Screening Job Candidates: The Top Ten Hiring Mistakes & How To Avoid Them

By Barry Deutsch, MA & Brad Remillard – Excerpt from the book, Cracking the Business Code

When hiring, make sure the person you bring into a critical job is, in fact, the person he or she appears to be. Too often the hiring process is a case of mutually crossed fingers— both parties hope the match is a good one, and hope the gamble they’re taking will pay off. And then, regrettably, when Monday morning rolls around and the work begins, it all unravels.

Whose fault is it when the person who seemed like a fired-up go-getter turns out to be indifferent to goals she didn’t set herself? Whose fault is it when the person hired to overhaul the organizational IT system turns out to be short-tempered, impractical, and a lousy communicator who alienates every functional department head? Whose fault is it when the new sales manager seems to have no impact whatsoever on penetrating two new markets — a mission-critical goal that he seemed fully capable of doing in interviews? Whose fault is it when the person who shows up for the job isn’t the person you thought you hired?

We believe the blame lies squarely with the hiring process itself, and we have compiled evidence to prove it. Our research focusing on more than 20,000 hiring executives during the past 15 years has identified the most common mistakes made in hiring. Through the course of our analysis, we’ve determined the actual failure rate for newly hired managers and executives reaches a staggering 56 percent in many mid-sized and large organizations. We wanted to understand why. Prior to writing our book, You’re Not the Person I Hired!, we analyzed the hiring practices of 225 executive hires in 134 target companies.

What we discovered was that almost every organization makes the same mistakes, over and over again. Most often, several mistakes occurred in each case. In nearly every situation, when new executives and managers failed to meet expectations, a major causal factor was that expectations had not been clearly defined in the first place.

Everything else fell out from there. Here are their ten most frequent mistakes, in reverse rank order:

10. Desperation Hiring: In 55 percent of searches, the hiring organization failed to budget enough time for the search, resulting in shallow sourcing and superficial interviews that failed to identify potential pitfalls.
9. Ignoring Top Candidate’s Needs: 55 percent of searches were handled with a primary focus on the organization’s needs and failed to build a compelling case for why top candidates should make the move.
8. Failure To Probe For Core Success Factors: The five best predictors of long-term success are self-motivation, leadership, comparable past performance, job-specific problem solving, and adaptability. A majority of searches failed to probe for these (56 percent).
7. Fishing in Shallow Waters: The search attracted only “Aggressive” candidates without seeking “Selective” and “Sleeper” candidates (62 percent).
6. Performance Bias: Interviews and offers were rewarded to the “best actor,” not the best candidate (63 percent).
5. Historical Bias: The hiring company used only past performance to predict future results (68 percent).
4. Snap Judgment: Hiring teams relied too heavily on first impressions to make final hiring decisions (72 percent).
3. Inappropriate “Prerequisites” Used Too Early In Selection Process: Hiring teams placed too much emphasis on specific education, technical skills, and industry experience to screen out qualified candidates (76 percent).
2. Superficial interviewing: Candidates’ backgrounds and claims were not deeply probed or verified (92 percent).
1. Inadequate job descriptions: These focused solely on experience and skills, not company expectations. A staggering 93 percent of searches that resulted in new executive failure made this mistake at the outset.

The Causes Of Hiring Mistakes

In their experience, the authors found that hiring mistakes are not caused by willful ignorance or negligence. Most often, new executive failure has several interrelated causes:

1. Inadequate preparation. Rarely had the hiring companies outlined a detailed, measurable definition of “success” that could be used to source, evaluate, and select candidates. Instead, they relied on outdated or insufficient job specs, focused around desired attributes, educational attainment, and so on.

2. Lack of information. After their work with the surveyed companies, nearly all dramatically improved hiring practices and (most important) the performance of new hires. They conclude, therefore, that at least one cause of their earlier hiring failures was not endemic organizational dysfunction, but a lack of information and training about how to hire more effectively at the executive level.

3. “Human nature.” Interpersonal situations like interviews, conducted in a vacuum, are often guided primarily by gut feelings. Hiring team members who have not been trained to minimize these distractions are easily influenced by preconscious perceptions and nonverbal cues. When provided with a tool set designed to counterbalance these biases, interview team performance is far more likely to overcome distractions and focus on more critical success-based matters.

With the most common hiring mistakes and their causes in mind, we have developed and refined the Success Factor Methodology™ (for a free copy go to the website,
www.impacthiringsolutions.com). This structured approach to executive hiring helps our client companies prevent repeating predictable, avoidable hiring pitfalls that plague many new employee hires. We believe every organization — large or small, for-profit or nonprofit, public or private — is capable of using this methodology to significantly improve its hiring success at all levels of the organization.

There is only one way we’ve discovered to make sure the next employee you hire is successful: tightly define what success will look like before the search begins, and focus like a laser beam on verifying that each candidate you see has the demonstrated potential to create that success. The Success Factor Methodology requires a rethinking of almost every part of your hiring process. The progress you make will correlate directly with the amount of dedication, focus, leadership, and effort you expend. It works when you work — and there are no shortcuts.

Stay Focused When The Finish Line Is In Sight

The interview is over. The candidate has left the building. Now comes the hard part; making sense of what you’ve just heard. Assessment, verification, evaluation, and in-depth analysis of the candidate’s stories and claims are on the docket for the interview team. Do you have a systematic process to ensure the candidates have been truthful? How do you ensure you are continuing with the right candidate as you move through various interviews?

If you’re like most hiring executives, when you interview a candidate, you scribbled a few notes in the resume margin. You formed a general impression based on a mélange of nonverbal cues and behaviors. You’ve already decided that you “like” or “don’t like” the candidate. But you don’t have a tool to help you compare apples to apples, and candidates to your Success Factor Snapshot.

The Water Cooler Is No Place To Debrief

We have frequently seen interviewers emerge from a round of interviews and then commiserate near the proverbial water cooler.watercooler talk

• “So, what did you think of Candidate A?”
• “Well, he seemed enthusiastic.”
• “She had a lot of energy.”
• “He was polite.”
• “Seemed okay. I think he could probably do the job.”

These abstract impressions are not grounded in what’s needed to succeed on the job. A case in point: One of the best people a client of ours ever hired nearly wasn’t invited back for a second interview. She was a powerhouse — highly accomplished, with more than enough demonstrable success behind her. In terms of her ability to do the job, she stood head and shoulders above all other candidates.

There was, however, a “problem.” The candidate was not a fashion plate. The company’s employees tended to be fashionable, with name-brand labels oozing out of every office suite. The candidate arrived at the first interview in a tasteful but conservative suit, her hair pulled back in a plain style, wearing minimal makeup. Some members of the interview panel (they never asked who, exactly) apparently fixated on her “lack of grooming.”

When we spoke to the hiring team after the first interview and they expressed reluctance to continue interviewing the candidate, we were puzzled. It took considerable probing to uncover the fact that the interviewers who had expressed reservations were subconsciously prejudiced based on the candidate’s “stodgy, plain” clothing and makeup.

However, the position was not one that required interfacing with clients who would expect flash and style. She would be managing sophisticated financial analysis, planning, budgeting, and forecasting.

Here was a candidate with phenomenal qualifications who had nailed the answer to every question they gave her…but she wasn’t “glam” enough?

We let the hiring committee know what a mistake they were making. The important question, we reminded them, was not whether this candidate subscribed to Vogue and Elle, shopped at Saks, or invested a fifth of her income in facials, French manicures, MAC makeup, or triple foil highlights. The important question — the only question — was whether she could do what the company needed done.

The hiring team rethought their position. The candidate was invited back, eventually offered the job, promoted twice, and last we knew, was still successfully making things happen nearly a decade later, Armani suit or no.

This episode crystallizes a universal truth about candidate evaluation: Superficial, irrelevant issues often get more of an interviewer’s attention than real substance.

“Criteria” To Toss Out

When you interview, what’s on your mental checklist? Some of the most time honored “criteria” have absolutely nothing to do with whether a candidate can do the job.

• Strong presentation
• Assertive or Aggressive
• Manicured
• Polished shoes in the right color (brown with navy, not black)
• “Enthusiasm”
• High Energy
• Good eye contact
• Strong handshake
• Well-spoken
• Instant, unhesitant recall of events from many years ago (honestly, if somebody asked you about something that happened in 1993, wouldn’t you pause and look up to the right as you tried to remember all the details?)
• Smooth speech without “ums” or stutters or backtracking
• Personable

Many hiring mistakes occur because the hiring team draws first impressions from factors like these, or because the candidate either wowed them or bored them during interviews.

The team can lose sight of the real goal: Measuring the candidate’s ability to deliver the results defined in the success factor worksheet.

Remember, you’re not hiring an actor; you’re hiring an Operations Director, or a VP of Finance, or a Plant Manager. In what way, exactly, does a candidate’s handshake correlate with their ability to succeed in those jobs? In some jobs, of course, presentation skills and a solid professional appearance are important. But focusing on “hot-button” factors like those in the list above does not help to select the right candidate.

The Eight-Dimension Success Matrix™

To eliminate interviewers’ ingrained tendency to focus on superficial criteria and miss substantive evidence, we developed a structured tool to help each interviewer evaluate each candidate—objectively, fairly, and comprehensively.

The Eight-Dimension Success Matrix is the tool we have our clients use to rate “fit” based on the examples, illustrations, specifics, results, accomplishments, and patterns of behavior that emerge in candidate interviews.

It is quick to use, easy to understand, and focused on the job itself. Perhaps most importantly, it calibrates interviewer ratings, keeping everyone on the same page. Built around the five key predictors of success, the Eight-Dimension Success Matrix forces interviewers to assess answers to questions in a uniform way.

Accountability to the group is vital. When interviewers know they will have to justify the ratings assigned to each candidate to the entire group of interviewers—especially if they’ve designated Candidate A’s Team Leadership ability 1 while everybody else assigned her a 2—the whole process is taken more seriously.

Because each member of the interviewing team fills out an Eight-Dimension Success Matrix form after each interview, by the end of a long interview cycle, a candidate’s file may contain twenty or more forms. The full file allows the person with final hiring power to evaluate full-spectrum of evaluation on all Success Factors. Skimming the right column helps the hiring executive to rapidly compare the same candidate interview-to-interview, and also to evaluate candidates’ qualifications against each other, on equal footing. For more information on the Eight-Dimension Success Matrix form, go to the website, www.impacthiringsolutions.com.

When References Go Bad

If a candidate makes it to the second round of interviews, it’s getting serious. You’ve settled on one, or possibly two, candidates. You believe with all your heart, soul, and mind that one is the right person for the job. He or she seems to be the cherry on the sundae, and you’re looking forward to making the job offer to the number one candidate.

You phone HR and tell them to make two quick reference calls based on names and numbers the candidate has given you. Once that’s done, you figure, it’s a wrap. Stop right there.
Even though most reference calls tend to be five-minute, rubber stamp, “Is-he-a-nice-guy/would-you-rehire-her/did-she-do-well” conversations, yours will not be. Your calls won’t even technically be “reference calls.” They will be 20 to 30 minutes long. They will go into great detail. They will be deep third-party verifications of what the candidate has told you in the interviews. You will push and probe for nearly as much detail with each reference as you did with the candidate.busy-880800_1280

You must do so, not because you do not trust this person (it’s obvious that you do, or you wouldn’t be on the cusp of offering him a job), but because verification is a mandatory step in a proven hiring process. Ordinary reference calls (and even background checks—more on that in a moment) don’t get to the heart of potential problems.

Most people who receive reference calls expect to be on the line for fewer than ten minutes.  They expect to be able to say simple things like, “Cathy is a great worker! You can’t go wrong hiring her. I’d rehire her in an instant.”

But you, as the hiring company, are about to invest literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in a new hire. To do so without fully verifying what the candidate has told you would be irresponsible. Up until now, you’ve had only the candidate’s word to go on. References, though, are a treasure chest waiting to be opened and explored.

Finding The Right Reference

First off: No family, friends, or personal references. While many applicants still include these in their list, personally invested people are unlikely to yield much useful information. When a reference’s primary relationship with a candidate is personal, there is an automatic conflict of interest. Their loyalty is to the candidate, not you, and most importantly, they are unlikely to be able to speak intelligently about the candidate’s work accomplishments.

Once you’ve decided you want to hire a particular candidate, ask them for three to five professional references. Ideally, these should be former bosses, peers, or individuals they have supervised. They suggest to their search clients that reference checks should be conducted on a 360-degree basis, including all the individuals who might touch this person, both inside and outside the company. Ask for the numbers of key customers, vendors, and suppliers. If the candidate is still employed at a company where they have been for a long time (five years or more), and they would prefer you do not contact their boss until an offer is made, work around it as best you can. Perhaps a former mentor from another department has left the company and would be able to speak about them. Maybe the person who hired them originally and saw them through their meteoric first few years is now retired and living in Key West—call her.

A Top 5% candidate, if he or she is interested in the job, will work with you on this, and may even agree to let you contact a current employer under certain circumstances. As a last resort, sometimes candidates will grant you permission to talk with their boss once an offer is formally presented. You can always make the offer contingent upon the successful outcome of reference checks. Because coworkers and colleagues have usually spent more time with the candidate than the boss, they are outstanding sources of verification. Usually “lateral” references can offer deeper insights into work style, team leadership ability, personality, and cultural issues. Pay particular attention to these areas when speaking to former coworkers, probing for any indications that the person may pose interpersonal problems or “rub people the wrong way.”

