by Rosemary Carroll
A bad hire in a company is like watching a slow train wreck without being able to avoid the disaster. It's costly and time-consuming as well. Obviously, companies have a strong, vested interest in avoiding a bad hire because the related damage can be so extensive.
The traditional approach to avoiding bad hires usually involves using detailed application forms, screening for skill-set matches to produce better candidate lists, giving candidates projects or tests during the interview process, giving multiple interviews, psychological tests, and instituting probation periods before finalizing a hire. All of these tools attempt to catch signals or signs of a potentially bad hire either before employment or during the first few months. However, none of them focus on the elements that have a high probability of making a good employee good.
More often than not, a bad employee in one company could be a stellar performer in another. In the majority of issues, such employees simply aren’t suited to a particular job or job environment, which, in turn, causes problems. So digging into the applicant's personality can be a far more important hiring factor than the words printed on a résumé or application.
These personal factors can include gratitude, respect, professional presence, body language, emotional intelligence, and business etiquette training. Testing for these important business-etiquette and multicultural skills involves engaging with the applicant to understand what makes the person tick. Getting a person to open up about how she really thinks and following up in the office with performance evaluators will confirm a good pick versus a bad one.
Ideally, a business/company wants to catch a problem issue before bringing a questionable candidate in-house. However, many companies are not set up for the work required to fully vet a candidate. This includes:
1. Pre-hire skill tests tend to make people uncomfortable but they really do provide accurate evaluations of a candidate's skill-set in a task. By making a job candidate perform a test sample of the actual work he may be required to perform, the work product itself can frequently indicate whether or not the candidate will be a success or failure in a job.
2. In-depth background checks through both standard tools and social media resources to identify any potential problem areas with a candidate prior to an interview. It can be surprising how much free, publicly accessible information is available on the Internet with a simple search-engine query: a candidate's name and location. While such data shouldn't be considered the end-all, be-all for a candidate, query results can flag sensitive areas or behavior patterns that may be incompatible with the company's environment.
3. Free-flowing interviews that probe the personality, attitude, core values and depth of a candidate rather than sticking to just scripted questions. Too often scheduled interviews stick to standard questions that some candidates can fake their way through with the “correct” answer demonstrating appropriate body language, facial expression and tonality. It's far harder to fake real experiences and prior work performance, especially when the candidate knows the answers can be validated through third-party means. The best interviews will get the candidate to open up on how well he would integrate with the company's teams. That in turn becomes a key indicator of future performance.
4. In-depth reference checks with prior supervisors and coworkers of a candidate will illuminate far more about a candidate than what's on a résumé. While an applicant may say she follows principles of respect, gratitude, and workplace etiquette for example, her former managers and peers will be able to confirm or deny that statement.
Ultimately, some bad hires may be made, but companies should definitely make use of probation periods to determine if a new employee is working out well before finalizing his employment. If not, a termination should be quick, avoiding a long, drawn-out play that consumes time, money, and everyone's energy.
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