Current hiring practices are based on certain assumptions about candidates and their career achievements, and these achievements are used to predict the likelihood of future success in a new position. Oftentimes, employers do not understand the job factors and behavioral questions to ask during an interview to help them identify if a candidate is truly a good match based on objective performance factors. The end result is a candidate hired based on emotion and likeability rather than specific talents, abilities, knowledge and personality attributes required for the job and the culture of the company. This creates company-wide disruption, stress and inefficiency not only in the hiring process, but also in company operations. This interview strategy guide holds promise for assisting hiring managers in their work to make successful, high-impact hiring decisions.
In today’s competitive business environment, determining key job factors for success in a specific position can make the difference between hiring the best talent or becoming noncompetitive. The type of job factors that employers need to be concerned about most include knowledge, skills, ability and behavior required to successfully function in a specific position.
The most important aspect for any company is how the hiring and selection process is implemented and managed. Unfortunately, the hiring practices within many organizations are too lax. A common scenario that I encounter in my practice: A hiring manager identifies a resource need in her group, and she meets with the head of human resources to discuss the job description and requirements for the job. The human resource professional accepts the task of writing a job description. This person conducts a basic position analysis, an informal process by which information about a specific job is collected, and outlines the responsibilities of the position. Most often, the information collected during the position analysis does not properly identify important job functions or responsibilities. With little specific information about the position, the human resource professional either posts the job description to various career sites or sends it to a recruiter for assistance. This traditional approach to hiring does not put enough emphasis on the job factors, such as the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA) required to successfully perform in a specific position.
Oftentimes, when an employer is interviewing a potential job candidate, the employer does not understand the questions to ask to solicit the right information for a position. Nor does he understand the appropriate questions to ask during an interview to help him identify if a candidate is truly a good match based on objective performance factors. The end result is a candidate hired based on emotion and likeability rather than on specific talents, abilities, knowledge and personality attributes required for the job and the culture of the company. This creates company-wide disruption, stress and inefficiency not only in the hiring process, but also in company operations.
To understand the hiring practices of Austin-based companies, I interviewed ten employer representatives including three executive recruiters working for a service company, four VPs of Human Resources working at large to mid-size companies and three staffing managers working for upstarts. The goal was to elicit their perspectives on the importance of questions to ask to determine the key factors necessary to perform well in a specific job. The key questions that I sought answers to include:
- Question 1: Do you currently identify job factors necessary for job performance with each open position?
- Question 2: What types of questions do you and your hiring teams ask of candidates to determine if they will be an optimal performer?
- Question 3: What types of questions do you and your hiring teams ask of candidates to determine if they will be a good culture fit?
- Question 4: What process do you employ to ensure consistency during the interview phase?
- Question 5: For your open positions, do you clearly understand the specific job factors and the importance of each of those factors to create a successful outcome?
Start With a Simple Foundation
The questions may seem obvious to answer, but they are not. In nearly all of the cases, the representatives interpreted job factors to mean job requirements. During the research, each representative and I reviewed two or more job descriptions and compared them to job descriptions located on various job sites such as www.monster.com. The purpose was to demonstrate the close similarity between job descriptions. I also observed several interviews, from beginning to end, with each of the representatives and their hiring teams to observe how they collect information about candidates to make informed and objective hiring decisions. After sitting in on the interview debriefs and analyzing the information gained during the hiring process, it became apparent to me that very few of the companies had consistent and objective hiring practices. Many of the interviewers had no idea what constituted success in a given role, and therefore, asked questions that were irrelevant or in many cases didn’t ask the right questions. In all of the cases, the employer did not use the same interview team to screen and qualify candidates for a specific position, creating inconsistent evaluations.
Having gone through a complete hiring cycle with each of the representatives, I felt a good place to initiate a change was in the beginning with the job definition phase. With the information that I collected during the research, I provided each company with my recommendations for resolving current issues and making simple changes that could streamline the process and prevent future hiring problems.
