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Top 10 Employee Selection Mistakes ... And Solutions

Thursday 8 April, 2010
Selecting the right people is a critical leadership lever that drives growth. Employee selection is the ultimate pay-me-now or pay-me-later leadership proposition.

Top 10 Employee Selection Mistakes ... And Solutions Do it effectively now and reap the benefits of a high-performing team later. Do it fast and cheap now, and pay the price later of increased turnover, underperforming teams, a diluted culture and drain on managerial time.

The cost of turnover averages 40% of annual salary in hard costs only (i.e. does not include ripple costs). Although there are many things managers can do to reduce turnover, making the right selection decision is where you get your bang for your buck. You can do the math: reduce your turnover by just 10 employees with a $40,000 average salary, and you have just dropped $160,000 back to your bottom line.

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

  1. Use only a "gut feel" approach

    No relationship has been found 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 selection.

    Experience and intuition are important, but so are more reliable and valid ways to collect data such as testing, simulations and work samples. No one aspect of the selection process should be relied on exclusively; rather they should be weighted based on the company's values and the job requirements.

    Solution: Design and train on 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 are looking for

    It is hard to find "it" when you do not 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. Yes, it takes time, but it is an effective use of time versus "shooting in the dark". See the following Applicant Evaluation Tool to help you avoid this mistake.

    Application Evaluation Tool
  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 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 this person.

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

  4. Talk 80% and listen 20%

    The reverse should be true. If you are talking too much, then you are selling the job (see below) instead of screening the candidate.

    The interviewer should listen 80% of the time.

  5. Take candidates at their word

    Do not settle for vague general responses to be polite.

    Solution: You are on a 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 an offer. And when 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". Interesting that these same managers can find the time to deal with performance issues resulting from poor selection - again, pay me now or pay me later.

    Solution: Use the 3x3x3 Rule: 3 employees interview 3 candidates 3 different times. You are thinking, "All that time for one hire?" 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.

  8. Oblivious to the legal Do's and Don'ts

    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 processes.

  9. Go with the Flow

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

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

  10. Listen only to the 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 expressions 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, prosper tomorrow.

Author Credits

Lee J. Colan Ph.D, is a leadership advisor, speaker and author of 10 rapid-read books, including the best selling, 'Sticking to It: The Art of Adherence'. Contact him and access Free resources at www.theLgroup.com.
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