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Know More, Guess Less: Taking the Guesswork out of Hiring

January 2, 2014

Sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be.  Actually, we probably do that more often than not.  Making accurate hiring decisions is not necessarily easy, but we don’t have to make it any harder than it already is.  This blog highlights some keys ways to take the guesswork out of the hiring process.  As a way of illustrating those key points I use the analogy of buying a car. describe the image

If you’re in the market for an automobile, you first need to determine what will be the primary and secondary purpose of that car/truck/suv.  Is it to take the kids to soccer practice, run errands, pick up groceries, etc. or is to pull your boat to the lake and take the four wheelers to the desert?  Ultimately, there’s no wrong answer here.  There will likely be nice-to-haves but ultimately you need to determine the primary uses of the vehicle.  The next thing you probably need to look at is your budget.  How much you are willing to pay for the vehicle will quickly narrow your search.  Once you know those two things, then you can focus your efforts on evaluating potential vehicles against those criteria.  Use as much of the information that is at your disposal.  There are a ton of great tools available to help you compare and evaluate a vehicle if you’re willing to put in the time.  If you really need a car that will serve as a people mover and errand runner, than you shouldn’t even look at heavy duty trucks, even if they are attractive and offered at a great price somewhere.  Ignore the distractions and focus on your objectives.

This example is exactly how you should think about your hiring process.  It’s very easy to get distracted by someone’s gaudy resume and lose track of what you want to accomplish.  So, here are key ways to know more and guess less:

1) Understand the job and the position you’re hiring for.  What is required to perform the job effectively?  What factors or competencies differentiate people who do well from those who don’t?  That includes motivational factors as well as skills and abilities.  In what type of environment or organizational culture will the person be working? Is this position a feeder into other positions?

2) Focus on information that is related to the target position and everything you learned in step 1, and ignore the rest.  More information isn’t always better information.  Sometimes it’s just noise.

3) What is the salary range that you are willing to pay?  What is reasonable for that position?

4) Experience is only one factor, don’t overweight it.  This is one of the most common errors that people make, namely requiring too much education and experience when in most cases much less is actually required.  The more you require, the higher your salary will need to be and the less qualified candidates are available.  Future behaviors matter more than past experience in different settings.  Trust your behavioral indicators over resume and reference data.  Assessments and structured behavior-based interviewers will always be the best predictors of future success in your hiring process.

5) Use the best tools you can to quickly and accurately assess the key success factors you identified.

6) Put the information together and let the data and your primary objective guide your decision.

If you really need a daily runner, don’t lose focus and go for the bells and whistles.  You can always buy a heavy duty truck, or maybe even a nice sports car later.   Achieving your primary objective will bring you a lot more success in the long run.  Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.


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Matthew O'Connell, Ph.D. Matthew O'Connell, Ph.D. was the Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of Select International, which was acquired by PSI. For more than 20 years, he was a driving force when it comes to designing, evaluating and integrating selection tools into systems that meet the specific needs of Global 2000 organizations. He is the co-author of the business best-selling book, Hiring Great People.