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10 Experts Weigh In: The Most Critical Aspect of the Hiring Process

August 4, 2015

hiring-selectionAt this point in time, most organizations understand the importance of having a robust hiring process. No one walks down the street and hires the first person they see, it just doesn’t work that way. This raised the question: Is there one part of the hiring process that is more important than others? All parts are important, but surely some have to be more important, right? Is the interview more important than the resume review? How important is a job analysis?

We decided to ask our experts – the people who help organizations hire better employees every day – what, in their opinion, is the most critical aspect of any hiring process? Some of the answers they came up with were pretty interesting. Read on to find out their thoughts!

1) Compliance

The Expert: Doug Wolf  Chief Executive Officer

Pure and simple, the most critical aspect of any hiring system is that the method comply with the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978). That means the use of any selection procedure which has an adverse impact on the hiring, promotion, or other employment or membership opportunities of members of any race, sex, or ethnic group will be considered to be discriminatory and inconsistent with these guidelines, unless the procedure has been validated in accordance with these guidelines. What many people fail to realize is that ANY method that results in an employment decision is a selection procedure. That means that applications, tests, interviews, and background checks – whether it be for new hires, promotions, transfers, etc. are ALL selection procedures. They need to be job relevant and valid. Otherwise, you run afoul of employment law.

2) Gaining stakeholder support

The Expert: Alissa Parr, Ph.D. – Consultant

One critical piece of the hiring process is to gain support from stakeholders and leaders before rolling out the new hiring process or tool. This is one step that is often overlooked, but I think it is very important to ensure a smooth implementation. Gaining support can take several different forms, including town hall meetings, cascade communications, individual conversations, and so forth.

However, the necessary thing is to provide them information about the changes and allow them an opportunity to ask questions. In particular, this message should convey the goals of the hiring process. What's the reason for making this change? How is it in line with the business strategy? Additionally, provide them information about the tools and any ROI information that might be appropriate for the audience. Finally, allow them a voice in the process. Let them ask questions and provide feedback on the change. This simple step in giving individuals voice can go a long way in gaining buy-in.

3) Don't rush!

The Expert: Vicki Marlan – Consulting Associate

Each organization's hiring process is different, so it's difficult to label one step as more critical than others. So in my opinion, the most critical part of hiring is not a step such as the interview or an assessment, but instead, it is a more intangible aspect of the hiring process that is applicable to every hiring manager: not rushing the process.

Obviously that is easier said than done. It is understandable that organizations want to speed up the hiring process as much as possible; there are often external pressures from supervisors or managers because work needs to be completed somehow. Logically, the faster that the hiring is done, the sooner individuals can be placed on the line or in the office. However, there are many things that can go wrong if the hiring process is sped up, ranging from turnover, absenteeism, to a work-related accident.

For example, skipping the assessment step and choosing the first candidate who is interviewed due to desperation could result in hiring an employee with a huge safety risk, which could have been determined by utilizing a screening tool such as SecureFit. When hiring managers rush the process, they often miss critical pieces of information. If an organization's hiring needs are determined through the use of a streamlined hiring process in advance of a hiring wave, a shorter hiring timeline can be achieved without rushing the process and sacrificing the quality of candidates.

4) All steps are important

The Expert: Matt O'Connell, Ph.D. – Executive Vice President & Co-Founder

Actually, this is a bit of a trick question because all parts of the hiring process are important but for different reasons. It's very similar to golf. Every shot counts as one stroke even though a drive may travel 250 yards and a putt only 3 feet. At every stage of the hiring process, you have two ways of being correct and two ways of being wrong [Tweet this].

You are correct if you pass a good candidate onward and you're also correct if you screen out a candidate who is a poor fit. You are incorrect if you screen out a good candidate or pass on a bad one. At the top of the hiring funnel you are usually screening through multiple candidates to try and get to a manageable number while in the later stages you are honing in on identifying the best possible fit for the position. You need to be accurate in all steps. If you screen out too many good candidates early on in the process, then you don't have as many high-quality candidates to choose from later and your chances for hiring the best person go down. But if you don't screen out poor fits early on there is a chance that they will slip through later stages of the process. Just as in golf, every step in the hiring process is equally important.

5) Fit

The Expert: Alli Tenbrick, Ph.D. – Research Consultant

The most critical part of the hiring process is fit. This includes fit between the candidate and the job, and also between the candidate and the organization. If some sort of misfit exists between the candidate and the job or the organization, the organization is likely to suffer. For example, if a candidate is selected for a job that they are not a good fit for, they will likely have lower levels of performance compared to someone who is a good fit for the job leading to lower productivity and profitability on the part of the organization. Fit

Alternatively, if someone is hired into an organization that has a specific culture that the individual does not appreciate or support, they will likely suffer from dissatisfaction and low organizational commitment. The new employee may express their dissatisfaction by committing counterproductive work behaviors that harm the organization or they may come to a point where they can no longer fathom staying in the organization and will turnover. Turnover, in itself, is associated with great cost for organizations.

As such, organizations should attempt to gauge the potential fit (or misfit) of a candidate with the organization and the job by administering assessments that are accurate and specific to the organization and job in question. For example, if an organization is attempting to hire someone to fill a sales position, they will obviously want someone who is good at persuading people to buy things. Oftentimes good salespeople are outgoing, driven, and are not afraid of rejection. A quiet, shy, timid applicant is likely not a good fit for this type of position.

If an assessment is administered to the individual that measures the traits desired for the job, this particular candidate will be filtered out and the negative consequences associated with hiring someone who does not "fit", highlighted above, will be avoided. The same applies to assessing fit with an organization. The organization (along with trained I/O psychologists) can determine the qualities that would make someone a good fit within their organization's culture and administer an assessment that measures those qualities as a way to filter out those individuals who would not strive in that type of environment.