Going Deeper: Secondary References

Don’t stop at the first layer of verification. When you speak to first-tier references (those whose names the candidate gave you), ask whom else the candidate worked with, reported to, supervised, or led as part of a team. These are secondary references, and they are additional potential sources of objective verification. Then, go back to the candidate and ask them whether they would mind if you contacted these secondary references. A highly qualified candidate will usually agree immediately.

If you sense hesitation, it may be a red flag. If the candidate objects to contacting a secondary reference, ask why. Sometimes they will offer a good reason (“I was charged with supervising the team’s efforts. His department was always late with their deliverables and I had to ride him hard for a year to make sure he followed up on his commitments. I don’t think Judy, my primary reference, was aware of the ongoing friction between their departments, but Bob in accounting was on the same team. Would you like me to put you in touch with him?”).

Other times, they will be vague and evasive (“Um, well, they didn’t work together much and she didn’t have anything to do with my projects. I don’t think she’d really be able to tell you much.”) Listen carefully to the answers you receive from the candidate and make an informed judgment call before proceeding with a secondary reference verification interview.

As a rule of thumb, if you get strong verification not only from a candidate’s “first tier” of references, but also from secondary references, you can almost bet the farm you’ve found the candidate you’re looking for. (Almost. See “Background Checks” before you leap, though.) Finally, it is important not to “wear out” references. Third-party verification calls should be one of the last items on the hiring agenda, not the first. Not even the middle.

The Eight-Point Success Validation form is lengthy and intense and will take at least thirty minutes to complete; this is a significant investment of time, and you should let people know up front that the call will take this long.

A good third of the information you need about candidates is obtained in verification phone calls. It’s best to set expectations early in a reference phone call. Make it clear that you are not asking for a recommendation. Rather, you are verifying information that you’ve been given, and you would appreciate as much detail as the reference feels comfortable giving.

The Vital Role of Testing And Assessment

We strongly believe testing is a valuable adjunct to the Success Factor Methodology, because when administered correctly, tests can uncover useful information about personality traits, potential for high achievement, and other factors that may not be immediately evident in an interview situation. However, there are several cautions about assessment instruments. We highly recommend that our clients use an outside, third-party assessment professional who is specifically trained to select appropriate tests, as well as administer and interpret the results. Beyond using appropriate personnel, they advise the following:

1. The instrument must be appropriate to the job. Each selected test should measure traits, characteristics, and skills that are directly and obviously relevant to the job. Appropriate scales may be honesty and integrity — important qualities for the person who will be in charge of the company coffers. On the other hand, there is no apparent reason to administer an instrument like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which is designed to test for mental and emotional disorders.

2. The instrument must be valid and reliable. The Buros Institute, an organization founded in 1935 to catalog and evaluate psychological tests, publishes two comprehensive directories that can help you to select instruments that are known to be reliable and valid. The Mental Measurements Yearbook and Tests In Print are available at most libraries and contain descriptions and reviews of psychological instruments.  Be sure to ask consulting industrial psychologists whether the assessments they use are listed in these directories. If you are interested in how they were developed and validated, you can consult these reference works. At last count, the volumes had collected development, price, administration, and interpretation data on more than 11,000 instruments.

3. Be wary of free online tests. Unless they come from a highly regarded institute and/or are listed in one of the books mentioned above, they may not be valid and reliable instruments.

4. The instrument must be administered and interpreted professionally. We cannot emphasize enough that tests, inventories, personality profiles, and the like are difficult to interpret for a nonprofessional. Human Resources professionals are generally not qualified to administer psychological or behavioral tests. If you do choose to use some form of assessment to help you make a hiring decision, it is safer and more effective to delegate responsibility to a third party, who will likely ask candidates to sign waivers before taking the tests. These professionals will also ensure that untrained people on the hiring team do not focus on one or two potentially “negative” findings in a 20-page report—something they have seen frequently.

Getting the Right Information

As with any business decision, having the right information is critical. Work style and personality assessment testing can provide insight into potential hires, as well as your current workforce, in several ways:

1. Identify potential red flags: An in-depth work style and personality assessment can discover issues that are sometimes overlooked during the interviewing process and can quantify an intuition or feeling the interviewer may have about a particular candidate. It can be used to identify potential red flags concerning behavioral issues, help understand how to manage individuals for greater work performance and compare interpersonal dynamics of teams, departments and candidates.

2. Learn how to optimize employees’ work performance: An in-depth assessment can provide extensive information on an individual’s ability to work with their job responsibilities, team dynamics and company culture. Additionally, the assessment can show effective strategies to gain optimal performance from that individual within their particular work environment. It can also be employed to quickly identify the most effective management style for a new employee or predict how team members are likely to interact.

3. Ensure you have the right people in the right positions: Additionally, personality assessments can be utilized in rehires, or situations which call for employees to re-apply for their current jobs, as in the case of a corporate merger or restructuring. A personality assessment test can also ensure that your company continues to have the right people in the right positions and distribute assets & talents effectively.

Which Assessment Tool Should My Organization Use?

The following are some things to think about when reviewing various work style & personality profiles:

1. Training or degrees of those who are providing the debrief/interpretation of the data.
2. A copy of the resume and job description should be supplied to the testing company.
3. Scale for “Impression Management”
4. What is the history of the profile?
5. Cultural bias
6. Does the profile meet U.S. government employment standards? Has it been reviewed for ADA compliance & gender, culture & racial bias?
7. Reading level required (5th grade English, etc.)
8. Number of actual scales (minimum of 12+ primary scales – 16 is optimal)
9. Does the data provide an understanding on how an individual is wired?

These are some general questions and if a profile falls short in any one area, we strongly suggest additional research into the accuracy of the data being generated.

Frequently Asked Questions

A frequent question from companies and organizations concerns the legal guidelines in administering assessments to potential employees. Industry regulations can vary and the best option is to consult with your company’s trade association or legal department. As a general rule, if your company uses an assessment, any test or set of hiring questions must be administered to all of the final candidates in order to assure that discrimination is not present. Additional information can be found online at the EEOC website, in the Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees section: http://www.eeoc.gov/docs/guidance-inquiries.html.

An additional question concerns how a new hire may feel about taking an in-depth personality and work style assessment. There is a certain amount of “test anxiety” that can be common. However, the test demonstrates that your company is serious about who they hire. If your company explains that the goal of the assessment is to reduce turnover and is only one of several factors involved in the hiring decision, the individual usually responds very well. In many cases, the candidate may accept a position from the organization they perceive to be more thoughtful during the hiring process.

An in-depth assessment is only one component needed for a successful recruitment and hiring program. It can provide valuable information for critical personnel decisions. Combined with an effective recruitment program and skilled interview techniques, it can benefit your company as a whole, in addition to your individual employees. Armed with accurate and quantifiable data from an in-depth personality assessment, the interview process becomes much more reliable. Ultimately, this only adds to your organization’s bottom line, allowing more effective management of your existing workforce and limiting the potential for wrong hiring decisions. For more information, please call (310) 453-6556, ext. 403 or email us at dana@lighthouseconsulting.com.

A Comprehensive Background Check

Finally, we reach the granddaddy of all pre-hiring due diligence: The Background Check. As with psychological and personality testing, we believe this is an activity best left to trained professionals who understand the legal and ethical constraints of such activities.

Background checks are often the last shield between a hiring company and a particularly slick candidate who interviews well. You might be surprised at how many people woman with mag glassmisrepresent their educational credentials, for example. In recent years, the media has exposed numerous scandals resulting from puffery in nearly every sector.

• In 2004, Quincy Troupe, poet laureate of the State of California and a tenured college professor, resigned his post. The reason? He had lied for years about his background, listing himself as a graduate of Grambling University. In fact, the professor (who was in charge of training graduate students, among other duties) he had never even finished a bachelor’s degree.
• Jeffrey Papows, former president of Lotus Software, was revealed by a 1999 Wall Street Journal investigation to have habitually exaggerated his past and accomplishments. While he claimed to be an orphan who rose through military ranks to eventually earn a Ph.D. from Pepperdine, he in fact had parents living in Massachusetts and a Ph.D. from a correspondence school. (He did, however, have a Master’s from Pepperdine.)
• Sandra Baldwin, former president of the United States Olympic Committee, resigned after admitting that she had lied on her resume about earning a Ph.D from Arizona State University. She had not.
• Joseph Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer and professor of history at Mt. Holyoke College, was immensely popular for courses that included his personal insights into the violence and mayhem he had witnessed in Vietnam. In 2001, however, the Boston Globe exposed him: Dr. Ellis had never left the States during the Vietnam War.
• In 2002, Veritas Software lost its Chief Financial Officer, Kenneth Lonchar, who resigned after his employer found out he had lied about his education, including an MBA from Stanford. He never earned such a degree. The company’s stock plummeted in the weeks following these revelations.

There are many more cases like these. We could fill ten pages with just recent examples of resume-padding gone horribly wrong. Obviously all these people were highly accomplished, but their basic dishonesty about degrees and other background information introduced high levels of doubt about their overall ethics and trustworthiness.

If such visible and respected organizations can be successfully bluffed in their highest-level hires, it can happen to your organization, too. The only way to be sure everything you’ve heard is true is to invest the time and money to verify the candidate’s claims on his resume or other documents he completes and signs after beginning the interviewing process.

Many third-party providers can run a comprehensive background check to make sure there are no skeletons in any closet. These companies are fully up-to-date on laws that regulate the extent to which such checks can be used prior to employment.

If you decide to wait to run these checks until after you extend an offer, be sure you make the offer contingent upon satisfactory results from the background check.

1. Criminal Background. In rare cases, charming, and charismatic characters, who just happen to be crooks, have made it all the way into positions of power. In their own experience, they know of a candidate who was offered a position as CFO without a criminal check. It was revealed later — too late — that he was under active investigation by the FBI and had allegedly embezzled huge sums of money in the past. A criminal background check would have revealed these issues before the company hired him; no matter how charming and convincing he had been in interviews.
2. Credit. For any candidate who will be placed in a role where they will have access to the company coffers (or even something as innocent as a company credit card), we strongly recommend a credit check. Does the person have a huge amount of debt in the form of mortgages and consumer debt? Does the person make their required payments in a timely manner? Has the person filed for bankruptcy? What is their credit score? They realize that nobody is perfect, and while a high level of debt does not automatically disqualify a candidate, nor does the occasional late payment, there is merit in being cautious and checking these items. Financial pressure and stress can cause even the most well-intentioned people to snap. Knowing a high-level executive’s financial straits up front can help to head off potential problems.
3. Educational Background. It may not actually be important to the job whether somebody earned an MBA or simply attended a year of a program without finishing. However, dishonesty about educational achievement is a huge red flag that should cause you to dig much deeper in every other area. If a candidate lies about this accomplishment, what else might he or she be lying about? Because educational background is frequently misrepresented, this check is the most likely place where you will uncover discrepancies. Integrity matters. We never recommend going forward with a candidate who has lied about their education.
4. State Drivers’ License Bureau. If a candidate has a record of arrests for driving under the influence, reckless accidents, or other egregious traffic violations, it may be a hint of deeper problems — and potential liability or risk to the company.
5. Social Security Verification. Social Security will identify the names associated with the candidate’s social security number. While most discrepancies can be cleared up quickly (marriage or adoption changed the last name, or a religious conversion changed the entire name), multiple aliases may be a red flag and should be explained by the candidate.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2018

Barry Deutsch is a well-known thought leader in hiring and peak performance management. He is a frequent and sought-after speaker for management meetings, trade associations, and CEO forums, such as Vistage International, a worldwide CEO membership organization of more than 15,000 CEOs and senior executives. Many of his clients view him as their virtual Chief Talent Officer. Barry is also frequently asked to present IMPACT Hiring Solutions award-winning programs on hiring, retention, and motivating top talent and leverages a vast knowledge base of 25 years in the executive search field, with a track of successful placements in multi-billion dollar Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurial firms, and middle-market high-growth businesses. He has worked closely with thousands of CEOs and key executives to help improve hiring success, leverage human capital, and raise the bar on talent acquisition. Barry earned his BA and MA from the American University in Washington, D.C. Prior to his executive search career, Barry held positions of responsibility in Finance and General Management with Mattel, Beatrice Foods, and Westinghouse Cable.  Barry can be contacted at barry@impacthiringsolutions.com or 310-378-4571.

Brad Remillard, an executive recruiter with more than 30 years of experience, has conducted more than 10,000 interviews and been involved in more than 2,000 executive searches.  In 2005 along with his partner of 25 years, Barry Deutsch, he co-founded the company IMPACT Hiring Solutions. This firm is dedicated to providing best practices hiring techniques to companies seeking to reduce turnover, recruit qualified candidates, improve interviewing that reduces hiring errors and eliminates candidate embellishment and exaggeration. IMPACT Hiring Solutions accomplishes this via its on-site manage hiring workshops utilizing our trademarked, Success Factor Methodology. These comprehensive in-house workshops and training programs are highly customized solutions to the specific company’s needs. Previously he served as President of CJA Executive Search, which was recognized as one of the top search firms in Southern California. Brad has trained thousands of managers how to recruit, interview and retain top talent for both Fortune 500 and entrepreneurial companies.  Brad can be reached at brad@impacthiringsolutions.com or 949-310-5659.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.  To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and soon to be released “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Stop Trying to Shortcut the Hiring Process

By Dana Borowka

If they hadn’t gone on a “shortcut,” the world probably wouldn’t know who the Donner party is today. There is a lesson in this infamous tragedy for all hiring managers.

