Hire Right The First Time, Part 2

By Dana Borowka

Is your company still hiring employees using the same process it did five years ago? Think carefully about the question for a moment. Is the company recruiting, screening, interviewing, and verifying using the same techniques and procedures as in the past?

Next question. Do you wonder why so many of your new hires don’t remain in their jobs over six months, or why other companies seem to attract and keep solid employees, but not your company?

It is time for every company to re-examine their hiring practices, or risk falling behind in the race to win great talent.

In Part One (see Hire Right the First Time (http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/hire-right-first-time/) . . . February 27, 2019) I explored the new rules of recruitment and the necessity of in-depth workstyle and personality assessments.

In this, Part Two, I look at interviewing, background checks, and skills testing. Combined, these practices must form the pillars of a modern-day hiring procedure for companies and organizations of all sizes.

1. Recruitment
2. Interviewing
3. Background Checks
4. In-depth Assessments of Skills and Work Style

Why Change the Hiring Procedure?

In Part One I opened by stating that a wrong hiring decision costs a company 2-3 times the employee’s annual salary. That hurts no matter if it’s an entry-level position or a top executive. Cost is reason enough to change how talent is recruited and hired. But, there’s even more justification for change.

The success of the entire organization is at stake. A company is only as good as the combined ability of its employees to meet customer expectations and outperform the competition. Good employees matter, but therein lies the problem.

Good employees are rare today no matter the industry. (For simplicity sake let’s define “good” as those people with the right skills and right work style personality to perform their given duties with excellence over time). The demand for good employees is higher than ever. The supply is lower than ever. A company has to work differently today to find prospective employees and then identify the “good” ones – those that have the right work style personality and skills to do the job well within the company’s culture.

A Recruiter’s Advice

One area for improvement is how we find and recruit prospective employees. I mentioned in Part One some considerations for a modern-day recruitment effort. To this I’ll add a note about using an executive search firm. Companies frequently make two mistakes in this area. According to Barry Deutsch, Founder of Impact Hiring Solutions (http://www.impacthiringsolutions.com/) and co-author of “You’re Not the Person I Hired”, companies too often use search firms before they must, and they tend to hire a recruiter based only on industry focus.

“Working your network to seek referrals is the absolute first place a company should look when attempting to find candidates for a key role in the company,” Deutsch advises. “Only after shaking the trees should you consider investing in an executive search firm.”

Once a decision is made to use a recruiter, avoid the temptation to think that only those with prior experience in your field can be successful. As Deutsch explains, “Just because a recruiter spent years as an electrical engineering manager, doesn’t mean they’ll be able to bring you the best engineering candidates.” Having a network within a specialty or industry is helpful, but just knowing who to call isn’t the biggest value a recruiter brings to the table. “Effective recruiters earn their fees by being adept at convincing people who already have a good job to consider leaving it for another better opportunity,” Deutsch said. “Ninety percent of managerial and executive positions are filled by people who were already employed and not actively thinking about making a switch.”

Learn the Right Way to Interview

The interview process in most companies is woefully ineffective, according to Deutsch, and is largely to blame for poor hiring decisions. “Companies aren’t investing enough time in preparing for the interview,” he said. He advises his clients to first set the right expectations for the job and make everyone involved in the interview aware of the job’s expectations. “This goes hand in hand with a detailed job description. What is the position expected to know and to accomplish, and by when?”

Once the expectations are documented, map a list of questions to those expectations. “Stop asking the standard, stupid 20 questions. Get strategic with your questions so you receive pointed, meaningful answers,” Deutsch advises. “If you do this important step, you will move closer to hiring the best candidate not the candidate who interviews best.”

Validate Resume and Interview Answers

The next steps in the hiring process will be new to many companies, but a mandatory addition if the organization hopes to achieve a higher level of hiring success. The steps involve Background Checks, Skill Testing, and In-Depth Work Style and Personality Testing.

An article in Inc. Magazine quoted a HireRight 2017 employment screening benchmark report that claimed 85% of employers caught applicants fibbing on their resumes. According to Gordon Basichis, Co-Founder of Corra Group (http://www.corragroup.com/), criminal record and education deception are the most common “surprises” uncovered by Background Checks. The potential hidden liability for the employer is obvious.

Basichis explains that the most common mistake by employers is not going far enough with a background check simply because they are not aware of the types of background checks and in which cases they should be conducted.

