75% Have Hired the Wrong Person
I’ll never forget Jack Welch saying you have about a 50/50 chance of hiring the right person.
Surveys confirm that the majority of organizations have hired the wrong person.*
The wrong hire:
- Drains resources.
- Lowers productivity.
- Demotivates current employees.
- Distracts management.
5 steps to hire the right leader:
#1. Ask potential new leaders to make a list of the top 12 leadership qualities, behaviors, and practices.
#2. Ask candidates to use behavioral examples to define the items on their list.
#3. Ask candidates to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 for each item on their list. (1 being low. 10 being perfect.)
Be sure to have 10 represent perfect attainment. Reject candidates who give themselves a 10 on any item.
Don’t hire anyone who doesn’t need to develop.
#4. Hand candidates a prepared list of the top 12 leadership qualities, behaviors, and practices for your organization. Create your list based on the most successful leaders in your culture. Here’s an example of a list you might create:
- Challenging the status quo.
- Outward focus.
#5. Dig deeper.
- Ask them to use behavioral examples to describe the items on your list.
- Ask them to rate themselves on a scale of 1 to 10 using your list.
- Discuss the lists:
- What do you notice when you compare the two lists? Their list doesn’t need to match yours. The exercise is a conversation starter.
- What leadership qualities, behaviors, or practices do you most need to develop? Use their own ranking system.
- If you were to develop your leadership, what would you do next?
Open to learning has more promise than contentment with progress.
There’s more to hiring the right leader. For example:
- Background checks.
- Reference checking.
- Team interviews.
- Shared meals.
- Creative interview question.
How might organizations hire the right leaders and managers?
What’s an important component to your hiring practices?
*75% have hired the wrong person based on Careerbuilder Survey.
I can attest, I hired 2 or 3 persons based on recommendations of others and “my gut” said “no” , my heart said give them a chance! “Keep the heart out of it”, was my lesson! If your instincts tell you something isn’t right “trust your instincts”.
Some key questions can help with the hiring process, depending on “honest answers”. Let your experience derive questions you know only experienced people can answer, “dig a little deeper”, may pay off with rewards far greater than one realizes.
The process may seem cruel for companies, for one to prosper you need to make the correct decisions. The decision of hiring individuals not prime for the fit is costly as you pointed out.
Thanks Tim. I respect your transparency. You comment got me thinking about the emotion of hiring. Even though this post is about a willingness to develop, we have to be sure candidates have the essential skills, regardless of how we feel.
I should have gone farther in my comment, when I hired these individuals or recommended them they did show a willingness, what they did not have was mechanical inclinations, able to work without being supervised, strong math skills, and some insubordination habits that needed corrected, more than once. So I guess we could say they did not have the right “fit”.
There are times you can not judge the book by the cover or the interview.
Thanks for jumping back in. As always, it’s a pleasure reading your comments and insights.
Hitting on the head by using behavioral examples. The only way you can predict future behavior is by using their past behavior. We have focused on whether the person will “fit” over technical ability for the past few years and have had great success. You can’t build a culture then not have your hiring practices fit in to match that culture. Hiring is about fit and their willingness to learn the job. You can mix technical and “fit” but “fit” should always be first.
Thanks Joe. Culture fit is a whole other post. Thanks for bringing it up. It’s great to hear that this approach is working for you. What are you doing to determine if there is a fit?
Our interviews are based on our overall core values and then specific traits/behaviors/qualities that the person will need to work in the department they are being hired for. We spend a lot of time up front in the hiring process to get this right. Some of our behavioral interviews can be lengthy but we feel that is needed to get the hire correct. Of course it can’t stop there, once they are hired there still needs to be time devoted to core values and culture and learning the job with almost equal balance.
Thanks Joe. Values are another important aspect to hiring the right people. As you indicate, if you’re hiring for fit, shared values are at the center of the process. Your addition along with Paul’s (below) are great additions to this important topic.
I’m sure you don’t ignore skills. But it’s great to read that your focus on fit is working.
Have them demonstrate their skills, approach, style etc.
Have the applicant do a short 10-to-15 minute presentation on their leadeship philosophy.
Have them run a short 20 min. meeting on an assigned topic.
Have them conduct a coaching session with a person who is having a time management issue.
Have them write up a summary of the day’s activities.
The more you see them in action, the clearer you view will be of how they will perform on the job.
Thanks Paul. We can’t underestimate the importance of moving from talk to action. It’s one thing to talk it. It’s another thing to actually do it. Thanks for your suggestions.
I like the idea of behavioral examples, it is finally a response where the rubber meets the road. I don’t like people answering on a scale where everyone has a different calibration of what the numbers mean. I would rather hear about strengths and weaknesses in a particular area.
Thanks Patrick. Your point about ranking is important. It’s subjective. Some naturally rank themselves higher, others lower. Some of us are hard on ourselves. Others are kinder to themselves.
I like the scale question as a point of conversation, more than evaluation. Why did you give yourself a 7? If you gave yourself an 8, what would be true of you? Who do you know that ranks the same as you? What makes you say that.
You might be able to use a scale ranking for strengths and weaknesses. Again, the idea is to have a conversation, rather than making a final assessment.
Thanks for your insights.
An interesting topic and well covered!