For the wagons of the Donner party, a group of 81 westward-bound pioneers who were stopped by a blizzard at the gateway to California in the fall of 1846, getting over the Sierra covered wagonsummit proved to be an insurmountable obstacle. In a 2008 book, Desperate Passage: The Donner Party’s Perilous Journey West, journalist Ethan Rarick chronicled the misadventures of the infamous group.

Rarick argues because of an ill-advised decision to take an untested shortcut earlier that summer—the wagon train, named after its leader, George Donner, was trapped by a severe fall storm. When their food ran out, they roasted shoestrings and ate animal hides to stay alive. Finally, snowbound, with little hope of rescue, they started to eat those who died by starvation. The 45 survivors were rescued in February of 1847.

But why did it happen? The members of the Donner Party listened to some hucksters on the trail who had an idea of a straighter route to try. The problem was that the shortcut went over the Wasatch Mountains and through the Great Salt Lake desert; however, these two barriers meant that straighter was not really shorter. The three-week delay led to disaster.

The Donner party was not a military expedition, band of gold seekers, or a group of explorers. These were ordinary people trying to find a better life. The tragic mistake was being duped into believing there was an easy shortcut.

Beware of Shortcut Hiring Hucksters Today

Not to alarm you, but don’t take choosing a personality test lightly. There are many services that boast a quick and easy way to profile a job candidate with personality testing. Taking these shortcuts can result in bad hires that have a negative impact on your bottom line and that won’t benefit you or your workforce.maze cutting

According to the research in my book, Cracking the Personality Code, today there are around 2,500 cognitive and personality tests on the market. So how do you decide which one to use? An organization risks lawsuits if it fails to do proper due diligence in test selection. That’s because there are a multitude of assessments available out there and the industry is totally unregulated.

To understand how to choose from the plethora of personality tests, it is helpful to understand the origins of these instruments.

The quest began in a mental hospital in Minnesota during World War II. A test called the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory was created to diagnose mental illness with yes-or-no responses to a series of questions. In an attempt to put some science into the hiring process, many companies start employing psychologists who in turn used this existing MMPI psychopathological test to screen job applicants. The test includes true-false questions like “I never indulge in unusual sex practices” and “I feel sure there is only one true religion.” Of course, this seemed strange and intrusive to most job applicants who took the test over the next six decades.

Meanwhile, a Harvard University instructor and psychologist named Raymond Cattell working in the Adjutant General’s office devised psychological tests for the military. After the war he accepts a research professorship at the University of Illinois where they were developing the first electronic computer, the Illiac I, which would make it possible for the first time to do large-scale factor analyses of his personality testing theories.

runs with computerCattell used an IBM sorter and the brand-new Illiac computer to perform factor analysis on 4,500 personality-related words. The result was a test to measure intelligence and to assess personality traits known as the Sixteen Personality Factor questionnaire (16PF). First published in 1949, the 16PF profiles individuals using 16 different personality traits. Cattell’s research proved that while most people have surface personality traits that can be easily observed, we also have source traits that can be discovered only by the statistical processes of factor analysis.

In 1963 W.T. Norman verified Cattell’s work but felt that only five factors really shape personality: extraversion, independence, self-control, anxiety and tough-mindedness. Dubbed the “Big Five” approach, this has become the basis of many of the modern personality tests on the market today. There have been hundreds and hundreds of studies validating the approach.

The five decades of research findings has served as the framework for constructing a number of derivative personality inventories. This is a topic that’s been researched extensively by the field of industrial and organizational psychology. Some clear dictates of what to do and what not to do have emerged.

Five Dos and Don’ts

Some personality testing services simply deliver a test score and guidelines. Others provide a superficial level of analysis that is not much to go on. What hiring managers really need is an in-depth analysis of the test in the context of the job description and the candidate’s resume.

Here are my top five shortcut don’ts:

• Don’t use a basic personality screening that takes 20 minutes or less as a final screening tool.
• Don’t skip a phone interview.
• Don’t try to shorten multiple face-to-face interviews.
• Don’t skip background and reference checks, and never skip financial background checks when appropriate for the position.
• Don’t skip giving someone homework during the interviewing process.

Here are five dos:

• Do use an in-depth work style and personality assessment.
• Do look for red flags in the results concerning behavioral issues.
• Do use testing to identify how team members are likely to interact.
• Do use testing to ensure you have the right people in the right positions.
• Do use a trained professional to review the testing results with you – they should have a copy of the candidate’s resume and job description for the debrief discussion.

The testing procedure that a company follows can send a message to candidates that the company leaders are serious about who they hire. Successful people want to work with other successful people. In many cases, the candidate may accept a position from the organization they perceive to be more thoughtful during the hiring process.

Conclusion

The astounding thing is how many companies undertake such huge investments in hiring and do not pay attention to what is known about using personality assessments to pick out the people who are going to be the best. An in-depth assessment is only one component needed for a successful recruitment and hiring program. Armed with accurate and quantifiable data from an in-depth personality assessment, the interview process becomes much more reliable. When it comes to limiting the potential for wrong hiring decisions, there really is no shortcut.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2018 

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”.  To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management.

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Optimize Your Staffing Decisions By Using In-Depth Work Style & Personality Assessment Tools

Dana Borowka, MA – Excerpt from Cracking the Business Code

The wrong hiring decision can cost your company well over two to three times the individual’s salary according to Vistage International speaker, Barry Deutsch. This figure may be a conservative estimate because of factors like training, evaluation, termination, re-initiating the hiring process, and lost opportunity costs. There is also an emotional factor involved brain on crane to headin a bad hire situation. Not only can it cause stress and anxiety for both management and employees, but it also takes away focus from your company’s primary goals. Essentially, a bad hire can have a negative impact on your company’s bottom line and that won’t benefit you or your workforce.

These circumstances can be minimized during the initial hiring process by using several techniques including effective recruitment programs, skilled interviewing, and in depth work-style and personality assessment tests. A personality assessment is a highly effective tool and an efficient use of company resources at this crucial point of the decision making process.

This section focuses on in-depth work style and personality assessment tests and how your company can benefit from them during the interview process, before a potential new hire turns into the wrong decision. An in-depth assessment, in conjunction with a thorough interview process and good background check, can reduce the possibility of a hiring error. It also can provide your company with quantifiable information on a candidate’s specific strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, an assessment will offer objective, expert guidance on how best to manage and place that individual within your organization.

In-Depth Work Style and Personality Assessment Testing — A Standard in Recruiting

Assessment tests are a standard recruiting practice for many branches of the government and military, as well as many Fortune 500 companies when assessing potential hires for key or critical positions. They are used to reduce employee turnover and improve department effectiveness. Correctly interpreted, professionals can help guide your organization on how to best manage, communicate, and train new hires and staff members.

As with any business decision, having the right information is critical. Work style and personality assessment testing can provide insight into potential hires, as well as your current workforce, in several ways:

1. Identify potential red flags: An in-depth work style and personality assessment can discover issues that are sometimes overlooked during the interviewing process and can quantify an intuition or feeling the interviewer may have about a particular candidate. It can be used to identify potential red flags concerning behavioral issues, help understand how to manage individuals for greater work performance, and compare interpersonal dynamics of teams, departments, and candidates.
2. Learn how to optimize employees’ work performance: An assessment can provide extensive information on an individual’s ability to work with their job responsibilities, team dynamics, and company culture. Additionally, the assessment can show effective strategies to gain optimal performance from that individual within their particular work environment. It can also be employed to quickly identify the most effective management style for a new employee or predict how team members are likely to interact.
3. Ensure you have the right people in the right positions: Additionally, assessments can be utilized in rehires, or situations which call for employees to re-apply for their current jobs, as in the case of a corporate merger or restructuring. An assessment test can also ensure that your company continues to have the right people in the right positions and distribute assets and talents effectively.

Which Assessment Tool Should My Organization Use?

The following are some things to think about when reviewing various work style and personality profiles:

1. Training or degrees required for interpretation of the data. Weekend training programs can be problematic since testing and human behavior is a very complex subject. When making hiring or internal decisions, organizations need as much information and understanding as possible as the consequences can be very costly.
2. A copy of the resume should be supplied to the testing company to review when discussing the assessment results. We suggest you make sure that they require this as part of the process so it is used when reviewing the assessment.
3. Scale for “Impression Management” to understanding accuracy of results and if someone is trying to “fake good.”
4. Common warning signs: When a representative uses absolute statements when describing human behavior, like “People are all the same” or “People don’t change.” This will convey what their level of understanding of the human personality is. Or when someone claims that their profile is 98 or 99% accurate, which rarely can be clinically supported. If you hear this, ask how the data was collected.
5. Career matching: Some organizations claim to know what the perfect “sales person” or “secretary” is from a personality perspective. Ask how many careers and man with arrowsoccupations have been studied; is the database validated by outside organizations or only by “applied in-house studies.” “Ideal” is very difficult to define due to the variance of geography, job history, and education. What is most important is if the individual has a similar thought pattern that meets the criteria within the job description.
6. Number of clinical studies conducted by major universities and there should be multiple studies for validation purposes.
7. How long has the profile been used — what is the history?
8. How often is the normative database updated and where is the data coming from? (For example, U.S. Census 1990, 2000)
9. Cultural bias — is it built into the profile and for which countries?
10. Does the profile meet U.S. government employment standards? Has it been reviewed for ADA compliance and gender, culture, and racial bias?
11. Reading level required (5th grade English, etc).
12. Number of profiles administered.
13. Number of actual primary scales as defined by the “Big 5” testing standards. Many tests will claim to have more scales than they actually have — this can lead to misrepresentation of data.
14. Does the data provide the depth necessary to understand how an individual is wired inside?
15. Validity, reliability, and basis.

These are some general questions and if a profile falls short in any one area, we strongly suggest additional research into the accuracy of the data being generated.

Frequently Asked Questions

A frequent question from companies and organizations concerns the legal guidelines in administering assessments to potential employees. Industry regulations can vary and the best option is to consult with your company’s trade association or legal department. As a general rule, if your company uses an assessment, any test or set of hiring questions must be administered to all of the final candidates in order to assure that discrimination is not present. Additional information can be found online at the EEOC website, in the Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees section: http://www.eeoc.gov/docs/guidance-inquiries.html.

An additional question concerns how a new hire may feel about taking an in-depth personality and work style assessment. There is a certain amount of “test anxiety” that can be common. However, the test demonstrates that your company is serious about who they hire. If your company explains that the goal of the assessment is to reduce turnover and is only one of several factors involved in the hiring decision, the individual usually responds very well. In many cases, the candidate may accept a position from the organization they perceive to be more thoughtful during the hiring process.

Conclusion

An assessment is only one component needed for a successful recruitment and hiring program. It can provide valuable information for critical personnel decisions. Combined with an effective recruitment program and skilled interview techniques, it can benefit your company as a whole, in addition to your individual employees. Armed with accurate and man with magnify glassquantifiable data from an in-depth assessment, the interview process becomes much more reliable. Ultimately, this only adds to your organization’s bottom line, allowing more effective management of your existing workforce and limiting the potential for wrong hiring decisions.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2016 

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC and his organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your organization”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. They also have a full service consulting division that provides domestic and international interpersonal coaching, executive onboarding, leadership training, global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training, operational productivity improvement, 360s and employee surveys as well as a variety of workshops. Dana has over 25 years of business consulting experience and is a nationally renowned speaker, radio and TV personality on many topics. He provides workshops on hiring, managing for the future, and techniques to improve interpersonal communications that have a proven ROI. He is the co-author of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”. To order the books, please visit www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

How to Hire Loop Closers: Train, Talk and Test to Create a Terrific Team of Loop Closers

By Dana Borowka

Don’t you hate it when this happens? Most business execs face situations where they thought someone in their employ would do something and it turns out they either forgot, ignored you or did the wrong thing. All of these issues are a result of not closing the loop.

BizfootballBusiness leaders struggle to get important tasks done because they have to rely on others. Unfortunately, this reliance is just part of doing business. To better achieve your objectives, it’s vital that you create a team committed to follow through — closing the loop — so that vital actions can get done.

In business jargon, “closing the loop”, means to follow up on and/or close out an area of discussion. The phrase is closely related to “circle back around” and “loop in”.

Closing the loop is akin to following up, checking in or closing the deal. The term comes from control systems where they close the control loop in order for the system to remain stable. The opposite of a stable system is one that is unstable. In control system parlance, this is referred to as an open loop system since it has no feedback and thus will likely spin out of control — kind of like projects without any follow-up.

The secrets of creating a team of loop closers are the three Ts: training, talking, and testing.

Training About It

A champion of closing the loop is Wanda Allen, a person with some pointed advice about the importance of follow up.

As a business banker for more than two decades, Allen has over 20 years experience in management and business development. Her area of expertise was SBA Lending where she managed SBA Departments that generated $100 million in annual loan volume. Her banking career built a thorough understanding for creating and retaining excellent client relationships while implementing a system that supports consistent closing the loop practices.

