First Who, Then What – Management Success Factors In Interviewing & Selection

I have had a really, really, really good year so far as an HR consultant. I have not been able to say that since 2007 and 2003 before that. In my opinion, one of the main reasons I have been so busy is because managers are consistently getting the wrong people on the bus (a Jim Collins term for the organization). I suspect it is because they don’t know what they don’t know and they are not putting the time and effort in the beginning of the process to get it right from the get go.

In order to be successful at interviewing and selection, I think it would benefit all managers if they read the book Good to Great, by Jim Collins. He refers to getting the right “who” (people/employees) on the “bus” (the organization) and making sure the “who” is going the right direction. Going the right direction is the “what” (the specific job) which ultimately means making sure they are doing the right things the right way. He says the first and most important thing is getting the right “who” aboard.  You have to do a good job in recruiting and selection, getting the “right” people on the bus first. Then you worry about the what.

One of the main reasons I have been so busy this year is because many companies are just not focusing on the number one thing – they are not doing a good job of recruiting and selecting the right “who.” I don’t think it’s purposeful at all;  I think perhaps they just don’t have the right tools in the interviewing toolbox, and in some cases never had them or don’t realize they are missing. Perhaps it’s one of those skills that everyone thinks they can do without any formalized training. Just like everyone thinks they can do HR — everyone thinks they recruit, interview and select.

They are WRONG!

Not everybody understands how to screen, probe, and research the who to make sure they are the right “who” to fit in the job and organization for which they are interviewing. Talent management is really and truly an art to perfect once the basic skills are learned. These skills are not ones that you are born with; you absolutely have to learn the best tips and techniques.

The result of assumimg you “got it when you don’t” is BAD Hires with BAD attitudes!

Here are just a few examples of problems I have been dealing with as a direct result of bad hires (“who’s” that have):

• Become disgruntled employees

• Sabotage the employer

• Do whatever they can to get back at the employer

• Call the attorneys to initiate a lawsuit against the employer and/or coworkers

• Call the federal agencies like the department of labor or EEOC

• Call the state human rights department

The list can go on and all this creates drama and takes a lot of time, energy, and money away from the success of the organization, and quite frankly away from the employees when you consider the bigger picture. The afterthought: “Had the management done a good job in the beginning they might not be in the place they are now –  calling consultants, like myself, or an attorney to help bail them out of these kinds of problems.”

Additional skill is required to develop the right behavioral based questions to help more accurately predict the KASO’s needed for the “what.”  Are the right questions being asked even once you do have the right who? The “what” interview questions determine prior training for the job and doing the right things the right way. Often interviewers will tend to ask questions around the topic but not specific enough to really determine whether the interviewee knows the job and can perform the job effectively. In some cases the “what” can be taught, and other cases you don’t really have time to train the person. Managers should seek the right training and not assume they have it. The cost of replacement can be up to a year’s worth of salary.

Learning how to effectively find the right “who” and “what” need a formalized training program. Over the years I have use DDI’s Target Selection Program, which I was trained on early in my career and have used ever since. My training included not only how to use the program as an interviewer, but also how to train others on it. While I have not formally trained anyone using the program, I still feel it is one of the most effective tools available.

There are a number of books by William Byham, Ph.D. that are very good resources for both the interviewer and the interviewee focusing on the targeted selection process.  I often recommend The Selection Solution: Solving the Mystery of Matching People to Jobs and Landing the Job You Want: How to Have the Best Job Interview of Your Life. The basis of both is looking at prior experience as a predictor of future success.

I know there are many other techniques available; what I would like to emphasize is there are preventative measures managers can and should take to ensure that they are interviewing the right way. Thus they need to look in the mirror and take responsibility for the bad hires they make instead of blaming the employee.

Get the right “who” and then determine if the right who knows the “what” and/or can be trained. You have to know what the “who” and “what” is in the first place to know how to ask for it in the right way. Turnover will go down, retention will go up, replacement costs will go down, and everybody will be happy, happy, happy!

To hear more about this topic listen to the author on Drive Thru HR, April 29, 2013, talking to host Bryan Wempen about this very issue.

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Donna Rogers, SPHR

Donna, aka @HRWarrior is a full time Instructor at University of Illinois at Springfield, owner of Rogers HR Consulting and the immediate past Director of the Illinois State Council of SHRM. She has over 20 years in the HR field and currently teaches Human Resources Management, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Development, and Strategic HR Management. She practices what she teaches for almost 100 clients in the central Illinois area.

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