Have you ever had to skip a step or two in the selection process because time was working against you?
Have you ever been forced to hire someone because the best candidates turned the job down?
Have you ever hired someone who looked perfect even though your instincts told you otherwise?
If you have experienced any of these dilemmas, you’re not alone. They are some of the most common mistakes made by managers when hiring.
Hiring the right person for any job is a challenging task, at best. Unfortunately, there are no magic wands or secret potions to help you mast this skill. But there are a number of proven concepts, procedures, and techniques that can substantially improve your chances of making the right hiring decision.
Hiring the right person is important because your ultimate success as a manager depends on your ability to attract and select highly effective people. If you don’t have effective people, it’s next to impossible to achieve superior results.
This means that if you are to be a successful manager, you must master the skills of interviewing and selecting. Like the skills an airline pilot must master for crash-landing maneuvers, these skills are not called upon that frequently. But when they are, you and the pilot must perform flawlessly. If either of you don’t or can’t the results are about the same…you both crash and burn. To fully appreciate the value of making successful hires, let’s first look at the cost of making an unsuccessful hire. The cost to an organization can be staggering. The most obvious costs include wasted salaries and benefits, training time and costs, lost time in the selection process, and reduced productivity. Probably the most dramatic figure is the one that measures lost sales opportunities.
Outstanding Salesperson: Annual Sales – $1500, 000 x 5 yrs. = $7,500,000
Average Salesperson: Annual Sales – $1,000,000 x 5 yrs. = $5,000,000
The example above demonstrates that the difference over five years between an average salesperson and an outstanding one can be as much as several million dollars. In fact, many companies see this kind of difference in a single year. Companies can no longer afford to hire salespeople who “just get by,” let alone fail.
Understanding the most common mistakes managers make during the selection process should help you avoid them yourself. The ten most common mistakes are:
1. Skipping steps in the selection process. Every step in the selection process is designed to help you collect the data you need to make a sound decision. Skipping steps dramatically reduces your chances of making a successful hire.
2. Not knowing the type of person you need. If you don’t know who you want, anyone can fill the position.
3. Not planning the interview. Many managers “wing” interviews. As a result, they neglect to discuss key areas, and then have a difficult time evaluating the candidates objectively.
4. Letting your biases affect your decision. It is all too easy to enter an interview with pre-existing biases that become self-fulfilling prophecies about candidates. Biases severely limit your ability to see the real candidate. For instance, results have proven that the manager who says, “I never hire inexperienced people,” is just as likely to make hiring mistakes as the manager who says, “I always hire inexperienced people.”
5. Talking too much and listening too little. It’s difficult to learn much about a candidate when you are doing all the talking. If you’re not listening 80 percent of the time, you are probably talking too much.
6. Allowing one job dimension to disproportionately influence your judgment on other dimensions. Many managers have been “burned” by a candidate who appeared so strong in one dimension that they overlooked several weaknesses in other key dimensions.
7. Failing to explore a job dimension sufficiently so you can evaluate it. If you don’t have enough information to evaluate a dimension, you may have a time bomb waiting to explode. Managers often confess that the one area that led to a person’s failure was the very area they failed to fully explore. Remember, what you don’t know about a candidate can hurt you!
8. Making a decision before the interview is completed. Relying on first impressions may lead you to spend the rest of the interview subtly justifying your possibly erroneous initial reaction.
9. Failing to evaluate the interview data in a systematic and objective manner. If you don’t evaluate the interview data this way, you may as well flip a coin, because you’re leaving the final decision to chance.
10. Allowing the pressure to fill the job to influence your decision. Hiring the best candidate available when the candidate isn’t qualified usually compounds your problems, instead of solving them.
It won’t be possible to completely eliminate these and other “hiring mistakes.” However, you can reduce them and minimize the impact of mistakes you do make.
To meet the challenge of selecting individuals who will be successful, we have designed the Performance-Directed Selection System. This is a comprehensive, flexible, and practical system designed to meet most companies’ complex needs.
The system is designed around two basic concepts:
- The best predictor of future job success is past performance. With the system, you will be able to elicit and evaluate appropriate performance data from candidates. Then you will be in a good position to match each candidate’s performance data with the requirements of the job.
- Successful selection has equal parts: Objective: Can the person do the job? And, Interpersonal: Can you manage this person?
The Performance-Directed Selection System will help you accomplish three things:
1. It will help you insure that the final candidate have the skills, knowledge, and attributes (Critical Job Dimensions) that you are looking for.
2. It will help you establish the candidate’s interest and motivation for the job.
3. It will help identify which candidate you are best suited to manage.
The real bottom line to this approach is that you will know what capabilities your potential employees have and what you need to develop them into high performers.
In order for your selection efforts to be as effective as possible, we recommend that you complete each step as it is outlined and in the order it is presented.
Situational variables (timing, availability, etc.) can make it difficult to always adhere to the system as it is designed. Here are the seven steps.
First, develop a profile of the ideal salesperson for your specific job. Interviews of existing salespeople and managers yield data on specific responsibilities. Further research in the field compares and contrasts high-performance reps with average performers. The research probes how sales were gained or lost, and may include interviews with customers and former customers. This information is quantified and assembled into a manageable set of critical job dimensions.
These job dimensions profile the ideal candidate, and are viewed in light of three characteristics:
- Knowledge—what a salesperson must know for job success.
- Skills-the talent to perform
- Personal attributes—essential personal characteristics, such as values, attitudes, and behavior patterns.
Second, rank and analyze critical job dimensions. Once the job dimensions are compiled, the manager evaluates their probable degree of influence on the success of the specific job. At this early stage, the manager also considers the future impact of a number of elements affecting the assignment, including:
- Job factors—key responsibilities and environmental or logistical challenges, such as travel requirements, the organization’s market position and product mix, labor pool, and time demands.
- Organizational factors—company history and ownership, current priorities, and the dynamics of the existing sales force. A great salesperson can fail in a given position if he is wrong for that particular job.
- Management factors—the manager’s personal style, needs, interests, and ability to sell, train, manage, and motivate.
Third, plan the interview. Carefully sequenced, performance-directed questions provide the manager with a structured guide for determining how well a candidate meets the critical job dimensions. This type interview planning allows for the flexibility to digress from the outline and take advantage of the dynamics of the interview. Yet it still provides a format that ensures consideration of all critical dimensions.
Forth, discover past performance. The interview itself is a mutual discovery process in which the sales manager collects data and evidence on the candidate’s past performance, and simultaneously sells the candidate on the open position. Because past performance usually predicts future success, the most effective performance-directed interview moves in a chronological sequence to follow changes in critical job dimension trends. Key dimensions, such as independence, initiative, and judgment, must be sampled at different periods in the candidate’s career to establish trends.
Fifth, get behind the candidate’s facade. Let’s face it; all candidates put their best foot forward in an interview. Performance-Directed questions will propel the interview beyond this interviewing facade into a revealing discovery session.
The atmosphere for a significant interview is established through comfortable, rapport-building icebreaker questions that build mutual trust. Discussion of factual data puts the candidate at ease, and serves as a springboard for obtaining more subjective, insightful information.
Sales managers have the right to delve into candidates’ specific ability to do the job. This means the manager focusses interview questions to elicit proof of candidates’ knowledge, skills, and personal attributes.
When applicants indicate they have a specific quality, the manager is only truly informed by obtaining a revealing example of how that quality was exhibited. Insist upon specific examples of past successes. The burden of proof is upon the candidate, but it’s up to the manager to explore.
In every case, it’s far more satisfying and definitely less expensive to truly learn about your candidates during the interview process than to have to repeat the entire cycle again—soon.
Sixth, evaluate and compare candidates. Once interviews are completed, the manager can compare each applicant with the profile of the ideal candidate. Each applicant’s profile is evaluated against three key tests of behavior:
Relevancy—was the candidate’s responses and performance data relevant to the critical job dimensions under discussion?
Currency has the candidate’s performance data been validated through recent behavior or experience?
Frequency—has the performance data been expressed frequently enough to exhibit a reliable behavior pattern?
Seventh, take an honest look at the success potential of managing and adapting. The manager’s “gut feel” of how well each potential rep would perform in the new job environment is substantiated with the evaluations. But there’s one more crucial factor: Of the qualified candidates, which one has the greatest chance for success?
Remember, there is no substitute for good people. Improve your chances of hiring the best people using the Performance-Directed Selection Process. The seven steps outlined are designed to minimize risk when all seven are diligently pursued, without shortcuts. Doing so increases the odds hiring the right person—the first time around.