When the bank she worked for was acquired, she reinvented herself as a national speaker, coach and the author of the book, Follow Up Savvy, as well as being a contributing author to Amazon’s #1 Best Seller, Selling With Synchronicity.

Allen has five key teachings that should be used in employee training to create a loop closing culture. Teach your employees to do the following. Everyone you work with is a ”customer”. That includes all internal departments, vendors and clients.

1. Reach out right away. When you meet someone and feel a connection, reach out within 48 hours to take that relationship to the next level. “Networking is a popular way to meet new contacts and prospects,” says Allen. “However, all too often the new contacts are never followed up with. Studies show that 48 percent of sales people never follow up. This is a first impression opportunity that will make you memorable.”

2. Say thank you to your clients. They have agreed to do business with you and it’s important to show your appreciation. “When we were kids, we were taught to say thank you,” says Allen. “That simple act has all but disappeared. The fast paced culture we live in has pushed common courtesy to the side. Be different and say thank you.”

3. Keep your clients close. Stay in touch (another form of follow up) with your clients a minimum of three times per year, more if necessary. “As much as we think we wouldn’t be Bizpassingbatonforgotten about…we will if we’re not staying in touch,” says Allen. “This is especially important for transactional businesses. Even if a client was satisfied with your products and/or services, that’s not enough reason to be remembered. The only way to be remembered is to stay in touch.”

4. Call those clients. Call your clients for no other reason than to just say hi and see how they’re doing. This is always a nice surprise. “It’s a nice gesture to check in with your clients when it has nothing to do with business,” says Allen. “This is how the relationship and loyalty are strengthened. It shows that your client is more than the business being conducted. “

5. Closing the loop also requires technology. Decide on one database program that best fits your needs and use it consistently. A database program is the heart of an effective follow up system. “It’s very difficult to stay on top of your follow up responsibilities if the information is not centralized,” says Allen. “Without a database program, follow up becomes overwhelming and unmanageable. The program will keep the information organized and no one will ever be forgotten. “

Talking About It

Make closing the loop a part of your conversations at the workplace. A leader needs to be a storyteller, and one of the stories you want to tell is about the importance of closing the loop.

digginginTalk about what goes right and what goes wrong. A vital step in closing the loop—perhaps the most important—requires digging in to find the root causes of an individual customer’s problem, and, whenever possible, “fixing” the situation for that customer. This means you have to talk with those customers whose feedback deserves follow-up so you can probe deeper.

Tell your people time and again that the primary goal should be to fix the customer’s individual problems, but this follow-up can also help you identify and address more systemic issues. Talking about loop closing can guide you in improving products, policies, services and processes so that every customer gets a better experience and problems don’t recur.

Testing About It

Before you hire, test your top candidates to help determine if they are loop closers or if they have loop closing aptitude. To build a culture of loop closing, attitude and aptitude are everything.

While we are staunch advocates of in-depth work style & personality assessments, we admit there are limits to its power. If you meet a profiling organization that says you can decide to hire or not hire based on test data alone, please walk away. No, run away. Personality testing is not a silver bullet or magic potion.

The secret is to cultivate top performers through a three-step process: assess candidates with personality profiling, screen candidates for behavioral tendencies like an aptitude for loopquestionmkhead closing, and manage more effectively based on behavioral styles to reinforce the importance of follow up and follow through. The goal is to base your hiring and managing decisions on the best data that can be collected, not just your gut instincts (which can fool you).

Of course, no matter how good an interviewer you are, you are not getting the full picture during an interview. The next step has to do with background and reference checks and personality assessments. Trust, but verify.

What criteria should you use to screen an in-depth work style & personality assessment? Here are some questions you need to ask:

  • What training or degrees are required for interpretation of the data? Tests that only require a weekend training program to interpret data can be problematic since testing is a very complex subject. When making hiring or internal decisions, managers need as much information and understanding as possible because the consequences can be costly.
  • If you hire a testing company, do they also review the person’s resume and job description? We suggest you make sure that the testing company requires that they are provided with the resume and job description as part of the process so it is used when reviewing the assessment. Probe on issues of follow up, follow through and loop closing.
  • Does the test you use have a scale for “Impression Management” to understand the accuracy of results and determine if the test taker is trying to “fake good”? Yes, job candidates try to game the test. The questionnaire needs a minimum of 164 questions to gather enough data for this scale. 
  • What is the number of actual primary scales used? Many tests will claim to have more scales than they actually have.
  • Does the data provide the depth necessary to understand how an individual is wired inside? If they only use four primary scales, that is not sufficient. You need a minimum of 12 primary scales and 16 are optimal.

grouplightbulbThese are some general questions and if a profile falls short in any area, we strongly suggest additional research into the accuracy of the data being generated. In our book, Cracking the Personality Code you will find additional information on this topic. While personality testing can be a valuable resource before you hire, perhaps the true value of any assessment comes in using the insights it provides along the entire spectrum of employment. Personality assessments lend objectivity to decisions that may otherwise be largely subjective. Again, use the interview to find out if they have a good attitude and a good aptitude when it comes to the subject of being a loop closer.

Ready to learn more about closing the loop? Then click here for our bonus article, “Three Tips from Three Loop Closing Experts”.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2015

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement. To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

We recently launched a new service called Sino-Am Leadership to help executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit, http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/performance-management/talent-development/sino-american-management-style/.

Win the War for Talent with a Cash Balance Retirement Plan

By Dan Kravitz

From the boardroom bunkers to the cubicle trenches, competition to hire the best and brightest is increasingly intense. McKinsey & Company’s recent CEO briefing report, “Talent Tensions Ahead” projected a hiring gap as high as 11 percent of demand for staff with advanced degrees by 2020. Moreover, in our competitive global economy, attrition rates are climbing in many organizations.business people race

What can employers do to improve their competitive edge when it comes to recruiting and retaining talented professionals? Company-sponsored retirement plans play a crucial role. For many high income professionals, qualified retirement plans are one of the most important sources of lifetime wealth accumulation. Consequently, any organization that wants to win the war for talent must offer a highly competitive retirement package.

What makes a retirement package compelling to talented, in-demand professionals? A generous 401(k) profit sharing plan is a good starting point but no longer goes far enough. Adding a Cash Balance (hybrid) plan makes an enormous difference, allowing high earners to double or even triple their pre-tax retirement savings and compress 20 years of retirement savings into 10. Depending on age and income, these high earners may be able to move into a lower tax bracket after their firm adds a Cash Balance plan. This shift will significantly reduce the impact of the 2013 tax hikes.

What is a Cash Balance plan?

A Cash Balance Plan is a unique type of IRS-qualified retirement plan also known as a hybrid, since it combines features of both defined benefit and defined contribution plans. Financial advisors and CPAs often describe Cash Balance as the best of both worlds, offering the portability and flexibility of a defined piggy bank savingscontribution plan along with the high contribution limits of a traditional defined benefit plan. Cash Balance plans are almost always offered as an add-on to an existing 401(k) profit sharing plan in order to create an optimized tax-efficient plan design.

For example, a 55-year-old in 2015 is limited to $24,000 in 401(k) contributions and $35,000 in profit sharing. But if her firm added a Cash Balance plan, she could enjoy a tax-deferred Cash Balance contribution of up to $175,000, toward a lifetime limit of $2.6M. Combined with her $59,000 in 401(k) profit sharing, she would have total tax-deferred retirement contributions of $234,000.

Cash Balance plans differ from traditional defined benefit in several key ways which make them appealing to employees at all levels of an organization. Assets are pooled and invested collectively, but participants have individual accounts and can see their balances. Accounts are portable and can be rolled over to an IRA or another qualified account when retiring or leaving the organization. Participants can choose either an annuity or a lump sum option.

The Retention Power of a Cash Balance Plan

Let’s illustrate the concept by looking at the world of law firms. While it’s expensive to lose talented attorneys early in their careers, it’s even more devastating to lose them mid-career. Mid-career lawyers are often in their prime in terms of productivity, skill and client retention. Their loss can greatly affect the firm’s quality of work in addition to its bottom line.

A law firm’s retirement plan can be a crucial factor in an attorney’s decision to leave. Attorneys in their 40s have typically paid down student loans and have home equity, yet many feel far behind on retirement savings. Attorneys, like physicians, start later than many professionals in saving for retirement due to student loans and years of lower paid work as associates. If the firm doesn’t help them meet their financial objectives, they will probably find another firm that can.

The single most important step a law firm, medical group, or any competitive organization can take to improve its retirement plan is to increase pre-tax contributions so partners can grow their qualified retirement accounts while significantly reducing the tax burden. This can be accomplished by adding a Cash Balance plan to the retirement plan already in place.

Law firms making these Cash Balance contributions report greatly improved partner satisfaction with retirement plans. In fact, the majority of AmLaw 200 firms now offer Cash Balance plans or are in the process of adopting them.

“Having worked with many law firms, I’ve found them eager to find ways to reduce their tax burdens,” said David Roberts, a CPA with the Los Angeles firm RBZ. “One of the most significant methods I’ve seen them use is implementing a Cash Balance pension plan in addition to their 401(k) profit sharing plan. This allows them to dramatically increase pre-tax contributions to qualified plans, sometimes as high as $250,000 per year. Cash Balance is a complex plan that may not be right for everyone, but for those who can, I would strongly recommend that they look closely at the option.”

What About Non-Qualified Alternatives?

Facing the limits of a 401(k) profit sharing plan, some business owners and high income professionals turn to savings and investment vehicles outside of a qualified plan, such insurance products, deferred compensation arrangements, and after-tax retirement accounts. However, that means missing out on the enormous financial benefits of a tax-favored qualified plan, outlined here:

Top 5 Advantages of Cash Balance Plans

1. Reducing the tax burden
Funds contributed to Cash Balance Plans are tax-deductible, and the earnings grow tax-deferred until the money is withdrawn. This benefit is enormous and can have a dramatic impact on savings accumulation. At retirement, or when leaving employment, a Cash Balance account can be rolled over into an IRA. No taxes are due until age 70 ½, at which point only a portion of the money is taxed.

2. Accelerating retirement savings
For business owners and partners who have heavily invested in their businesses and feel behind in retirement goals, Cash Balance plans are a unique opportunity to “catch up” faster than any other option can provide. In as little as 10 years, they can receive contributions up to a lifetime limit of $2.6M, going a very long way toward a sense of retirement security.happy people with money

3. Attracting and retaining top talent
Like all qualified plans, Cash Balance plans require contributions to non-owner employees, a requirement that becomes a key benefit for many firms. Money that would otherwise have gone to the IRS is now enriching both the employer’s and employees’ retirement savings, helping attract, reward and retain talented employees. Professional services firms find Cash Balance Plans a great incentive on both the partner level and employee level.

4. Shelter from creditors
Assets in a Cash Balance Plan are protected from creditors in the event of a bankruptcy or lawsuit. In volatile economic times, preserving profits from both taxes and creditors is increasingly important.

5. Protecting retirement savings from market volatility
Because plan assets are usually invested conservatively for actuarial reasons, Cash Balance accounts have avoided the dramatic fluctuations seen in 401(k) accounts over the past decade. While 401(k) account holders often rely on higher risk strategies to maximize growth, Cash Balance plans grow primarily through high contribution amounts earning interest rates that stay ahead of inflation without taking on major risk.

Learn more about Cash Balance plans and explore options with a complimentary plan design

Cash Balance 101- a simple guide to understanding Cash Balance Plans:
http://cashbalancedesign.com/cbc/documents/CashBalance101.pdf

Complete Contribution Limits Table:
http://cashbalancedesign.com/cbc/documents/ContributionLimitsTable.pdf

Visit www.CashBalanceDesign.com or call 877 CB-Plans to learn more about whether a Cash Balance plan would be a fit for your organization.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2015

Dan Kravitz is the president of Kravitz, Inc., one of the nation’s largest independent retirement plan consulting firms. Dan is recognized as a leading national expert on Cash Balance retirement plans and is the author of a popular book on the topic, Beyond the 401(k). He is a frequent speaker at retirement industry conferences and has been interviewed on the topic of Cash Balance plans by many national publications, including the Wall Street Journal. At Kravitz, Dan leads a team of 75 skilled retirement professionals, including 10 actuaries, focusing on innovative plan design and the highest levels of client service. Kravitz manages retirement plans for 1,400 companies across the nation, including more than 500 Cash Balance plans. You can reach him at dkravitz@kravitzinc.com.

Inspiration and Techniques for Building Championship-Level Performance – Lighthouse clients have one thing in common – all are committed to boosting the performance of their organizations. So, we are pleased to introduce our clients and friends to Boaz Rauchwerger — speaker, trainer, author and consultant. We highly recommend Boaz to you. Ask him to deliver one of his inspirational programs at your next executive retreat or strategic planning session.  One of our favorite Boaz programs is “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”. It helps you build on the strengths of everyone’s individual differences. This program helps you discover five steps to get everyone to join the building crew and resign from the wrecking crew. This is a very powerful and inspirational program that receives rave reviews every time.