Appointing right leaders is vital and a must for ensuring the right future for an organization. The process has to be a mixture of varied checks and should have at least 3 rounds of interview by all concerned seniors. However, the interview panel at every level shouldn’t be more than 3 persons. More the number, higher is the chance of a wrong selection!
A small presentation covering the manner in which the key aspects of job role will be covered can be one of the good ways to test the strategic skills with Q & A. One-to-one talks can be an additional way to cross-check the work based credentials.
Reference checks are actually of not much help since the references are chosen by a candidate. Believe in a candidate and test the relevant leadership skills with right questions.
Thanks Dr. Asher. I’m glad you joined today’s conversation.
Your point about references is important. The best references are ones that come from a group of coworkers. However, as you indicate, we should think of references as a part of the process, not the final determinant.
Hi Dan, I love what you do in this column. I read it and share it frequently.
And this is the first time I have to disagree with you. 😉
The above methodology doesn’t address the chronic problem of people saying one thing and doing another and the second larger problem of clearly defining what those words mean and the biggest problem of all is closing the Knowing-Doing Gap.
I believe you are missing the crucial first step of defining “Leadership for what?” Are we talking Compliance? Growth? Service? Innovation?
Second, language needs to be defined. For example, “grit” is often cited. But what does that mean? Ask five different people and you’re likely to get five different meanings. Drilling down, what does “grit” mean in a sales role? customer service? accounting?
With clearly defined measurable attributes you assess whether the person has the natural propensity to live those behaviors in the job. If you define grit has resiliency in the face of rejection and someone by nature doesn’t handle rejection well you can’t train them to have grit.
If you mean grit to hold others accountable in difficult situations a person who isn’t comfortable with conflict is really going to struggle. They may limp along as a B player, but it’s unrealistic to believe you can train them to be A players.
Self-assessing is rarely accurate and the other steps are very, very time-consuming and most hiring managers won’t take the time to do them and leadership often doesn’t have the bandwidth or buy-in to enforce it. I’ve seen too many organizations with super complex evaluating systems that are costly and worthless.
Using a scientifically validated psychometric assessment before the interview is more effective and efficient. You will be able to probe directly around the gaps. I use the Predictive Index but there are others (just not as good in my opinion).
Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions. And thank you for the work you are doing in this space. It is very needed. If organizations would focus more on this single issue I believe their other problems would fall in line.
Your addition of “Leadership for what” is an essential part of the conversation. I made a huge assumption on that point.
Behavioral descriptions of terms like grit definitely need a specific context. Thanks for your insights.
If 75% of people are the wrong hires — very likely those interviewing candidates for employment are hiring the wrong people at least 95% of the time. There is already a strong bias to hire someone like yourself with the same priorities, work ethic, and level of competence.
Thanks Chris. I should have been more clear. It’s not that 75% of the people are wrong hires but that 75% of organizations have make hiring mistakes. I don’t mean to indicate that 75% of the people are bad hires.
However, your insight regarding hiring someone like yourself is important. We see it all the time. I like the people who are like me. 🙂 In the end, teams become very lop sided. Diversity is an important factor in high performance.
To keep life in the real world the exercise to rate oneself is useless and a complete waste of time. Been there, done that. A proven track record with the background checks, reference checking, team interviews, shared meals, creative interview questions and after all that is done the final AND most important, The Gut Instinct, that little small voice. Using life experience, to ask someone to rate him/her self is too self serving, however a proven tract record and a can do attitude is hard to beat.
Thanks Ron. I’ve found the ranking system useful when we give concrete examples for the numbers we assign ourselves. The point is to have a conversation, not to make a final evaluation.
Having said that. when it comes to interviews, talk is a beginning. Track record, as you indicate really helps.
We should also remember that a persons past performance is often tied to their team members. When we bring high performers to a new team, they often don’t perform as well as they did in the past. This observation emphasizes the importance of culture and fit.
Thanks for jumping in.
I notice the criteria are based on pure leadership capabilities, without any weighting of other skillsets. My experience has been that when pure leaders or pure managers are set at the head of highly technical groups, there is a grave reluctance to accept these leaders/managers. What contribution to the wrong hire statistics comes from this mismatch?
Thanks Mitch. Technical knowledge is more relevant the closer a leader/manager is to front line work.
In some cases, technical skill causes leaders to struggle with people on their team who aren’t as skilled as they are. I have had conversations with managers who are promoted because of technical expertise. It’s not easy for these managers to trust others, determine what is good enough, and build relationships with people they feel superior to.
Having said that, you’re point is really helpful. It expands this conversation.
Dan, I’ve seen that other scenario you describe too. I guess technical is difficult!
Totally unrelated to this post. Have you ever done a post on managing/leading passive aggressive staff?
Not that I recall. Interesting idea. Thanks.
I would like your valuable insight into managing passive aggressive staff
I think we all have experienced hiring the wrong person for the job and true enough, we have wasted time and resources for that person. However, there are also organizations that take the extra effort to make that wrong person be the right one by giving training to develop his skill. This list is a great help to avoid hiring the wrong ones though.
I think the past of this person matters as well! You never know for sure if this person is lying about its education or his criminal background (you can, however, know if you hire the right service like trustedemployees.com). And such checks can save you a lot of money!