1. Employment verification. A leading point of inconsistency.
2. Education verification. Another area of high discrepancy.
3. Social Security Trace. Traces where someone has lived the past seven years.
4. County Civil and Criminal Records. These tend to be the most accurate, but it’s important to know where the candidate has lived so all the counties can be searched.
5. Federal Criminal and Federal Civil Records. Typically, these checks are for employees involved with government contracts, financial positions, or high-level executives.
6. Terror Watch List.

Basichis urges companies to follow the advice of an HR specialist and employment attorney when setting policies for background checks. There are numerous regulations and guidelines at the Federal, State and City levels which must be followed regarding how Background Checks can be conducted and used in the hiring process.

Okay, the candidate aced the well-prepared interview questions, passed the background check with flying colors. Do you extend an offer? Not so fast.

Verifying Skills

The candidate may have said all the right things, but do they really have the skills required for the job? Testing is the only way to verify if the person can do the job as expected. Fortunately, online skills tests exist for hundreds of common jobs from Accounting to Manufacturing to Software Programming.

There simply isn’t an excuse today for hiring someone ill-suited for a job. Candidates can be given a 15-30 minute online skills test in your office and the results are known immediately.

Last year Lighthouse Consulting began offering its clients a catalog of some 200 Skills Tests (http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/talent-development/skills-testing/) in 16 job categories. These pay-on-demand tests cost $22.50 to $100 – a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of training or re-hiring.

Identifying the Work Style Personality

Great, the skills test was successful, the background checked out, and the interview questions were answered to your satisfaction. NOW can you make the offer? Better not. You may know a lot about this candidate, but you don’t know how they work, or how they work with others. That’s where in-depth workstyle and personality assessments (http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/assessment-tests/) play an invaluable role in hiring, promoting and team formation.

I went into detail about in-depth work style and personality assessments in Part One (http://www.lighthouseconsulting.com/hire-right-first-time/) of this article, so I’ll recap the key point here. If you aren’t conducting this type of assessment, start doing so immediately. If you are using a tool with only four primary scales (5-10 minute assessment) it might work as a very basic screener but is too superficial to reveal insightful behavioral information about the candidate. In fact, some companies have learned to not even bother with these simplistic profiles. They prefer to give final candidates an in-depth assessment (minimum 164 questions).

As a manager you know all too well the importance of knowing an employee’s work style and how they will interact (or not) with others. Only in-depth assessments based on 16 levels (we call them “scales”) gives you a true picture of the individual on which a hiring decision can be based.

The Pillars of Hiring Success

In conclusion, the structure for achieving hiring success at 80% or better consists of four pillars.

1. Recruitment
2. Interviewing
3. Background Checks
4. Work Style Personality and Skill Assessments

LCS and our partners stand ready to quickly help you put into place the training, tools, and procedures necessary to build a highly effective and competitive organization through better hiring. Reach out to me any time to get started. danab@lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

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, Santa Monica, CA, (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.

Should Skills Testing be a Standard Operating Procedure for Hiring?

By Dana Borowka, MA

I’ve noticed an interesting trend that I want to share with you. In the past 12 months we’ve been receiving a lot more questions about pre-employment skills testing. We’ve taken notice. Something has shifted. Companies that had never before considered using skills testing in their hiring process, now ‘suddenly’ had an interest in learning more. Other companies that had used skills testing only sparingly were exploring what additional tests were available.

Yes, something was up alright. As I talked with these companies the reason behind their intensified interest in skills testing became clear.

Elephant in the room by David Blackwell

The Elephant in the Room

Every company I spoke to was having an exceedingly difficult time hiring people that had the right skills for the job, no matter what the job. The elephant in the room during these discussions was that companies were getting burned time and time again. The cost of the hiring mistakes was escalating. Too many candidates who went through the screening and hiring process failed to perform up to expectations once on the job.

Anecdotally, I knew this was a big problem. Employers can’t be 100% certain that a candidate has the right skills based on resume, references, and interviews. Even in-depth work style and personality assessments, like we do for our clients, aren’t designed to verify job skills. I wondered just how big a problem it is. I did some research.

The Department of Labor estimates the cost of a bad hire is equal to at least 30% of first year salary. “Wow”, I said to myself, doing some quick math in my head. Hire a $30,000 bookkeeper that doesn’t have the right bookkeeping skills, and there’s a $9,000 hit to the bottom line. Hire a $50,000 PC administrator without the right technical skills, write off another $15,000.

These numbers got me to think about what contributes to the high costs.