• Master five techniques to inspire others to perform like champions
• Six recognition techniques including the powerful “good finder” program
• Learn four ways that your team can gain a competitive advantage
• Identify the three prerequisites for maximizing the team’s results
• Learn the two forms of keeping a daily score so everyone wins

Who is Boaz? Over a 30-year span, Boaz, author of The Tiberias Transformation – How To Change Your Life In Less Than 8 Minutes A Day, has conducted thousands of seminars internationally on goal setting and high achievement. He has taught over half a million people how to supercharge their lives, their careers and how to add Power to their goals. His innovative program, for individuals and corporations, is a simple and highly effective process for high achievement. He was voted Speaker of the Year by Vistage, an international organization of CEOs and business owners. How to Contact Boaz – Want more information on Boaz’s Power Program, including “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”? Just click here and we’ll be in touch.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Top Ten Hiring Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

By Barry Deutsch & Brad Remillard – An excerpt from Cracking the Personality Code

There is a very important book that we feel every hiring manager in business today should read. You’re Not the Person I Hired is a guide that can make sure the person you bring into a critical job is, in fact, the person he or she appears to be.

According to this book, too often the hiring process is a case of mutually crossed fingers—both parties hope the match is a good one and hope the gamble they’re taking will pay intwoff. And then, regrettably, when Monday morning rolls around and the work begins, it all unravels.

Whose fault is it when the person who seemed like a fired-up go-getter turns out to be indifferent to goals she didn’t set herself? Whose fault is it when the person hired to overhaul the organizational IT system turns out to be short-tempered, impractical, and a lousy communicator who alienates every functional department head? Whose fault is it when the new sales manager seems to have no impact whatsoever on penetrating two new markets—a mission-critical goal that he seemed fully capable of doing in interviews? Whose fault is it when the person who shows up for the job isn’t the person you thought you hired?

“We believe the blame lies squarely with the hiring process itself, and we have compiled evidence to prove it,” says Barry Deutsch, who wrote the book with Brad Remillard and Janet Boydell.

“Our research focusing on more than 20,000 hiring executives during the past fifteen years has identified the most common mistakes made in hiring,” adds Deutsch. “Through the course of our analysis, we’ve determined the actual failure rate for newly hired managers and executives reaches a staggering 56% in many mid-sized and large organizations. We wanted to understand why. Prior to writing this book, we analyzed the hiring practices of 225 executive hires in 134 target companies.”

What the three authors discovered was that almost every organization makes the same mistakes, over and over again. Most often, several mistakes occurred in each case. In nearly every situation, when new executives and managers failed to meet expectations, a major causal factor was that expectations had not been clearly defined in the first place.

Everything else fell out from there. Here are their ten most frequent mistakes, in reverse rank order:

10. Desperation Hiring: In 55% of searches, the hiring organization failed to budget enough time for the search, resulting in shallow sourcing and superficial interviews that failed to identify potential pitfalls.

9. Ignoring Top Candidate’s Needs: 55% of searches were handled with a primary focus on the organization’s needs and failed to build a compel-ling case for why top candidates should make the move.

8. Failure to Probe for Core Success Factors: The five best predictors of long-term success are self-motivation, leadership, comparable past performance, job-specific problem solving, and adaptability. A majority of searches failed to probe for these (56%).magnify glass eye

7. Fishing in Shallow Waters: The search attracted only “Aggressive” candidates without seeking “Selective” and “Sleeper” candidates (62%).

6. Performance Bias: Interviews and offers were rewarded to the “best actor,” not the best candidate (63%).

5. Historical Bias: The hiring company used only past performance to predict future results (68%).

4. Snap Judgment: Hiring teams relied too heavily on first impressions to make final hiring decisions (72%).

3. Inappropriate “Prerequisites” Used Too Early in Selection Process: Hiring teams placed too much emphasis on specific education, technical skills, and industry experience to screen out qualified candidates (76%).

2. Superficial interviewing: Candidates’ backgrounds and claims were not deeply probed or verified (92%).

1. Inadequate job descriptions drove the hiring process; these focused solely on experience and skills, not company expectations. A staggering 93% of searches that resulted in new executive failure made this mistake at the outset.

The Causes of Hiring Mistakes

In their experience, the authors found that hiring mistakes are not caused by willful ignorance or negligence. Most often, new executive failure has several interrelated causes:

1. Inadequate preparation. Rarely had the hiring companies outlined a detailed, measurable definition of “success” that could be used to source, evaluate, and select candidates. Instead, they relied on outdated or insufficient job specs focused around desired attributes, educational attainment, and so on.

2. Lack of information. After the authors’ work with the surveyed companies, nearly all the companies dramatically improved hiring practices and (most important) the performance of new hires. The authors concluded, therefore, that at least one cause of earlier hiring failures was not endemic organizational dysfunction, but a lack of information and training about how to hire more effectively at the executive level.

3. “Human nature.” Interpersonal situations like interviews, conducted in a vacuum, are often guided primarily by gut feelings. Hiring team members who have not been trained to minimize these distractions are easily influenced by preconscious perceptions and nonverbal cues. When provided with a toolset designed to counterbalance these biases, inter-view team performance is far more likely to overcome distractions and focus on more critical success-based matters.

With the most common hiring mistakes and their causes in mind, they have developed and refined the Success Factor Methodology™ (for more information go to the website www.impacthiringsolutions.com). This structured approach to executive hiring helps client companies prevent predictable, avoidable hiring pitfalls that plague many new-employee hires. The authors believe every organization—large or small, for-profit or nonprofit, public or private—is capable of using this methodology to significantly improve its hiring target practicesuccess at all levels of the organization.

There is only one way they’ve discovered to make sure the next employee you hire is successful: Tightly define what success will look like before the search begins, and focus like a laser beam on verifying whether each candidate you see has the demonstrated potential to create that success. The Success Factor Methodology requires a rethinking of almost every part of your hiring process. The progress you make will correlate directly with the amount of dedication, focus, leadership, and effort you expend. It works when you work—and there are no shortcuts.

Stay Focused When the Finish Line Is in Sight

You’re not the Person I Hired also covers that important time when the interview is over. The candidate has left the building. “Now comes the hard part; making sense of what you’ve just heard,” says Deutsch. “Assessment, verification, evaluation, and in-depth analysis of the candidate’s stories and claims are on the docket for the interview team.”

Do you have a systematic process to ensure the candidates have been truthful? How do you ensure you are continuing with the right candidate as you move through various interviews?

If you’re like most hiring executives, when you interview a candidate, you scribbled a few notes in the resume margin. You formed a general impression based on a mélange of nonverbal cues and behaviors. You’ve already decided that you “like” or “don’t like” the candidate. But you don’t have a tool to help you compare apples to apples, and candidates to your Success Factor Snapshot.

The Water Cooler Is No Place to Debrief

The authors have frequently seen interviewers emerge from a round of interviews and then commiserate near the proverbial water cooler.

• “So, what did you think of Candidate A?”
• “Well, he seemed enthusiastic.”
• “She had a lot of energy.”
• “He was polite.”
• “Seemed okay. I think he could probably do the job.”watercooler talk

These abstract impressions are not grounded in what’s needed to succeed on the job. A case in point from the authors’ experience: One of the best people a client of theirs ever hired nearly wasn’t invited back for a second interview. She was a powerhouse—highly accomplished, with more than enough demonstrable success behind her. In terms of her ability to do the job, she stood head and shoulders above all other candidates.

There was, however, a “problem.” The candidate was not a fashion plate. The company’s employees tended to be fashionable, with name-brand labels oozing out of every office suite. The candidate arrived at the first inter-view in a tasteful but conservative suit, her hair pulled back in a plain style, wearing minimal makeup. Some members of the interview panel (they never asked who, exactly) apparently fixated on her “lack of grooming.”

When Deutsch spoke to the hiring team after the first interview and they expressed reluctance to continue interviewing the candidate, he was puzzled. It took considerable probing to uncover the fact that the interviewers who had expressed reservations were subconsciously prejudiced based on the candidate’s “stodgy, plain” clothing and makeup.

However, the position was not one that required interfacing with clients who would expect flash and style. She would be managing sophisticated financial analysis, planning, budgeting, and forecasting.

Here was a candidate with phenomenal qualifications who had nailed the answer to every question they gave her—but she wasn’t “glam” enough?

Deutsch let the hiring committee know what a mistake they were making. The important question, he reminded them, was not whether this candidate subscribed to Vogue and Elle, shopped at Saks, or invested a fifth of her income in facials, French manicures, MAC makeup, or triple-foil high-lights. The important question—the only question—was whether she could do what the company needed done.

The hiring team rethought their position. The candidate was invited back, eventually offered the job, promoted twice, and last they knew, was still successfully making things happen nearly a decade later, Armani suit or no.

This episode crystallizes a universal truth about candidate evaluation: Superficial, irrelevant issues often get more of an interviewer’s attention than real substance.

“Criteria” to Toss Out

When you interview, what’s on your mental checklist? Some of the most time-honored “criteria” have absolutely nothing to do with whether a candidate can do the job.

selecting people• Strong presentation
• Assertive or aggressive
• Manicured
• Polished shoes in the right color (brown with navy, not black)
• “Enthusiasm”
• High energy
• Good eye contact
• Strong handshake
• Well-spoken
• Instant, unhesitant recall of events from many years ago (honestly, if somebody asked you about something that happened in 1993, wouldn’t you pause and look up to the right as you tried to remember all the details?) Smooth speech without “ums” or stutters or backtracking.
• Personable

Many hiring mistakes occur because the hiring team draws first impressions from factors like these, or because the candidate either wowed them or bored them during interviews. The team can lose sight of the real goal: measuring the candidate’s ability to deliver the results defined in the success factor worksheet.

“You’re not hiring an actor,” says Deutsch. “You’re hiring an operations director, or a VP of finance, or a plant manager. In what way, exactly, does a candidate’s handshake correlate with their ability to succeed in those jobs?”

In some jobs, of course, presentation skills and a solid professional appearance are important. But focusing on “hot-button” factors like those in the list above does not help to select the right candidate.

The Eight-Dimension Success Matrix™

To eliminate interviewers’ ingrained tendency to focus on superficial criteria and miss substantive evidence, they developed a structured tool to help each interviewer evaluate each candidate—objectively, fairly, and comprehensively.

The Eight-Dimension Success Matrix is the tool the authors of You’re Not The Person I Hired have their clients use to rate “fit” based on the examples, illustrations, specifics, results, accomplishments, and patterns of behavior that emerge in candidate interviews.paper pen person

It is quick to use, easy to understand, and focused on the job itself. Perhaps most importantly, it calibrates interviewer ratings, keeping every-one on the same page. Built around the five key predictors of success, the Eight-Dimension Success Matrix forces interviewers to assess answers to questions in a uniform way.

Accountability to the group is vital. When interviewers know they will have to justify the ratings assigned to each candidate to the entire group of interviewers—especially if they’ve designated Candidate A’s Team Leadership ability 1 while everybody else assigned her a 2—the whole process is taken more seriously.

Because each member of the interviewing team fills out an Eight- Dimension Success Matrix form after each interview, by end of a long interview cycle a candidate’s file may contain twenty or more forms. The full file allows the person with final hiring power to evaluate a full spectrum of data on all Success Factors. Skimming the right column helps the hiring executive to rapidly compare the same candidate interview-to-interview and also to evaluate candidates’ qualifications against each other on equal footing. For more information on the Eight-Dimension Success Matrix form, go to the website www.impacthiringsolutions.com.

When References Go Bad

If a candidate makes it to the second round of interviews, it’s getting serious. You’ve settled on one or possibly two candidates. You believe with all your heart, soul, and mind that one is the right person for the job. He or she seems to be the cherry on the sundae, and you’re looking forward to making the job offer to the number one candidate.

phone intwYou phone HR and tell them to make two quick reference calls based on names and numbers the candidate has given you. Once that’s done, you figure, it’s a wrap. Stop right there.

Even though most reference calls tend to be five-minute, rubber stamp, “Is-he-a-nice-guy / would-you-rehire-her / did-she-do-well” conversations, yours will not be. Your calls won’t even technically be “reference calls.” They will be twenty to thirty minutes long. They will go into great detail. They will be deep third-party verifications of what the candidate has told you in the interviews. You will push and probe for nearly as much detail with each reference as you did with the candidate.

You must do so, not because you do not trust this person (it’s obvious that you do, or you wouldn’t be on the cusp of offering him a job), but be-cause verification is a mandatory step in a proven hiring process. Ordinary reference calls (and even background checks—more on that in a moment) don’t get to the heart of potential problems. Most people who receive reference calls expect to be on the line for fewer than ten minutes. They expect to be able to say simple things like, “Cathy is a great worker! You can’t go wrong hiring her. I’d rehire her in an instant.”

But you, as the hiring company, are about to invest literally hundreds of thousands of dollars in a new hire. To do so without fully verifying what the candidate has told you would be irresponsible. Up until now, you’ve had only the candidate’s word to go on. References, though, are a treasure chest waiting to be opened and explored.

Finding the Right Reference

First off: no family, friends, or personal references. While many applicants still include these in their list, personally invested people are unlikely to yield much useful information. When a reference’s primary relationship with a candidate is personal, there is an automatic conflict of interest. Their loyalty is to the candidate, not you, and most importantly, they are unlikely to be able to speak intelligently about the candidate’s work accomplishments.

Once you’ve decided you want to hire a particular candidate, ask them for three to five professional references. Ideally, these should be former bosses, peers, or individuals they have supervised. The authors suggest to their search clients that reference checks should be conducted on a 360- degree basis, including all the individuals who might touch this person, both inside and outside the company. Ask for the numbers of key customers, vendors, and suppliers.

