Honing your hiring

BY DOUG BLIZZARD
December 1, 2013

It takes some detective work to hire the right new employee. Management needs to piece together clues about the applicant’s personality and work history. It takes time to determine whether a candidate has the character and credentials to fit the company’s needs. Here are a few steps to help you land the right candidates.

  Put equal weight on assessing candidates’ fit for your culture as on evaluating their qualifications. To determine fit, you need to assess the organization’s culture—or, if you want to change it, the desired culture. Is the company’s work done in a collaborative or individualistic manner? Are decisions made by consensus or by command and control? Consider communication styles, meetings, organizational structure, performance management, and the hours of work to determine whether a candidate will fit the company’s culture.

  Define the specific behavioral requirements by categories of positions. Identify the personalities and work styles that fit the company’s culture or desired culture. This exercise should result in a list of adjectives and behaviors of successful people.

  Screen for the right job skills. Many companies screen candidates based on outdated, generic, or “safe” job descriptions and conduct predictable interviews. Thousands of books have been written relating to interviewing. Candidates are prepared for standard interview questions about strengths and weaknesses or what animal they are most like. However, the best predictor of success is a candidate’s past behavior and results, not his or her interviewing prowess.

  Determine in advance what success looks like in the open position after six months, one year, and three years. Find out how candidates achieved similar success at other companies. One success factor for a CFO position might be to determine within 12 months whether to shut down two underperforming business units. Have applicants describe how they have made such decisions at other companies. Make sure that the candidate has done what he or she says, and find out what the results were in that project. Most applicants aren’t used to being grilled like this, so your sleuthing is apt to discover misleading statements and role exaggeration at many turns.

  For finalists, conduct 360-degree behavioral interviews to develop a broader picture of the applicant in different settings. A 360-degree behavioral interview would include the applicant’s prospective boss, peers, and direct reports. Each person should present work scenarios related to his or her area and ask candidates to describe how they have handled similar situations in the past. They should ask things such as: “What was the most difficult culture you’ve had to work in, and how did you deal with it?” or “Who have been your favorite and least favorite bosses and co-workers?” The answers should provide clues about the candidate’s character and how he or she likes to work.

  Verify credentials. Depending on the position, a bad hire can cost a company from $25,000 to $300,000, according to a National Business Research Institute study. Costs include reduced sales, poor morale, turnover, poorer client relations, training, lost productivity, and HR and interviewing costs. Despite the potential costs of a bad hire, many companies skimp on in-depth background checks and assessments for myriad reasons, including cost, time, and skepticism. Several studies have also found that large percentages of job applications or résumés contain false or misleading information. Slow down and spend $100 or so to make sure a candidate has been truthful.

Editor’s note: This checklist is adapted from the article, “How to Hire the Right Employee,” CPA Insider, Sept. 16, 2013, available at tinyurl.com/nujauhn.

By Doug Blizzard ( doug.blizzard@capital.org ), vice president of membership at CAI Inc.

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