"Picking people for a job
is like going to the store to buy apples," according to management consultant
Harry Levinson. "Before you go, you ought to know whether the apples are to
be eaten fresh, make into applesauce, baked into a pie or made into juice. Then,
you can make the appropriate choices."
The goal of selection interviews,
buying apples, is to make the most appropriate choices---to hire the right people
for the job. The goal is to match applicants with openings---more specifically
applicant's qualifications with job requirements. The interview is a subjective
tool that attempts to forecast a candidate's performance. No selection tool
can predict future performance with absolute certainty. But, if you understand
the job requirements, examine the applicant's past performance and use good
interviewing techniques, you're more likely to avoid "bad hires". These are
people who turn out to be a round pegs in square holes; people who you train
and then leave; and people who just aren't motivated to give their best. So
how can you avoid such costly hiring mistakes?
According to Roger Staubach,
"In business or in football, it takes a lot of unspectacular preparation to
produce spectacular results." Therefore, the first step to successful hiring
is preparation. If you really want to know if that person you're interviewing
has the requisite qualifications, you'll have to do more than a 30-second scan
of the resume and "shoot from the hip" questions. A thorough, accurate, and
focused job description is essential for effective interviewing. You may think
it's a bureaucratic nuisance but it can be a valuable tool in deciding who is
the best person for the position.
A job description is an
outline of the primary responsibilities of the job. It should list the major
task in order of importance. You need to have as complete a knowledge of the
job as possible, not only the present "must have's" but the future needs of
the position as well. Then you need to determine the skills required to perform
the job. Job skills include technical skills and performance skills. Both are
Technical skills are typically
learned through education, training, or on-the-job experience. For example,
typing, computer programming, machine operation, financial analysis, and graphic
design are all technical skills. You might think of technical skills as what
a person "can do".
Performance skills are how
a person will do the particular job. These are more like work habits and personal
characteristics and are transferred from job to job. Flexibility, assertiveness,
paying attention to details, ability to cope under pressure are all examples
of performance skills. They are as important as technical skills. Research has
shown that many "bad hires" are due not for technical reasons but because of
motivation, energy, values, or interpersonal skills. If you do not explore these
skills, you may get a highly qualified person who is not able to work in a particular
atmosphere or group of people.
In a recent conversation
with a manager, who had just finished formulating a job description for the
head of a growing information systems department, I was told: "Initially, I
thought I needed someone who had technical mastery. But when I defined the job
in terms of its objective, what I realized was that I needed someone who could
develop the department and determine what the rest of the company required of
it. I needed a communicator and negotiator---not an inspired computer wizard".
Remember, in any selection
interview there are three basic questions you'll need to answer during the interview.
- Can this person do the
job that they are interviewing for? That's the technical fit -- the basic
skills to do the job.
- Does she have the traits
and desire to effectively do the job? That's the motivation fit - the basic
personal attributes to do the job.
- Does she fit into the
company culture? You know what works and what does not within your company,
and this is a very important barometer of success. Start choosing winners!