If the candidate is still employed at a company where they have been for a long time (five years or more), and they would prefer you do not contact their boss until an offer is made, work around it as best you can. Perhaps a former mentor from another department has left the company and would be able to speak about them. Maybe the person who hired them originally and saw them through their meteoric rise first few years is now retired and living in Key West—call her.

A Top 5% candidate, if he or she is interested in the job, will work with you on this and may even agree to let you contact a current employer under certain circumstances. As a last resort, sometimes candidates will grant you permission to talk with their boss once an offer is formally presented. You can always make the offer contingent upon the successful outcome of reference checks.

Because coworkers and colleagues have usually spent more time with the candidate than the boss, they are outstanding sources of verification. Usually “lateral” references can offer deeper insights into work style, team leadership ability, personality, and cultural issues. Pay particular attention to these areas when speaking to former coworkers, probing for any indications that the person may pose interpersonal problems or “rub people the wrong way.”

Going Deeper: Secondary References

Don’t stop at the first layer of verification. When you speak to first-tier references (those whose names the candidate gave you), ask whom else the candidate worked with, reported to, supervised, or led as part of a team. These are secondary references, and they are additional potential sources of objective verification.

Then, go back to the candidate and ask them whether they would mind if you contacted these secondary references. A highly qualified candidate will usually agree immediately.diving

If you sense hesitation, it may be a red flag. If the candidate objects to contacting a secondary reference, ask why. Sometimes they will offer a good reason (“I was charged with supervising the team’s efforts. His department was always late with their deliverables and I had to ride him hard for a year to make sure he followed up on his commitments. I don’t think Judy, my primary reference, was aware of the ongoing friction between their departments, but Bob in accounting was on the same team. Would you like me to put you in touch with him?”). Other times, they will be vague and evasive (“Um, well, we didn’t work together much and she didn’t have anything to do with my projects. I don’t think she’d really be able to tell you much.”). Listen carefully to the answers you receive from the candidate and make an informed judgment call before proceeding with a secondary reference verification interview.

As a rule of thumb, if you get strong verification not only from a candidate’s “first tier” of references, but also from secondary references, you can almost bet the farm you’ve found the candidate you’re seeking. (Almost. See “Background Checks” before you leap, though.)

Finally, it is important not to “wear out” references. Third-party verification calls should be one of the last items on the hiring agenda, not the first. Not even the middle. The Eight-Point Success Validation form is lengthy and intense and will take at least thirty minutes to complete; this is a significant investment of time, and you should let people know up front that the call will take this long.

A good third of the information you need about candidates is obtained in verification phone calls. It’s best to set expectations early in a reference phone call. Make it clear that you are not asking for a recommendation. Rather, you are verifying information that you’ve been given, and you would appreciate as much detail as the reference feels comfortable giving.

The Vital Role of Testing and Assessment

The authors of You’re Not the Person I Hired strongly believe testing is a valuable adjunct to the Success Factor Methodology, because when administered correctly, tests can uncover useful information about personality traits, potential for high achievement, and other factors that may not be immediately evident in an interview situation. However, there are several cautions about assessment instruments.

“We highly recommend that our clients use an outside, third-party as-assessment professional who is specifically trained to select appropriate tests, as well as administer and interpret the results,” says Deutsch.

Beyond using appropriate personnel, they advise the following:

1. The instrument must be appropriate to the job. Each selected test should measure traits, characteristics, and skills that are directly and obviously relevant to the job. Appropriate scales may be honesty and integrity—important qualities for the person who will be in charge of the company coffers. On the other hand, there is no apparent reason to administer an instrument like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, which is designed to test for mental and emotional disorders.man and eye glass

2. The instrument must be valid and reliable. The Buros Institute, an organization founded in 1935 to catalog and evaluate psychological tests, publishes two comprehensive directories that can help you select instruments known to be reliable and valid. The Mental Measurements Year-book and Tests in Print are available at most libraries and contain descriptions and reviews of psychological instruments. Be sure to ask consulting industrial psychologists whether the assessments they use are listed in these directories. If you are interested in how they were developed and validated, you can consult these reference works. At last count, the volumes had collected development, price, administration, and interpretation data on more than 11,000 instruments.

3. Be wary of free online tests. Unless they come from a highly regard-ed institute and/or are listed in one of the books mentioned above, they may not be valid and reliable instruments.

4. The instrument must be administered and interpreted professionally. It cannot be emphasized enough that tests, inventories, personality profiles, and the like are difficult to interpret for a nonprofessional. Human resources professionals are generally not qualified to administer psychological or behavioral tests. If you do choose to use some form of assessment to help you make a hiring decision, it is safer and more effective to delegate responsibility to a third party, who will likely ask candidates to sign waivers before taking the tests. These professionals will also ensure that untrained people on the hiring team do not focus on one or two potentially “negative” findings in a twenty-page report—something they have seen frequently.

A Comprehensive Background Check

Finally, we reach the granddaddy of all pre-hiring due diligence: the background check. As with psychological and personality testing, the authors believe this is an activity best left to trained professionals who understand the legal and ethical constraints of such activities.

Background checks are often the last shield between a hiring company and a particularly slick candidate who interviews well. You might be surprised at how many people misrepresent their educational credentials, for example. In recent years, the media has exposed numerous scandals resulting from puffery in nearly every sector.

• In 2004, Quincy Troupe, poet laureate of the State of California and a tenured college professor, resigned his post. The reason? He had lied for years about his background, listing himself as a graduate of Grambling University. In fact, the professor (who was in charge of training graduate students, among other duties) had never even finished a bachelor’s degree.

• Jeffrey Papows, former president of Lotus Software, was revealed by a 1999 Wall Street Journal investigation to have habitually exaggerated his past and accomplishments. While he claimed to be an orphan who rose through military ranks to eventually earn a Ph.D. from Pepperdine, he in fact had parents living in Massachusetts and a Ph.D. from a correspondence school. (He did, however, have a Master’s from Pepperdine.)

• Sandra Baldwin, former president of the United States Olympic Committee, resigned after admitting that she had lied on her resume about earning a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. She had not.

• Joseph Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and professor of history at Mt. Holyoke College, was immensely popular for courses that included his personal insights into the violence and mayhem he had witnessed in Vietnam. In 2001, however, the Boston Globe exposed him: Dr. Ellis had never left the States during the Vietnam War.

• In 2002, Veritas Software lost its chief financial officer, Kenneth Lonchar, who resigned after his employer found out he had lied about his education, including an MBA from Stanford. He never earned such a degree. The company’s stock plummeted in the weeks following these revelations.

“There are many more cases like these,” says Deutsch. “They could fill ten pages with just recent examples of resume-padding gone horribly wrong. Obviously all these people were highly accomplished, but their basic dishonesty about degrees and other background information introduced high levels of doubt about their overall ethics and trustworthiness.”

If such visible and respected organizations can be successfully bluffed in their highest-level hires, it can happen to your organization, too. The only way to be sure everything you’ve heard is true is to invest the time and money to verify the candidate’s claims on his resume or other documents he completes and signs after beginning the interviewing microscopeprocess.

Many third-party providers can run a comprehensive background check to make sure there are no skeletons in any closet. These companies are fully up-to-date on laws that regulate the extent to which such checks can be used prior to employment.

If you decide to wait to run these checks until after you extend an offer, be sure you make the offer contingent upon satisfactory results from the background check.

1. Criminal Background. In rare cases, charming and charismatic characters who just happen to be crooks have made their way all the way into positions of power. In the authors’ own experience, they know of a candidate who was offered a position as CFO without a criminal check. It was revealed later—too late—that he was under active investigation by the FBI and had allegedly embezzled huge sums of money in the past. A criminal background check would have revealed these issues before the company hired him, no matter how charming and convincing he had been in interviews.

2. Credit. For any candidate who will be placed in a role where they will have access to the company coffers (or even something as innocent as a company credit card), the authors strongly recommend a credit check. Does the person have a huge amount of debt in the form of mortgages and consumer debt? Does the person make their required payments in a timely manner? Has the person filed for bankruptcy? What is their credit score? The authors realize that nobody is perfect, and while a high level of debt does not automatically disqualify a candidate, nor does the occasional late payment, there is merit in being cautious and checking these items. Financial pressure and stress can cause even the most well-intentioned people to snap. Knowing a high-level executive’s financial straits up front can help to head off potential problems.

3. Educational Background. It may not actually be important to the job whether somebody earned an MBA or simply attended a year of a program without finishing. However, dishonesty about educational achievement is a huge red flag that should cause you to dig much deeper in every other area. If a candidate lies about this accomplishment, what else might he or she be lying about? Because educational background is frequently misrepresented, this check is the most likely place where you will uncover discrepancies. Integrity matters. The authors never recommend going forward with a candidate who has lied about their education.

4. State Drivers’ License Bureau. If a candidate has a record of arrests for driving under the influence, reckless accidents, or other egregious traffic violations, it may be a hint of deeper problems—and potential liability or risk to the company.

5. Social Security Verification. Social Security will identify the names associated with the candidate’s Social Security number. While most discrepancies can be cleared up quickly (marriage or adoption changed the last name, or a religious conversion changed the entire name), multiple aliases may be a red flag and should be explained by the candidate.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2015 

Barry Deutsch, MA is a well-known thought leader in hiring and peak performance management. He is a frequent and sought-after speaker for management meetings, trade associations, and CEO forums, such as Vistage International, formerly known as TEC, a worldwide CEO membership organization of more than 15,000 CEOs and senior executives. Many of his clients view him as their virtual Chief Talent Officer. Vistage International named Barry “IMPACT Speaker of the Year”… Barry is also frequently asked to present IMPACT Hiring Solutions award-winning programs on hiring, retention, and motivating top talent and leverages a vast knowledge base of 25 years in the executive search field, with a track record of successful placements in multi-billion dollar Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurial firms, and middle-market high-growth businesses. He has worked closely with thousands of CEOs and key executives to help improve hiring success, leverage human capital, and raise the bar on talent acquisition. Barry earned his BA and MA from the American University in Washington, D.C. Prior to his executive search career, Barry held positions of responsibility in Finance and General Management with Mattel, Beatrice Foods, and Westinghouse Cable. Barry is a co-author of the book, You’re Not The Person I Hired. You can reach him at barry@impacthiringsolutions.com.

Inspiration and Techniques for Building Championship-Level Performance – Lighthouse clients have one thing in common – all are committed to boosting the performance of their organizations. So, we are pleased to introduce our clients and friends to Boaz Rauchwerger — speaker, trainer, author and consultant. We highly recommend Boaz to you. Ask him to deliver one of his inspirational programs at your next executive retreat or strategic planning session.

One of our favorite Boaz programs is “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”. It helps you build on the strengths of everyone’s individual differences. This program helps you discover five steps to get everyone to join the building crew and resign from the wrecking crew. This is a very powerful and inspirational program that receives rave reviews every time.

• Master five techniques to inspire others to perform like champions
• Six recognition techniques including the powerful “good finder” program
• Learn four ways that your team can gain a competitive advantage
• Identify the three prerequisites for maximizing the team’s results
• Learn the two forms of keeping a daily score so everyone wins

Who is Boaz? Over a 30-year span, Boaz, author of The Tiberias Transformation – How To Change Your Life In Less Than 8 Minutes A Day, has conducted thousands of seminars internationally on goal setting and high achievement. He has taught over half a million people how to supercharge their lives, their careers and how to add Power to their goals. His innovative program, for individuals and corporations, is a simple and highly effective process for high achievement. He was voted Speaker of the Year by Vistage, an international organization of CEOs and business owners. How to Contact Boaz – Want more information on Boaz’s Power Program, including “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”? Just click here and we’ll be in touch.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

The Eight-Point Success Matrix™

By Barry Deutsch

To eliminate interviewers’ ingrained tendency to focus on superficial criteria and miss substantive evidence, we developed a structured tool to help each interviewer evaluate each candidate—objectively, fairly, and comprehensively.

The Eight-Point Success Matrix is the tool or scorecard we have our clients use to rate “fit” based on the examples, illustrations, specifics, results, accomplishments, and patterns of behavior that emerge in candidate interviews.intw blockstyle

It is quick to use, easy to understand, and focused on the job itself. Perhaps most importantly, it calibrates interviewer ratings, keeping everyone on the same page. Built around the five key predictors of success in our SUCCESS FACTOR METHODOLOGY™, the Eight-Point Success Matrix forces interviewers to ask the right questions and probe until they have enough information to complete the form. To use this scorecard in the interviewing process, we are assuming the interviewer is well-versed in our 8-step SUCCESS FACTOR METHODOLOGY, particularly the steps involving defining success for a particular role, the process of how to interview for success by using the 5 core questions, and the approach of uncovering the truth behind candidate responses by applying the magnifying Glass Technique. These 8-steps are explained in more depth on our website or in our book titled, You’re Not the Person I Hired. You can also download the Eight-Point Success Matrix from our site.

Accountability to the interviewing group is vital. When interviewers know they will have to justify the ratings assigned to each candidate to the entire group of interviewers—especially if they’ve designated Candidate A’s Team Leadership ability “1” while everybody else assigned her a “2”—the whole process is taken more seriously.

