is meant for each other. If you have followed these steps effectively you will have a much higher likelihood of having your offers accepted because you’ll know much earlier in your process that they won’t be accepted and save yourself some time.
Recruiting and hiring costs a lot. Assuming a new hire will automatically fall into place increases that cost. How well you integrate newcomers into your organization or department will determine how quickly they make their impact. It may even affect how long they stay. A 2007 survey by Novations Group found that 10-25% of new hires leave the organization within twelve months. Top reasons, in order, were:
- Unrealistic expectations
- Failure to grasp how things get done around the organization
- Poor communication with immediate supervisor
- Failure to develop a sense of belonging and purpose
- Inadequate technical skills
- Not understanding the link between their job and the organization
- Failure to connect with key employees
Prevent this from happening and help your new talent make their mark by focusing on the following orientation activities:
Tell the Company Story
Your organization’s story includes both the history and the current state. The history, including founders, the original mission, and circumstances surrounding the business environment at the time help your new hires connect to the core values of the organization. Going over how the organization has changed over the years provides inspiration and builds excitement for future change. A discussion of the current state includes outlining the company strategy and the vision for the future. If the CEO can tell these stories (if even via video recording), huge impact on feeling welcome and part of the team can be made relatively quickly.
Provide Necessary Resources
Nothing shoots productivity down like inadequate resources. A desk, a laptop, a phone, their badge, network access, software, and basic office supplies should be ready—preferably on day one. Besides stuff, also consider departments, tools, and people as well. Who does the person need to know? Who can the new person contact with what questions? Anticipate the basic questions they will have and provide that information preemptively.
Make Introductions to Key People
Building your network is key part of success. One company I know of kick-starts this process by filling new hires’ calendars with tons of one-on-one and group meetings for months and months. While this may be extreme, facilitating the introduction to coworkers, especially ones they will not interact with on a daily basis, is a nice touch.
Assign a Project Immediately
New employees are enthusiastic, eager to impress, and want to make an impact. Capitalize on this energy and start a chain of momentum by assigning a project right away. I’ve found the best projects are simple, time-intensive, task- or process-oriented, and allow your new people to learn about your organization by doing the work. Provide more structure and discuss expectations in greater detail than you would normally. Once complete, give feedback quickly and honestly. Then, increase the scope of responsibility to include multiple projects with increasing complexity.
If you do not already use Linkedin for your current hiring and job seeking needs, you are probably wondering what the big fuss is. If you are in the other 99% of users already leveraging the networking opportunities of Linkedin, you might be interested to know that there are other professional networks like Linkedin out there.
By Jenilee Dunson
You only get one chance to make a great first impression. While it is important to provide great answers and demonstrate your skills and background as it relates to the position, it’s also important to keep in mind these little things. Read more
3 Types of Questions Hiring Managers Should Use to Identify the Best Candidates
By Jenilee Dunson
Here are 3 question types which can be used to help identify weaknesses in sales candidates. The reason for asking more in depth questions is that it can help structure the interview in a way that the candidate may be encouraged to think more deeply about their accomplishments and give a better overview of their previous responsibilities and sales styles. Read more
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“Sell Me This Pen”
It’s not about you; it’s not even about the product; it’s about the customer!
By Jenilee Dunson
One of the most common interview techniques for sales positions is a role playing simulation where the interviewer asks the candidate to sell the interviewer some mundane item such as a pen or stapler. Read more