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HR Hacks: Spot a Risky Hire in Each Stage of the Selection Process

July 25, 2017

A job opening is a bit like a cards table in Las Vegas: it’s bound to attract a wide variety of interested people who all have very different levels of experience. For every available position, you can expect to see a range in terms of tenure, quality, and fit. And at every stage of the selection process, there may be some risky hires lurking among the strong candidates. Those risky hires may slip through for a number of reasons, but no matter how they snuck in, they can be tough to differentiate depending on their specific risk factor. It might feel like a gamble for who to hire.

Pre-employment assessments are a powerful way to weed out the poor fits and filter in the potentially good hires, but the screening process shouldn’t stop there. Here are some ways for you to personally weigh the risk factors of your applicants.

hr hacks spot a risky hire in the selection process

At the Application Stage
  • Understand the reason for gaps in employment. It may seem obvious that candidates who have long stretches of unemployment may be more likely to turn over. It’s important to probe or offer space for an explanation, though: there are valid reasons why a person may have been unemployed. Take the time to differentiate if the applicant has a reasonable explanation, or if their unemployment is a sign of a risky hire. Don’t be afraid to call their bluff, either; if a candidate has a vague or under-explained job history, request more detail about their tasks and responsibilities.
  • Understand why they left previous jobs. This simple step can provide a wealth of information about their risk factors. Just by asking, “Why did you leave that organization?” a candidate is more likely to be honest and forthcoming about information that they would never put on a resume. If they respond in a negative or troubling way about their previous job, then it might be a good time to assess their risk moving forward. We’ve seen this work in person as well as with online resumes, so no matter how your application stage is structured, there’s room to measure risk.

 During the Assessment Stage

  • Trust the assessment recommendation. We know that there will be times in which you disagree with the assessment results for a candidate. Perhaps you know them personally, or they’ve been a strong intern, or they have a great resume. In those times, it can be tempting to disregard or minimize the assessment results and pass the candidate on to the next step. However, it’s important to remember that this weakens the effectiveness of the entire assessment process. It also pretty much guarantees that this candidate comes with risk because an assessment is inherently designed to spot risk and help you avoid it.
  • Understand their profile. If you’re still convinced that this risky hire would be a good fit for the job, dive deep into the assessment and understand their profile (assessment results). Make sure to weigh the importance of their strengths and weaknesses against the strengths needed for the job as well as the trainability of those weaknesses. After all, no matter how much you disagree with the results, it’s a huge gamble to accept someone who scored poorly on crucial components such as safety orientation.

Learn More about Using Employee Assessments to Enhance your Selection Process 

During the Interview Stage
  • Probe about their motivation for the job. If you hire someone who is not internally motivated to do their work, you’re taking the risk that they will leave once any other job becomes available. Not all jobs can be inspiring and intrinsically motivating, but the candidate should at least express some genuine interest in the work itself or the organization. If they can’t think of a compelling reason why they want the job, then they probably won’t have a compelling reason to stay long-term.

Get the Interview Skills to Conduct Better Behavioral Interviews

Bringing on a new employee will always have some risk attached to it, but you can minimize that chance by being attentive throughout the hiring process. We always recommend using a sound assessment in the selection process, but that doesn’t mean you can sit back and let the test decide whom to hire. After all, gambling can be fun—but not when it’s for your company’s future.

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Jaclyn Menendez, Ph.D. Jaclyn Menendez, Ph.D. is a Project Consultant at PSI based out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Her areas of expertise include testing, assessments, and project management. Jaclyn has contributed to the development, validation, and implementation of assessments with various clients. She has managed, analyzed, and presented data analyses for content and criterion validation studies.