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How to solve the Top 10 employee selection mistakes

Updated: Jan 15, 2022

Selecting the right person is a critical human resource function that drives growth. Employee selection is the ultimate pay-me-now or pay-me-later proposition. Do it effectively now and reap the benefits of a high-performing later. Do it fast and cheap now and you may pay the price the later of increased turnover, underperforming teams, a chaotic culture and waste of managerial time.

To help you reduce your turnover and improve your bottom line, below are solutions to the top 10 employee selection mistakes.

  1. Use only "gut feel" approach. I have found no relationship between years of experience hiring people and effective selection so the experienced manager is no more effective than the rookie manager. Experienced managers tend to rely more on gut feel and stray from validated practices for effective solution.

Solution: Design a selection process that contains various forms of data collection (qualitative and quantitative). Design your process and weight each selection component based on your company's values.

2. Don't know what you're looking for. It's hard to find "it" when you don't know what you are looking for.

Solution: Like most decision-making, employee selection is fundamentally emotional. Therefore, it is important to define and prioritise the critical success factors ( CSFs) for the job in advance. This enables clear thinking to establish a specific position profile.

3. Screen in vs. screen out. Most interviewers inherently look for characteristics that match the company culture and job requirements. They want to find a winner- a good match! This perspective subtly but significantly makes us filter in good attributes and rationalise why negative attributes will not be a problem if we hire the person.

Solution: View your job as a "Sherlock Holmes" or an investigator who is looking for any little clue, any reason, why this candidate will not be successful.

4. Talk 80% and listen 20%. The reverse should be true. If you are talking too much, then you are selling the job instead of screening the candidates.

Solution: The interviewer should listen 80% of the time.

5. Take candidates at their word. Don't settle for vague general responses to be polite.

Solution: You are on data collection mission. Probe for specific examples and situations where the candidate has demonstrated the success factors you are looking for. Let the candidate know at the beginning of the interview that your goal is to fully and specifically understand his / her capabilities.

6. Give in to work and market pressures. The vast majority of managers hire too quickly and fire too slowly. In a tight labor market, it is not uncommon for a hiring manager to meet the candidate only once then make the offer. And when the candidate supply is plentiful, managers tend to miss the opportunity to sift through lots of candidates to find the very best fit due to "lack of time."

Solution: Use the rule of 3. Interview employees in three different times. You may think, "All that time for one hire?" I can guarantee you that you will spend much more time than that if you make the wrong hire.

7. Selling the job . This is another mistake that can be exacerbated in a tight labor market. Managers want to sell the candidate on their company because they know that the candidate likely has an offer on the table from a competing company.

Solution: The effective, long-term objective is to look for a good "fit" for the job and the company, regardless of the labor market conditions. Southwest Airlines' approach is to "hire for attitude and train for skill". The financial and workforce trends for Employer's of Choice such as Southwest speak for themselves.

8. Negligent in the legal Do's and Dont's. This may not prevent you from making the right selection decision, but it sure will increase your company's liabilities.

Solution: Ignorance is no excuse. Know, train and enforce the law in your selection process.

9. Go with the Flow. This comes down to lack of preparation and relying on those "favourite questions" and gut feel. Most interviewers do not take control of the interview.

Solution: Once you have identified the success factors and prioritised them, then prepare questions ( and appropriate follow-up questions) that will extract the necessary information from the candidate. Remember, it is your interview. You - not the candidate - set the process, timing, roles, pace and questioning. This requires thoughtful preparation.

10. Listen only to candidate's words. 90% of all communication is nonverbal, so being attuned to the multitude of nonverbal cues provides an interviewer with much richer information about the candidate.

Solution: Don't stop at the traditional cues: eye contact, posture, facial expression and gestures. Consider intonation, pacing of speech, energy level, self-confidence. How did you feel after the interview? Enthused? tired, impressed? Perhaps those who work with the candidate will feel the same way.

So there you have it! Select well today and win in the workplace tomorrow.

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