The moral of the story is that organizations can avoid a lot of negative outcomes if they allocate sufficient effort to hire employees who fit.

6) Candidate Experience

The Expert: Serena Chang, Ph.D. – Research Consultant

I think it is critical for candidates to have a positive experience throughout the hiring process. First and foremost, let's not forget selection is a two-way street. Organizations have the option to remove job candidates while job candidates can also choose to remove themselves from the hiring process. This is more likely to happen if candidates don't have a pleasant experience with the selection process and lose interest in the position or the organization. Oftentimes, these candidates are likely to be top performers who you don't want to lose to your competitors.

Even worse, a bad candidate experience may lead to that person badmouthing your organization. This might hurt your organization's reputation or even dissuade their friends from considering applying to the same organization. Word-of-mouth advice can be very persuasive. Second, studies show that candidates who have a negative experience to the selection process are more likely to file a legal complaint. Also, for many companies like retailers, job candidates are also likely their customers. In this case, negative reaction associated with the hiring process can also negatively affect customer satisfaction.


Much can be done to enhance the candidate experience. Using  an employment assessment, for example, with diverse question types may be perceived more favorably than a two-hour personality test asking test-takers to rate hundreds of statements. With the advances in technology, simulations, and game-like elements can be built into an assessment, creating a more interactive and engaging assessment experience. Adding tutorials, practice items, and timely feedback (such as progress bar) can better guide candidates through the assessment without feeling lost or frustrated. Now that mobile devices become more common, developing technologically agnostic assessments to accommodate mobile device test takers is essential. For example, radio buttons work perfectly fine on computers, but not on smartphones where screen sizes are smaller. Instead, sliders are more user-friendly on touch screens. In all, happy candidates are the key to success in a hiring process.

7) Knowing the job

The Expert: Mavis Kung, Ph.D. – Manager of Research and Development

The most critical part of any hiring process is, in my opinion, knowing the job itself. Without the knowledge about the job of interest, it would be difficult to set up a hiring process to select the "right" candidates who would perform well in those positions. You wouldn't use the same standard to hire an engineer, a nurse, a construction worker, or a retail store manager. If the job title is the same, the required skills, ability, knowledge, and competencies might still differ. Think about it, the best candidate for a babysitter for a 7-year-old kid would not necessarily to be the best candidate for babysitting a newborn.

So how do you get to know the job you are hiring? If this is an existing position, gather information by talking or surveying the incumbents and the supervisors to understand the job. If it's a new position, involve the key stakeholders in the conversation. If your resources are limited, and prevent you from conducting a thorough job analysis, at least reviewing the O'NET to get a basic understanding of similar jobs would be an important step to ensure you have set up an effective hiring process.

8) Candidate fit

The Expert: Megan Why – Consulting Associate 

When thinking about the hiring process, there are many critical pieces. One thing that should not be overlooked is if the candidate is a good fit for the organization and position. When looking at a candidate, you will make sure they have the right skills and qualifications. Reviewing their resume and interviewing them is a good way to do this. During that interview, be sure to find out about their likes and dislikes and what they are looking for out of a position. If their desires are not in line with what the position has to offer, they may be unsatisfied.

I would encourage any hiring manager to look beyond education and experience and make sure a candidate will be happy in the role. This includes exploring the type of work environment they enjoy, what advancement opportunities they want to explore, and what type of leadership style they prefer before making a hiring decision. A candidate who enjoys their job tasks and responsibilities as well as their organization a whole will be more likely to be a satisfied employee.

9) Consistency 

The Expert: Amie Lawrence, Ph.D. – Manager of Product Development

Not all organizations have the volume or resources to warrant a fully comprehensive hiring process, but whatever is used to make decisions needs to be used consistently (and job relevant). Consistency ensures that all candidates are treated equally and it also provides hiring managers with equivalent and comparable information on each candidate.

Even if a hiring process only includes an interview, having the same set of questions and asking each candidate to talk about the same competencies makes the hiring decision easier. Additionally, organizations leave themselves open to legal risk if they make exceptions and fail to show a systematic and consistent process for hiring. As alluded to before, a close second behind consistency is job relevance (established through job analyses). It is extremely important that hiring decisions are made using job-relevant information – and then are applied consistently.

10) Legal defensibility

The Expert: Lindsey Burke – Consultant

In my opinion, the most critical part of the hiring process is following a legally defensible process. When following a hiring process that is legally defensible, you can save your company anywhere from thousands to billions of dollars in litigation costs. Not following a legally defensible process can affect a company outside of monetary expenses as well including company reputation and employee satisfaction.

Two important factors fall within a legally defensible hiring process: 1) consistency and 2) job relevance. Consistency is key in maintaining a legally defensible hiring process. All candidates must be treated and processed the same during the hiring process. Thus, if your current hiring process consists of an application, assessment, and interview, it should remain this way for all eligible candidates during a hiring wave. Job relevance is equally as important as consistency when it comes to having a legally defensible hiring process. If you are using selection tools and procedures that are not relevant to the competencies, skills, and traits required to be successful on the job, you are putting your company at legal risk. For example, you don't want to use an assessment that assesses math skills if candidates will not need to demonstrate mathematic abilities on the job.

Now I’m going to throw the same question to you – what do you think is the most critical aspect of the hiring process?

The Ultimate Hiring Manager’s Guide

Mark Rogers Mark Rogers was a digital marketing expert at PSI who specialized in human resources and leadership content.