The Hiring Process – What is the Target?

The Hiring Process – What is the Target?

How many of us have set out upon a hiring process with the goal of hiring only top performers just like Bob?  After all, Bob is the guy we wish we could clone.

With great care we create a Prevue benchmark that factors in all of the abilities, personality traits et al that we saw in Bob to identify the job related characteristics of a top performer. But when we start hiring people against our benchmark, we, not surprisingly, discover that everyone is a little bit different and it is difficult to find applicants who are a perfect match (90% to 95% job fit) to the benchmark.  Although we improve upon our hiring decisions, we haven’t hired a lot of Bobs.

So – how do we take our Prevue based hiring process to the next step?

Take a moment and reflect upon your workforce. What if you took a look at your existing employee base and divided them into three distinct groups:


Over the past 10 years, I have asked dozens of recruiters to rank their employees in this manner and they really have no problem doing so – the ratios may vary a bit, but they can definitely rank them.  By the way, it doesn’t matter how effective or ineffective your work group is, you can usually make these decisions without too much difficulty. The only thing that varies is how many end up in each group.

Now – ask one question in relation to this grouping:  What is your objective in the hiring process?

I expect that, like the vast majority of employers, your answer will be – to hire somebody in the top third = your top performers.  Like – a no brainer – right.

Well – No – I would argue that you should give equal time to insuring that you never again hire  somebody in the bottom third. Think about it – I expect that you, like most managers, are quite prepared to coach and develop the people in the middle group, but in all likelihood spend much of your time with the bottom third – with little return. So maybe we need to revise our objective to never again hire someone in the bottom third. As recruiters, we make decisions to hire candidates who are not an ideal fit in order to meet our objectives of filling vacant positions with the best candidates we can find. It would be unrealistic to always wait until we found the perfect fit. What we need to be careful of is that we don’t make an accommodation that crosses over the line on one of the behavioural attributes and, in fact, gives us someone who we know will not work out based upon our previous experience. So what does that mean to the hiring process and Prevue benchmark development?

Start by identifying the key issues that you’ve had with the bottom third – create a profile(s) of problem employees who historically haven’t succeeded in this job. In all likelihood you will identify several common themes of behaviour. Now, armed with this insight, you can add new dimensions to your decision making around applicant suitability and:

1. make more effective use of the critical hiring range (red zones) on your benchmark to place more emphasis on the importance of those results when you get to the interview; and

2. better understand the significance of applicant results that fall off the benchmark.

You will now be armed with information on those variances from the benchmark that you can’t live with.  So – when you have less than an ideal fit (90 to 95%) to the desired benchmark, you now have much greater insight into what you can or cannot succeed with should you make the hire decision.

Try this out the next time you are creating or reviewing a benchmark for a job and you will have taken the first step to improving your hiring process and never again hiring someone in the bottom third. Oh – by the way, as time goes by and your workforce average performance goes up, you will still be able to segment the employees this way with each review of the benchmark – to give you the opportunity to continually improve the workforce as the requirements of the position evolve.

Moral to this story – don’t take the first benchmark you develop for a position as the ultimate end game – keep raising the bar as your hiring results improve – in all likelihood the position will be redefined with changing expectations for performance as the position evolves and you increase the ratio of effective performers. You will always be able to divide your employees into three groups and raise the bar by defining a benchmark that identifies both of the profile of your most effective performer as well as the characteristics you don’t ever want to hire again.

Written by contributing author, Lynne Wallace

Lynne Wallace is the managing director of The Assessment Coach, an authorized Prevue Distributor with offices in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada.