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Candidate Screening

Screening for the Right Candidate

We all wish we had a crystal ball that would predict the success of a potential hire. Everyone knows how painful it is to make a bad hire. It’s a drag on resources to train someone and if that person doesn’t work out there is nothing we can do to get it back. It’s a zero sum game. A mentor of mine once told me “Hire slow and fire fast” and while the recruiter in me wants all of my clients to hire fast, my rational business self realizes there is a lot to lose for being wrong.

Organizations are becoming ever more cognizant of the fact that companies are simply a mix of people by which your products and services will be made or broken. Hire a lot of productive, high performing employees and your company flourishes. Hire a lot of low performing, moochers and your company suffers. The question is how do we determine which one we are getting before the offer? If I had all the answers, I’d retire. I’ve been wrong enough about people in the past to know the true pain of “giving the benefit of the doubt.

Here are a few things I learned along the way:
  • Small things you see in the interview will become big things in the workplace. Sometimes that’s OK, but sometimes it is not. We have a tendency to want to explain certain things away, but they often come back to haunt us.
  • My gut knows things my head doesn’t. Listen to what candidates are saying and what they aren’t saying and trust your gut on whether it is real or just lip service.
  • If your verification process feels like you do it to go through the motions, don’t bother verifying. We do background checks and reference checks, but are we really getting valuable information out of them? If you just run through a list of reference questions in order to say you did it, you just wasted 30 minutes of your time. Get real opinions, ask hard questions, dig for details, give hypothetical, or go home.
  • Know your company’s perfect candidate profile. For me, profile is the single biggest indicator of the success of a candidate within an organization. Check out my blog post on this subject for more information.
  • Hire potential over experience. In Today’s ever changing information driven work environment it is more important that our employees be able to adapt, learn, experiment, use logic and change failures into successes than that they have knowledge of a particular skill. Great employees are destined to be great because it is who they are. Catch them early, keep them happy, and reap the rewards.
  • Skill test, but don’t be arbitrary. Look for ways to test ability and potential, not just skills.
  • Personality tests can be a good way to look at candidate’s potential to succeed in an organization, again, as long as you know what you are looking for.Everyone thinks they know what they want but often they are wrong. For example, a client of mine was hiring sales people, they said “he should be a problem solver with a strong work ethic and a good communicator” However, after meeting their top producers, I would have been testing for “self-image” to indicate how confident and resilient they are, “extrovert vs. introvert”, try determine if they thrive or squirm under a spotlight, “feeling vs. thinking”, cerebral people would not be satisfied in that environment.