A free half-day workshop was held for the employer representatives to educate and prepare them to implement the new Job Factors Model. Each of the hiring managers was asked to bring a job description and information about the requirements for the position based on the collection process. We started the session by reviewing the job profile to determine job responsibilities and requirements, then moved on to identify the knowledge, skills and abilities required to successfully perform in the job. We assigned a numerical weight to each job factor to indicate its relative importance. Evaluating “importance” was based on three elements: (1) the frequency a requirement will be performed, (2) the percentage of time spent doing the work, and (3) the consequences if the requirement is not performed properly. Below is an example of one of the specific requirements for a Product Manager position:
|Develop and implement market positioning, messaging, pricing and launch strategies for all products|
|Problem Solving||Requires business savvy and strategic problem solving skills – the ability to evaluate market trends to predict changes in the industry that result in products that solve customer problems.||10|
|Visionary skills||Develop an image of how a solution could work in a customer’s environment better than competition to solve real-world problems.||6|
|Critical Thinking Skills||Using logic and analysis to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches.||10|
|Analytical skills||Evaluate and compare pricing strategies among many players, and use mathematics to project price points and discounts for specific volumes.||6|
|Judgment and Decision-Making||Weighing the relative costs and benefits of a potential action.||8|
|Product Marketing||Knowledge of principles and methods involved in showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategies and tactics, product demonstration and sales techniques.||15|
|Administration and Management||Knowledge of principles and processes involved in business and organizational planning, coordination, and execution. This includes strategic planning, resource allocation, manpower modeling, leadership techniques, and production methods.||10|
|Customer Service||Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services including needs assessment techniques, quality service standards, alternative delivery systems, and customer satisfaction evaluation techniques.||5|
|Oral Comprehension||The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.||8|
|Oral Expression||The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.||8|
|Originality||The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.||4|
|Fluency of Ideas||The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a given topic. It concerns the number of ideas produced and not the quality, correctness, or creativity of the ideas.||5|
|Problem Sensitivity||The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.||5|
Peel Back the Onion
In addition to using the Job Factors Model, we used two additional techniques to help hiring managers peel back the onion during the interview process. The first technique included the use of behavioral interviewing, a technique used to elicit specific examples of past experiences, to determine if there are behavioral patterns that indicate success or failure in the job. The second technique is a simple data collection method used by the interviewer to collect pertinent information about the candidate’s stories. The interviewer’s goal is to capture three core pieces of relevant information. The first piece of information, S for situation, should briefly describe the candidate’s specific circumstances or situation. The second bit of information, A for action, should reveal how the candidate approached the situation or problem. The third piece of information, R for results, should describe the candidate’s results for the given situation. Below is an example of the model we used to capture information from the behavioral interview process.
|Job Factors||Behavioral Questions||Candidate Stories|
|Problem Solving||Give me an example of a time when you demonstrated excellent problem solving skills to solve a customer problem.||S: Describe the situation.
A: Describe the actions.
R: Describe the results.
|Originality||Tell me about a time when you came up with a clever solution to a marketing challenge.||S: Describe the situation.
A: Describe the actions.
R: Describe the results.
|Product Marketing||Describe the specific process that you used to promote product X into the Financial Services space.||S: Describe the situation.
A: Describe the actions.
R: Describe the results.
Organizations who do poorly in the hiring process, because their screening and hiring standards are imprecise or lax, or because they do not emphasize a long term view – or think through the consequences for the future of their actions – and are instead motivated by personal preferences, or an undue sense of urgency, are likely to become weaker in the marketplace. Organizations that create a consistent and demanding hiring process, one that allows for contentious thought and patient implementation of the process, tend to improve their competitiveness in the market, sustain a high level of employee morale and enhance their attractiveness to stakeholders, as well as other potential candidates
The Job Factors Model takes only a few weeks to set-up and train employees on the use of the model. The model requires more focused management of the process, however, all of the employer representatives feel its time well spent and more than worth the effort. They believe their company will benefit by making better hiring decisions, improving the performance of existing