1. Lost time and productivity of the people involved in the hiring process
2. The new employee’s mistakes often have hard costs associated with them – poor service or product quality for example
3. The productivity of the new hire is well-below expectations
4. The possible negative impact on customers and your brand image
5. Training the new hire to achieve a skill-level they should have had in the first place
6. Replacing the employee

As managers we know the hassle and frustration attached to hiring someone without the right skills. What’s more, there are considerable hard and soft costs associated, too, as the list above shows and the Department of Labor statistics prove.

Is Skills Testing the Panacea for Hiring Mistakes?

With a problem this large we at LCS saw an opportunity. We’re now offering a catalog of online skills tests for our clients. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me explore with you how skills testing is best used. I’ll debunk a few myths along the way.

How Skills Testing is Best Used

If you really want to improve the success of your new-hires, incorporate skills testing and personality assessments in the hiring process. Nothing is fool-proof, but believe me, if you do both types of testing together with smart interviewing, your new-hire success rate will go way up. The failure rate (and the costs associated with it) will drop like a rock.

I’ve been a proponent of skills testing for a very long time, IF they are used properly. Skills testing is a tool, like so many others available to managers. Tools can be misused. Tools can be trusted too much.

Here’s the point. Just because a candidate has the right skills for a specific role in your company doesn’t mean you should hire the person. A great skills test score doesn’t mean the person will be a great fit in your company.

The mistake that I’ve seen made by hiring managers is to place too much weight on skills test results. Good resume, good references, interviews went well, aced the skills test – fabulous, make that woman an offer fast!

Not so fast. Is her work style a good match for the role? Is her personality a good fit for the level of responsibility and interaction necessary? Skills testing doesn’t venture into these waters. This is the realm of the in-depth work style and personality assessment.

Skills Testing Only Works if you Know What Skill Level Matters

I can’t emphasize this point enough. If your company hasn’t identified the specific skills required for each position, a test is not going to be all that useful. Let me use a sports analogy.

A track coach has try outs for his sprint team. Five athletes show up wanting to make the team for the 100-meter event. The coach gets out his stop watch. Lines all five at the starting line and fires the starting gun. Bang. Off they run.

The coach looks at his watch as the first racer crosses the finish line several steps ahead of the others. Click. The fastest racer covered the 100 meters in 11.2 seconds. Better than the other four. Does the coach offer the racer a position on the team? He will if he doesn’t know what speed is necessary for his 100-meter squad to compete effectively. Sure, he’ll have a racer for the 100 meter event, but the team will never win. He won’t offer the position to any of the five candidates if he knows that a pace of at least 10.1 seconds is necessary to win in his conference. In this case the required skill is running the 100 meters in 10.1 seconds or less.

The Never-Ending Search for the Perfect Candidate

LCS is deeply involved in the active hiring processes of hundreds of clients. I make this claim just to point out that few companies are better positioned to observe and assess the hiring practices of so many companies. What we’ve noticed is companies tend to fall into two categories. Those that take too long to find and hire employees. And those who have found a way to hire more quickly and retain those employees. What is the difference?

There are many facets to this. Most are beyond the scope of this article, but one is very relevant. The companies who are the most successful realize that the perfect candidate doesn’t exist. They know it’s fool-hardy to spend valuable time and resources searching for the perfect person.

They identify the best person available and which areas will need to be developed in that person once hired. This change in strategy presents an integrated view of hiring and training. So, where does skills testing enter the picture?

Let’s go back to the race track. The coach has one athlete who ran the 100 meters in 11.2 seconds, a full second slower than a competitive pace. If the coach knows that a short period of training and conditioning can shave a second off the time, he’ll gladly bring the person onto the team. A diamond in the rough, so-to-speak.

Same philosophy holds with enlightened companies who use skills testing wisely. If you have a fabulous candidate who is missing a few skills that can be learned quickly, hire the person and build the training into the 90-day probationary period.

The skills test results tell you exactly what skills need to be learned. The training can focus on those areas.

This also makes it a lot easier and more effective when it comes time to buy the training, or arrange the mentoring in-house. You know exactly the skills to be gained.

LCS to the Rescue

After doing our research and talking with more clients about skills testing, we’re convinced this is a service we should be offering.
The catalog we’re offering has been hand-selected from tests Fortune 500 companies rely on in their hiring. These are time-proven, industry-accepted tests in the following categories:

• Accounting
• IT
• Office Software
• Language
• Industrial
• Customer Service
• Sales
• Math
• Honesty

I invite you to visit the Skills Testing page on our website that includes more information, including brief descriptions of the tests we’re offering.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (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 “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

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.