Because each member of the interviewing team fills out an Eight-Point Success Matrix form after each interview, by end of a long interview cycle a candidate’s file may contain twenty or more. The full file allows the person with final hiring power to evaluate full-spectrum of evaluation on all Success Factors. Skimming the right column helps the hiring executive to rapidly compare the same candidate interview-to-interview, and also to evaluate candidates’ qualifications against each other, on equal footing.

How to Use the Form

The most important consideration in using the matrix is this: Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Put Off Completing the Form After Each Interview. Human memory fades rapidly four to six hours after an event. Once details are gone from short-term memory, they are lost forever.

biz timeYou absolutely must ensure that your hiring process does not fall victim to procrastination and memory loss (“Er, gee, I think this was the guy with the orange tie who used to work at Enron, yeah? Or was that Exxon? Shoot, I don’t remember…”) The hiring team leader must make sure each interviewer sits down immediately after the interview (or by that same day’s end, at the latest) to complete the sections for which they have gathered enough information.

It is almost certain that no interviewer will be able to fill out an entire matrix after just one interview. That’s fine—they should leave blank any sections that require more information, and make notes regarding what questions to ask in the next interview in the “Comments” area.

We highly recommend that somebody on the interviewing team—preferably the hiring manager him- or herself—be charged with distributing and collecting the Eight-Point Success Matrix forms before and after each round of interviews. When people know they’ll be held accountable at the end of the day, they won’t put off what needs to be done. While there are few rules about using the Matrix, there are several tips to keep in mind:

  1. The form should be explained and discussed fully among the team before interviews begin.
  2. Each interviewer should understand the difference between a score of 0, 1, 2, and 3.
  3. Each interviewer should understand what each of the Factors is intended to measure.
  4. A candidate who rates Zeros in any category is probably not the best choice for the job.
  5. The “sweet spot” on the Eight-Point Success Matrix form is a ranking of “2.” Not too hot or too cold—just right.
  6. Depending on the job, it is possible that a candidate with one or two ratings of “1” might still be up to the job.
  7. A candidate whose Matrix scores are consistently “3” across the board is likely overqualified. At a minimum you might encounter a fair level of difficulty retaining this individual. He or she would probably become bored with the job and is therefore NOT always a good choice.
  8. Your hiring team should discuss their rankings of the final candidates in great detail to make sure no questions or concerns are left un-addressed.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2014

Barry Deutsch, MA is a well-known thought leader in hiring and peak performance management. He is a frequent and sought-after speaker for management meetings, trade associations, and CEO forums, such as Vistage International, formerly known as TEC, a worldwide CEO membership organization of more than 15,000 CEOs and senior executives. Many of his clients view him as their virtual Chief Talent Officer. Vistage International named Barry “IMPACT Speaker of the Year”… Barry is also frequently asked to present IMPACT Hiring Solutions award-winning programs on hiring, retention, and motivating top talent and leverages a vast knowledge base of 25 years in the executive search field, with a track record of successful placements in multi-billion dollar Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurial firms, and middle-market high-growth businesses. He has worked closely with thousands of CEOs and key executives to help improve hiring success, leverage human capital, and raise the bar on talent acquisition. Barry earned his BA and MA from the American University in Washington, D.C. Prior to his executive search career, Barry held positions of responsibility in Finance and General Management with Mattel, Beatrice Foods, and Westinghouse Cable. Barry is a co-author of the book, You’re Not The Person I Hired. You can reach him at barry@impacthiringsolutions.com.

Inspiration and Techniques for Building Championship-Level Performance – Lighthouse clients have one thing in common – all are committed to boosting the performance of their organizations. So, we are pleased to introduce our clients and friends to Boaz Rauchwerger — speaker, trainer, author and consultant. We highly recommend Boaz to you. Ask him to deliver one of his inspirational programs at your next executive retreat or strategic planning session.

One of our favorite Boaz programs is “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”. It helps you build on the strengths of everyone’s individual differences. This program helps you discover five steps to get everyone to join the building crew and resign from the wrecking crew. This is a very powerful and inspirational program that receives rave reviews every time.

• Master five techniques to inspire others to perform like champions
• Six recognition techniques including the powerful “good finder” program
• Learn four ways that your team can gain a competitive advantage
• Identify the three prerequisites for maximizing the team’s results
• Learn the two forms of keeping a daily score so everyone wins

Who is Boaz? Over a 30-year span, Boaz, author of The Tiberias Transformation – How To Change Your Life In Less Than 8 Minutes A Day, has conducted thousands of seminars internationally on goal setting and high achievement. He has taught over half a million people how to supercharge their lives, their careers and how to add Power to their goals. His innovative program, for individuals and corporations, is a simple and highly effective process for high achievement. He was voted Speaker of the Year by Vistage, an international organization of CEOs and business owners. How to Contact Boaz – Want more information on Boaz’s Power Program, including “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”? Just click here and we’ll be in touch.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code” please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Would You Like Some Fries with That Sales Hire?

By Barry Deutsch

We’ve put over 25,000 hiring executives and managers through our Hire With Your Head workshop in the last 7-8 years. Our executive search firm has been involved in thousands of executive searches over the last 20 years. We’ve collected an impressive array of anecdotal and quantifiable data on the success and failure of hiring practices in many different companies. One of the most difficult hires for an entrepreneurial or middle-market company is either choosing an internal sales hire or picking an independent rep organization.bldg fries

The most interesting trend we continually observe is that hiring executives and managers often approach the hiring or selection process as though they were ordering fast food at the drive-through, particularly for sales hires. First they scan the menu to see what’s offered, then they pick the top three or four things they want. “I’ll take one MBA, with a BSME, a 3.5 GPA or better, and don’t forget three years of sales experience in the machine tool sector.” While ordering this way at local hamburger joint almost always produces exactly what you want, it doesn’t work nearly as well for hiring.

When I teach hiring executives and managers about the hiring or selection process, whether they are picking internal sales people or external reps, I always ask, “How many of you have ever hired a partially competent sales person?” The answer is frequently YES for a majority of the workshop participants. Why? Because the current process of defining what the hiring executive or manager is looking for is hopelessly flawed.

The typical hiring executive or manager, and in truth many recruiters, approach each new hiring assignment with a list of qualifications. This list becomes codified in the official job description which includes some level of education (an MBA from UCLA), some level of experience (three years of sales experience), and some core traits or characteristics (self-starter or good communicator). What they don’t tell you is what the person actually needs to DO in the job to be a superior performer. As it turns out, these lists of attributes are poor substitutes for superior performance.

For example, the typical job description for a sales rep position might include a list of criteria such as: MBA, five years sales experience in a particular industry, good product knowledge, an available “rolodex”, good organization skills and closing capability. Each of these descriptors focuses on the candidate HAVING certain skills or levels of experience. But the don’t say anything about what the candidate has been actually DOING. And it’s PAST PERFORMANCE, not past experience, that is THE BEST PREDICTOR OF FUTURE PERFORMANCE.

The next time you recruit for a new position, particularly in sales, try this first:

Take a list of the HAVING job criteria and convert it into a DOING-oriented statement, covering how you expect the candidate to actually perform.

When you take this approach, everything changes. Instead of asking in the interview, “Do you have five years of sales experience in our particular industry?” you can now ask something much more revealing: ” Can you give me an example where you joined a new company and had to come up to speed on their product offerings in an abbreviated timeframe, and where you had to quickly develop a plan in the first 30 days to meet quota. The answer to the second question will uncover true past performance faster — and much more accurately — than simply checking off a list of HAVING-oriented job criteria.

Taking the time to define superior performance allows you to focus on what a candidate has done in the past that is directly relevant to the job you are asking them to do for you.

Here are some hints to help you get started defining superior performance:

First, make a list of the top 5-8 things a person must DO to be successful in the job. These are called performance objectives, and could include some of the following key areas:

  • Management or Organizational Issues
  • Changes and Improvements you’d like to see implementedtreasure crest keys
  • Problems that might arise (or ones that already exist)
  • Technical Issues
  • Team and People Issues
  • Projects and Deliverables

Once you have a list of objective you need to prioritize them.

Focus only on major objectives and the interim steps necessary to achieve them. We call these S.M.A.R.T. objectives (S for Specific, M for Measurable, A for Action-oriented, R for Results, T for Time-based).  An example of a sales objective might be: Develop a plan of action within 60 days to increase sales by 15% at the top 20% of accounts within the Western Region within 12 months. Another objective might be: Be prepared within 30 days of start date to make a formal 30 minute Powerpoint presentation to your first major customer – create a fast-track learning process to fully understand the customer benefits of our equipment within the first 2 weeks.

Writing SMART objectives isn’t as easy as ordering fast food . It takes practice, some effort, and a little time. But it’s well worth the investment. Your definition of superior performance becomes the basis for writing great ads, assessing true competency during the interview, and courting the right candidates. And you’re hiring mistakes won’t have you reaching for the Tums so often in the middle of the night. 

Barry Deutsch, MA is a well-known thought leader in hiring and peak performance management. He is a frequent and sought-after speaker for management meetings, trade associations, and CEO forums, such as Vistage International, formerly known as TEC, a worldwide CEO membership organization of more than 15,000 CEOs and senior executives. Many of his clients view him as their virtual Chief Talent Officer. Vistage International named Barry “IMPACT Speaker of the Year”… Barry is also frequently asked to present IMPACT Hiring Solutions award-winning programs on hiring, retention, and motivating top talent and leverages a vast knowledge base of 25 years in the executive search field, with a track record of successful placements in multi-billion dollar Fortune 100 companies, entrepreneurial firms, and middle-market high-growth businesses. He has worked closely with thousands of CEOs and key executives to help improve hiring success, leverage human capital, and raise the bar on talent acquisition. Barry earned his BA and MA from the American University in Washington, D.C. Prior to his executive search career, Barry held positions of responsibility in Finance and General Management with Mattel, Beatrice Foods, and Westinghouse Cable. Barry is a co-author of the book, You’re Not The Person I Hired. You can reach him at barry@impacthiringsolutions.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article.  © 2014   

Inspiration and Techniques for Building Championship-Level Performance – Lighthouse clients have one thing in common – all are committed to boosting the performance of their organizations. So, we are pleased to introduce our clients and friends to Boaz Rauchwerger — speaker, trainer, author and consultant. We highly recommend Boaz to you. Ask him to deliver one of his inspirational programs at your next executive retreat or strategic planning session.

One of our favorite Boaz programs is “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”. It helps you build on the strengths of everyone’s individual differences. This program helps you discover five steps to get everyone to join the building crew and resign from the wrecking crew. This is a very powerful and inspirational program that receives rave reviews every time.

• Master five techniques to inspire others to perform like champions
• Six recognition techniques including the powerful “good finder” program
• Learn four ways that your team can gain a competitive advantage
• Identify the three prerequisites for maximizing the team’s results
• Learn the two forms of keeping a daily score so everyone wins

Who is Boaz? Over a 30-year span, Boaz, author of The Tiberias Transformation – How To Change Your Life In Less Than 8 Minutes A Day, has conducted thousands of seminars internationally on goal setting and high achievement. He has taught over half a million people how to supercharge their lives, their careers and how to add Power to their goals. His innovative program, for individuals and corporations, is a simple and highly effective process for high achievement. He was voted Speaker of the Year by Vistage, an international organization of CEOs and business owners. How to Contact Boaz – Want more information on Boaz’s Power Program, including “Playing Like a Championship Team Every Day”? Just click here and we’ll be in touch.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA  90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching.  Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” and “Cracking the Business Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

 

 

Overcoming Hiring Mistake #1: Inadequate Job Descriptions

By Vistage International, Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard

What’s the most common hiring mistake?

According to Vistage speakers Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard, it’s using inadequate job descriptions to guide the hiring process.

In fact, after conducting a survey of 225 executive level hires in 134 different companies, the two partners found that a staggering 93 percent of searches that resulted in new executive failure made this critical mistake at the outset of the process.

“The first thing most companies do in a job search is throw together a very generic job description,” notes Deutsch. “Or worse, they pull an old, outdated job description off the shelf, dust it off and pronounce it fit for hiring the new executive. Nine out of ten times, that’s a sure recipe for failure.”

Why?wheels turn paper

Because most traditional job descriptions consist of vague, nebulous terms that lump together a mishmash of skills, knowledge, abilities, attributes, responsibilities, experience, education and behavioral adjectives — none of which are consistent predictors of on-the-job-success.

“Traditional job descriptions don’t help to align organizational goals with individual or departmental goals,” adds Remillard, “and they don’t help to clarify expectations or create a roadmap for the hiring process.

“Worse, when you define a job in mediocre terms, as most traditional job descriptions do, you tend to attract mediocre candidates. When all you have to interview is mediocre candidates, you end up hiring mediocre people.”

Success Factor Snapshot

The solution to this quagmire, suggest Deutsch and Remillard, is the Success Factor Snapshot™, a powerful hiring tool that breaks down a position’s requirements in terms of specific, measurable deliverables, benchmarks and timetables.

