Selecting and Reviewing Employees: How to Improve the Process

When it comes to our business, we want to ensure we’re hiring quality employees who we can trust. Selecting and reviewing employees is a critical aspect of your business’ success—you’re choosing who you’ll work alongside, who will represent your brand, carry out day to day tasks, and interact with customers. How do you ensure that you’re selecting employees that are a good fit?

Although many of us consider ourselves experts on employee selection and evaluation, there are numerous objective reviews of the process that show significant opportunities to improve. The major issues usually revolve around what you are selecting and how and what you are measuring. In particular, personality and “fit” frequently receive too much attention while skills, experience, and motivation do not receive enough. I would also argue that the process is burdened with many complex efforts that produce minimal results.

The process of selecting and reviewing employees can be significantly improved with some simple tools that incorporate both the nature of the job and measuring the right factors correctly.   

What are you really looking for? Looking for a car mechanic, surgeon, and other specialists is far different than looking for a social worker, manager, or other candidate that needs to fit in and support an organization.

Additionally, many efforts focus too much attention on long-term potential when many candidates will be gone in short periods. I think the interview question “where do you want be in five years?” is usually irrelevant. Many people won’t be there in five years, they don’t have a real answer to the question, and their answers are often based on interview training rather than validity.

In my opinion, skills, intelligence, experience, and motivation are far better predictors of success than social skills, common interests, and appearance. While this may seem like common knowledge, many decisions concerning selecting and reviewing employees are made in less than a minute (based mostly on appearance). This is a partial explanation for a well-proven theory that analysis can outperform interviews in predicting performance especially in well-defined situations.      

How are you measuring what you’re looking for? In general, the process of selecting and reviewing employees is less effective with informal interviews, few criteria, too many data points, and less structure.In contrast, clear criteria, more structure, and trained interviewers can improve the process.

For example, the process of one person conducting multiple interviews with random people and averaging the evaluations has many potential concerns. In contrast, having different interviewers reviewing various relevant concerns and comparing the results can be highly beneficial to get valid perspectives. These initial evaluations should also be independent until all reviews are public to prevent results from being influenced by external factors.

Diversity should be an opportunity and not a burden. There is no denying that explicit and implicit discrimination are more common than we realize. In particular, when you review diversity in occupations, politics, business, etc. the progress is very slow. It will take aggressive and committed strategies to accelerate the process. Even programs like STEM (which attempt to get more women into science) do not fully understand the barriers and reluctance to accept more recruits.

Diversity is an opportunity: it increases the number of qualified and excellent people to select from and can increase organizational effectiveness. Areas like law, medicine, and the military have greatly benefited from increased diversity. Employee diversity also adds to the perspective of organizations. It can provide greater understanding of the strategies and needs of particular segments and audiences. We need to recognize that women make up about half the labor force and minorities currently make up over 50% of births. Fostering a company culture that focuses on inclusion will only make your business stronger.

Background information like skills, education, experience, and references are more important than you realize. Skills, education, and experience are fairly reliable determinants of the potential for success. In particular, education does show real accomplishment, maturity, and skills of candidates. However, it’s important that these factors don’t become the sole criteria so that other great people aren’t precluded from consideration. For example, how many great candidates are excluded due to professional organizations recruiting only at the top schools?

How do make a final decision when selecting employees? Frequently, the most significant barrier is bias. While simple predictors and sharing perceptions after interviews can be very helpful, we must be careful to avoid the trap of judging candidates after a minute or so on superficial criteria. We must also look for special characteristics that might make a candidate unique. Ask yourself: Am I looking for people who can just do the job, people who will be long-term employees, or someone who possesses something extra special?

The right fit depends on their needs as much as it does on yours.

Test and evaluate your results. Are you measuring your results and achieving your goals? Are your methods and processes effective? Are you attracting and reviewing the right candidates? For example, finding the right pool of candidates to choose from is a critical step in the process. This might mean you need to change where you’re advertising the job or expand the location you’re hiring in—is this a job that can be done remotely? You may need to consider out of state candidates. Perhaps, you need to rewrite the job listing—some excellent candidates may not apply if the listing has spelling errors or the description doesn’t sound enticing enough.

If you find that you’re not hiring effective candidates, take a look at your process. Are you differentiating between job requirements, candidates, and methods? It’s not a one size fits all process. For example, some jobs require great social skills and some do not. When interviewing candidates, make sure you’re focusing on the skills they possess that could make them great and not the skills they lack, if they aren’t essential to the position.

In general, objectivity, skills, structure, and alternative reviews can improve the hiring process while bias, subjective reviews, and poor information can detract from it. And keep in mind that great people don’t always make great employees. Therefore, in our efforts to be more effective in selecting employees, we must understand the process and acknowledge the difference between a candidate who is qualified on paper and an employee who is a valuable asset to our company.

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