Hiring? Be Scientific

Apr 11, 2011

A neat résumé and your gut reaction are no ways to hire new employees, son. Other personnel selection considerations can must be factored into your hiring decisions. 

Luckily, there's help. Industrial-organizational psychologists have developed scientifically proven methods for choosing the best candidates and avoiding the pitfalls of making the wrong choices.

“Effective selection of new employees begins with consistent use of a competency-based assessment process,” says Jay Janovics, director of optimization services for screening firm SHLPreVisor. “Industrial-organizational psychologists identify the most essential competencies for successful performance—such as creating and innovating or persuading and influencing—in a given job. Then, these competencies are measured in a systematic way using methods like personality inventories, skills tests, role plays and interviews. 

Also, interviews are a key component in the hiring process, says Wendell Williams, founder and managing director for Scientific Selection. While many managers who conduct numerous interviews say they are apt judges of character and abilities, he says “many of them are the weak links in the hiring chain because they do not know how to conduct the kind of interviews that reveal a candidate’s suitability for a specific job." 

"Too many hiring managers rely on gut instincts to determine if a candidate is right for the job—a practice that has no place in effective recruiting and hiring." 

In addition to interviews, there are other types of assessments that can be used to determine specific job skills. For example, the ability to effectively motivate employees might be evaluated using a simulation in which someone plays the role of a difficult employee, with trained raters at hand to observe and evaluate the job candidate’s performance.

The primary benefit of effective selection is improved job performance, says Janovics. “Many organizations have found that systematically selecting salespeople improves sales revenue; that identifying and hiring the highest-potential customer service job candidates enhances quality, efficiency and customer service; and that hiring managerial candidates with the most relevant skills and abilities results in more effective leaders."

David W. Arnold, general counsel at testing firm Wonderlic, says that “testing and assessment bring objectivity to the hiring process. One of the consequences of a poor hiring decision is damaged morale as co-workers and subordinates learn that the new hire is not capable of performing the job. So, an ineffective hire at the top has a real impact on the rank and file and can lead to poor relationships that affect the overall performance of the organization.“

"At best, hiring mistakes result in poor job performance, turnover and unfair work burdens on the rest of a team or work group. At worst, they can lead to catastrophic errors that cost the organization a lot of money, unethical decisions that cost the organization customers or clients, or dangerous behavior that results in negligent hiring lawsuits,” says Janovics.

And the negative consequences resulting from a hiring mistake are greater with top level hires. 

“In particular, senior-level managers and executives are in a position to wreak tremendous havoc within the organization. Incompetent or unethical behavior at this level can impact hundreds or thousands of employees,” Janovics says.

Just because the candidate has been successful in a previous job doesn’t mean he or she will be successful at your company. 

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