The Success Factor Snapshot™ (or SFS) serves as the cornerstone of the Success Factor Methodology™ (Deutsch’s and Remillard’s trademarked hiring system) and offers several advantages over traditional job descriptions. The SFS:

• Makes it easier to define a position in terms of the candidate you need rather than the skills and experience someone has gained over the years.
• Serves as the foundation for the compelling marketing statement, a description of the job designed to attract top candidates.
• Provides the basis for a scorecard with which to evaluate and compare different candidates.
• Leads to a final, specific set of verification questions to ensure that the candidate being offered the position can actually accomplish the established goals.
• Allows a new hire to start the job knowing exactly what is expected of him or her.
• Provides a vehicle for managing the performance of individual employees and retaining top performers.

biz man riding rocketIn addition, the process of putting together a SFS assists with the recruiting process by prompting hiring managers to think about where to look for top talent. The SFS shapes the structure of the job interview and helps the hiring team focus on what needs to be done. Finally, the SFS provides the substance for core interview questions that ensure a high-quality interview.

“Perhaps most important, the SFS serves as a unifying tool throughout the hiring process,” states Deutsch. “It directly ties the individual goals of the position to the company’s strategic goals, so that you can hire to the specific results and outcomes the position needs to achieve.”

Creating the Success Factor Snapshot™

To create a Success Factor Snapshot™ for a specific position, suggest Deutsch and Remillard, first toss the outdated, generic job description out the window. Then use the SOAR technique to define success for the position:

Substantial goals. Identify the substantial goals you are trying to achieve in the position.
Obstacles. Identify the obstacles standing in the way of accomplishing each substantial goal.
Action. Identify the quantifiable, measurable action items that the person needs to take to accomplish each substantial goal.
Results. Identify the metrics you will use to measure success in the position. In other words, what results are you looking for?

Next, create a Success Factor Snapshot™ (using the SOAR methodology) with four basic steps:

  1. Identify the top departmental goals. Assemble the entire hiring team and, beginning with the annual operating plan, identify the three or four substantial departmental goals (S) that must be accomplished over the next 12 to 18 months in order for the department to achieve its portion of the operating plan.
  2. Identify the obstacles. For each of these goals, define two or three short-term obstacles (O) that must be overcome in order to achieve the goals. Identify specific actions (A) that will be taken to surmount the obstacles, and define measurable, time-based results (R).climbing
  3. Clarify the Success Factor. The SOARs represent the individual Success Factors that, when achieved, ensure the department meets its goals. For each departmental goal, consolidate the SOARs into one coherent statement, which becomes the Success Factor.
  4. Compile the Success Factors. Create a different Success Factor for each key departmental goal and compile them into one Success Factor Snapshot. You now have a clear description of success for the position.

A Picture of Success

What does a Success Factor Snapshot™ look like? Consider the following example for a vice president of operations:

Success Factor 1: Within 12 months, improve on-time deliveries from 90 to 95 percent.
• Within six months, develop and implement a vendor qualifications program that will achieve zero defects and 100 percent on-time deliveries.
• Within three months, improve machine utilization to 98 percent.
• Within three months, implement quality controls and procedures to ensure less than two percent defects.

Success Factor 2: Consolidate plant operations within 18 months.
• Within three months, develop and present to the CEO a plan to consolidate two plants with no down time.
• Within four months, complete a new plant layout that includes work cells for all manufacturing processes.
• Within nine months, have the first cells up and running and producing at levels prior to the move.

Success Factor 3: Reduce manufacturing costs by 10 percent.
• Conduct a SWOT analysis in the first three months and present a plan of action to reduce costs by 10 percent based on this analysis.
• Within six months, reduce machine setup time by 30 percent.
• Identify main drivers of overtime and within six months present a plan that will address these issues and a timeframe to eliminate them.

“Clearly, this looks very different than your typical job description,” notes Deutsch. “With the Success Factor Snapshot™, both you and the candidate know exactly what results are required from the position and what actions must be taken to achieve them. More important, because those results are closely aligned with the company’s most important objectives, achieving them means that everybody wins.”

computer artUltimately, the Success Factor Snapshot not only paints a clear picture of success, it also helps to attract a higher caliber of candidate.

“The underlying principle here is that you get what you define,” concludes Remillard. “If your job descriptions focus on minimum performance (as most do), you will attract people who can only achieve that minimum. In contrast, a compelling Success Factor Snapshot™ will attract those who are driven to achieve clear and challenging descriptions of success.

“In the long run, the number one action you can take to improve your hiring process is to use a Success Factor Snapshot™ to align all of your company’s cascading goals and attract top talent to come work for you.”

Created for Vistage View. Copyright 2014, Vistage International, Inc. All rights reserved.

Vistage International is the world’s largest CEO membership organization, helping executives become better leaders, make better decisions and get better results through a unique combination of peer group meetings, one-to-one coaching, expert workshops and access to “members only” conferences, online best practices and a global network of more than 13,000 executives. Learn more about membership at www.Vistage.com.

Examples of Success Factor Snapshots™ can be found in Deutsch and Remillard’s book, You’re Not the Person I Hired and on their website, www.impacthiringsolutions.com. In addition to the Success Factor Snapshot™ examples, you can also download a template to help create your Success Factors. Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard of Impact Hiring Solutions are veteran recruiters, national trainers, and hiring coachs to CEOs across the country as well as Vistage International speakers. Impact Hiring Solutions is a hiring portal, training, and hiring systems consulting company. Barry can be contacted at (310)378-4571 or barry@impacthiringsolutions.com and Brad at (949)310-5659 or Brad@impacthiringsolutions.com .

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Overcoming Hiring Mistake #2: Superficial Interviewing

By Vistage International, Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard

The sole purpose of an employment interview is to investigate whether the candidate can succeed in the open position. Uncovering that information requires a rigorous, disciplined interview process that leaves no question unasked and no stone unturned.interview with bizmen

Yet, according to Vistage speakers Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard, the second most common hiring mistake at the executive level involves just the opposite.

In too many cases, executive hires involve a sloppy, undisciplined process that fails to put candidates under the magnifying glass, verify claims or check facts. And when hiring managers accept at face value everything candidates say during job interviews, a bad hiring decision almost always follows.

“In our workshops and training sessions, we routinely ask executives what percentage of job applicants embellish or exaggerate their accomplishments during the interview,” says Deutsch. “In most cases, we hear a number from 100 to 125 percent, because many candidates embellish more than once.

“Granted, not every job candidate is guilty of what we call ‘interview puffery,’ but it does happen on a regular basis. And unless you take adequate steps to guard against it, you can easily end up with a hiring decision that ends in failure.”

The solution to eliminating candidate puffery and avoiding hiring mistake #2?

Become a great interview detective. And that, suggest Deutsch and Remillard, requires a rigorous three-step process.

Step One: The “Five Key Question” Interview

Through 20 years of experience recruiting and hiring top five percent talent, Deutsch and Remillard have identified five keys traits that are universal predictors of success at the senior executive level. To uncover whether candidates possess these essential traits, ask five key questions:

  1. Can you give me an example of a situation where you have demonstrated high initiative? Initiative is a lifelong pattern, not an anomaly. The top performers will be able to give you example after example.
  2. Would you please give me an example of when you have executed a project or a strategy flawlessly? Top performers don’t make excuses; they do what it takes to get the job done. They hit deadlines, achieve goals and meet budgets in spite of all the problems, bottlenecks, roadblocks and speed bumps that get in the way.
  3. Tell me about your most successful accomplishment in leading a cross-functional team on a major project or initiative? Top performers excel at team leadership. They know how to rally the troops and motivate people (even under difficult circumstances), and will have a minimum of several examples where they have built and led successful teams. “Be sure to insist on examples of cross-functional teams,” advises Remillard, “because strong leadership requires the ability to influence others not directly under your control.”
  4. One of our most critical objectives is <Success Factor/Outcome>. Would you please describe your most comparable accomplishment? Before you extend a high-level job offer, you need to feel confident that the candidate can achieve the Success Factors you’ve outline for the position. Comparative means “similar in scope, size, complexity, resources, budget and timeframe.” (Note: See Overcoming Hiring Mistake #1: Inadequate Job Descriptions for the importance of Success Factors in the hiring process.)
  5. Please walk me through how you would go about achieving <Success Factor> in our environment? This question addresses the candidate’s ability to adapt to your specific situation, environment or timeline. Does he or she understand what’s different in terms of size, scope, teams, people, changes, standards, resources, values and culture? More important, does the candidate ask intelligent questions and problem-solve to answer this question?

“Often, the questions the candidate asks during this discussion are more important and revealing than any statement they make,” says Remillard. “So pay close attention to their questions and the assumptions behind them. The only real wrong answer is ‘The same way I did before.’”

Step Two: Put The Candidate Under the Glass

To validate the candidate’s answers to the five key questions, Deutsch and Remillard recommend the “Magnifying Glass” approach, a technique that involves asking for multiple examples of each answer to make sure the behavior isn’t the exception to the rule.magnify

“Put on your reporter’s hat and ask ‘who, what, when, where and why?’ with several ‘how’ questions thrown in for good measure,” suggests Deutsch. “In other words, ask candidates to describe, in specific terms, who did what, where and when they did it, how they did it and why they did it that way. Then ask for the outcome/results to determine if their approach succeeded.”

Examples of generic magnifying glass questions include:

• Could you give me an example of that?
• Can you be more specific about that?
• Can you give me a bit more information about that?
• What were the most important details about that situation?
• Tell me about another time when you faced a similar situation.

The idea is to gather as many specific details as possible about each key question. To drill down further, ask questions more focused questions, such as:

• What was your role in the project?
• How did you define and measure success?
• Can you give me a few examples of your personal initiative on the project?
• When have you faced a comparable challenge?
• How did you and the team make midcourse corrections?
• What did you learn from this project?
• With the benefit of hindsight, what would you do differently next time?

“Be prepared to spend 15 to 30 minutes exploring the details of each example the candidate gives you,” adds Deutsch. “Keep going until you uncover what you need to know or it become apparent the candidate is being elusive or outright lying, at which point you might as well cut your losses and end the interview.”

Step Three: Homework Assignments

Once you’ve narrowed the candidate pool down to two finalists, it’s time to come up with some homework assignments to observe their thought processes, analytical skills and problem solving capabilities in real time.

According to Deutsch and Remillard, effective homework assignments involve projects of reasonable size and scope that relate to one of the most critical Success Factors listed in your Success Factor Snapshot™. The candidate should be given all the support he or she needs to complete the assignment, and should report back to the interview panel to present his or her results and conclusions based on the homework.

woman at computerExamples of homework assignments include:

  1. Bring in a sales plan/board presentation/financial statement you’ve created in a previous position, present it to the panel and be prepared to discuss it in detail. (Note: never ask candidates to divulge confidential information during a homework assignment.)
  2. Based upon what you know about our company and our needs, create a high-level strategy to address Success Factor X. We will give you access to the personnel and materials you need to complete the assignment.
  3. Take home this set of financial statements and analyze them. When you return, tell us where you see problems and how you would go about fixing them.
  4. Prepare a PowerPoint presentation on how you would begin to approach each Success Factor if you were offered this position.
  5. Outline the steps you would take to crate a vendor qualification program.

“Homework is one of the best ways to assess how a candidate thinks,” points out Remillard. “It also provides useful ancillary information about the candidate’s current work environment, resources, communication capabilities, strategy and planning techniques.

“In addition, some of the most qualified candidates are poor interviewers, while others are great at giving interviews but not so good when it comes to actually tackling problems. Homework levels the playing field and allows every final candidate the chance to demonstrate his or her aptitude and work style in your work environment.”

Some candidates may balk at the homework assignment because they perceive it as unpaid work. However, most top five percent talent, because of their self-motivated nature, will embrace the challenge and jump into the assignment with gusto. Either way, it helps to reassure the candidate that you don’t expect them to come up with the “right answer.” Instead, your goal is to assess their analytical, problem solving and presentation skills in your work environment.

“Successful interviewing is all about drilling down and getting to the facts,” concludes Deutsch. “By asking for example after example, you will discover a critical truth about the interviewing process — that candidates can’t make up false answers quickly enough. They have either done what they say they have done and can describe it in infinite detail, or digging bizmanthey will implode in front of you.

“To ensure that your interviewing process uncovers the information you need to know, ask the five key questions, probe for relevant details and give a meaningful homework assignment. You’ll get a very accurate picture of the candidate’s ability to perform on the job and, more important, you’ll make better hiring decisions.”

Created for Vistage View. Copyright 2014, Vistage International, Inc. All rights reserved.

Vistage International is the world’s largest CEO membership organization, helping executives become better leaders, make better decisions and get better results through a unique combination of peer group meetings, one-to-one coaching, expert workshops and access to “members only” conferences, online best practices and a global network of more than 13,000 executives. Learn more about membership at www.Vistage.com.

More interviewing information can be found in Deutsch and Remillard’s book, You’re Not the Person I Hired and on their website, www.impacthiringsolutions.com. Barry Deutsch and Brad Remillard of Impact Hiring Solutions are veteran recruiters, national trainers, and hiring coaches to CEOs across the country as well as Vistage International speakers. Impact Hiring Solutions is a hiring portal, training, and hiring systems consulting company. Barry can be contacted at (310)378-4571 or barry@impacthiringsolutions.com and Brad at (949)310-5659 or Brad@impacthiringsolutions.com .

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, 3130 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Santa Monica, CA 90403, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development, team building, interpersonal & communication training, career guidance & transition, conflict management, 360s, workshops, and executive & employee coaching. Other areas of expertise: Executive on boarding for success, leadership training for the 21st century, exploring global options for expanding your business, sales and customer service training and operational productivity improvement.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code and Cracking the Business Code, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.