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One Part of the Hiring Process that is Often Overlooked

January 22, 2015

157384689Consistency – doing the same thing, the same way, every time. It’s akin to a driving beat, a stable pulse, a steady metronome. Consistency may seem easy or mindless in theory, but it’s difficult in practice. You have to be committed, exacting, uncompromising.

We appreciate consistency at our favorite restaurant, where our steak is cooked to a perfect medium rare and the staff is genuine and attentive every time we dine. We also appreciate consistency at the hair salon, where we get the perfect trim each visit. We rely on consistency for annual auto inspections and oil changes, to make sure we’re driving safely. We’re passionate about consistency during athletic events, as fans become irate at a seemingly unfair or contradictory call from the official.

In the same way that consistency is important to our everyday lives, it’s also critical for an organization’s hiring system. Consistent benchmarks applied reliably to all candidates lay the groundwork for better hires—not to mention a fair and legally defensible hiring process. Easier said than done, you say? Below we provide some food for thought, for all those “but-what-about…” situations you just thought of.

But what about candidates who come strongly recommended by current employees?

Jim is a solid performer at your company and his cousin, Sally, is looking for a job. If Jim referred her, then she must be good! No need to vet her through the whole process, right? Not so much. Think of it this way – would you advise someone else to hire a candidate simply because they “liked” her? While Jim has good intentions, his endorsement isn’t based on a complete picture of the competencies and behaviors required for the job. Does Sally pass muster when it comes to the qualities you’ve identified as important for the position? To find out for sure, you’ll need to evaluate Sally against your standard hiring criteria. If Sally is as great as Jim says she is, then let her prove it!

But what about seasonal or temporary employees?

The holidays are a busy time of year for all of us—especially for those in retail and distribution centers where there’s a lot of extra lifting (literally and figuratively!) to go around. While it may be quicker to vet individuals applying for “temporary” or “seasonal” positions through a less stringent process than direct hires, it doesn’t pay off in the long run. A common dilemma we see arises when a temporary employee with solid work performance doesn’t pass the direct hire assessment. Sometimes this is a result of different testing motivations—a temp-to-perm candidate doesn’t take the test as seriously, or respond in the same way, as a true blue applicant eager for a job. In other cases, temporary employees perform well on the job only to earn that direct hire spot—their work behaviors aren’t authentic, and their assessment results show it. You can’t know for sure which case you’ve got, but you can avoid these headaches if all candidates, regardless of position status, go through the same selection process.

But what about our time-to-fill metrics?

Pressure to fill positions often tempts us to use the foggy mirror test; nobody wants to be understaffed. But hiring warm bodies usually doesn’t provide the relief you might be hoping for. You know that guy who didn’t quite seem like the right fit? In a couple months when he leaves, you’ll be back to square one. That means more time and effort on your part, and between recruitment and training, the costs add up quickly. And remember that girl who came across a bit sarcastic in the interview, but you really needed some to fill that open position like yesterday? Her attitude could start souring the morale of the team, causing some of your employees to consider work elsewhere. Consistency isn’t just about going through the motions; it’s also about comparing candidates to a fixed standard so you’re not settling for the best of the worst.

Above all, the integrity of your hiring process is at stake. If you did your homework, then the selection tools are well-validated, job-relevant measures that weed out the risky hires and poor fits so you can focus on higher quality hires. Compromising your standards is detrimental to your organization’s outputs, customers, and current employees. It also makes your organization vulnerable to legal concerns. Making exceptions for candidates that would otherwise be knocked out of the process increases the risk of facing legal issues from government auditing agencies as well as candidates who may feel discriminated against. We know that no selection system is 100% perfect, but using standard, objective criteria consistently is certainly more reliable than selection at random. After all, you rely on your favorite pizza place every Friday for a reason.

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Bekah Regan Bekah Regan is a Consultant based in the Pittsburgh office of PSI. She provides client support across many different industries including retail, manufacturing, technology and healthcare. Her areas of expertise include developing selection tools and interview guides, providing training and support for PSI’s applicant tracking system, as well as assisting clients with requests and questions regarding tools and processes.