Some Organizations Hire the Wrong People and Pay a Huge Price Trying to Recover

By John Grom

     It's a rare organization that does not proudly proclaim that "Our People Are Our Most Important Asset." The statement is on the headquarters lobby wall, in the annual report, in speeches made by senior executives and anywhere else the PR people think it sounds good. The fact is it's true, even if top management doesn't always believe it. The most important key to the success of any organization is having the right people in the right positions, properly trained, equipped, led and motivated to meet or exceed the goals of the organization. Sometimes I shake my head when I see how the leadership of some organizations go about the task of putting the right people in the right job. Staffing is often treated as an incidental detail to finish quickly with very little effort. Some of the ways I have seen this task approached include:
  • Run an ad in a newspaper or trade journals and hire the best of those who respond.
  • Get a bunch of resumes from an internet service and pick the one who comes closest to meeting the job specification.
  • Hire someone because they have good connections or through nepotism.
  • Interview a long string of poorly screened candidates. Then at some point when interview fatigue sets in on the selection team, hire the next person in the door who comes close to the specification.
  • Hire someone everybody personally likes, even though they don't exactly fit the specification. Watch out for the word chemistry during interviewer debriefing.
  • Hire someone with outstanding credentials, albeit the wrong credentials for the job at hand and try to reshape the job to fit the person.
     I don't think these ill advised methods are used because management is lazy, it is often because they just don't know what else to do. Sometimes they underestimate the difficulty of the selection process. Sometimes the hiring manager has an image in mind and wants to hire someone who looks just right. Top organizations place a high priority on skillful employee selection and put many valuable resources to work in the effort. ( "Good to Great" by Jim Collins). They have found that by putting generous resources into play up front, that they have gained a huge economic advantage over the alternative of repeating the search effort after the mistake has become painfully obvious, or worse yet, living with a bad choice. While it is outside the scope of this article to provide an in-depth description of a workable selection process, I do suggest that unless steps similar to the following are used, making a good hire is a matter of luck.
  • Pick a strong selection team made up of the four or five people with the most intimate knowledge of the job.
  • Conduct a detailed job analysis.
  • Develop a detailed job description based on the analysis.
  • Develop a hiring specification based on the job description.
  • Use an appropriate candidate sourcing method for the job.
  • Carefully screen all potential candidates prior to interviewing, learning of all knockout factors as early in the process as possible.
  • Have a carefully planned interview process spelled out with each interviewers assignment clearly understood. Don't waste valuable interview time with each interviewer asking the same questions.
  • Debrief the selection team on the points of the job description and the hiring specification and not irrelevant information.
     This may sound like a bigger job than anticipated but the reward of having a properly selected employee population is a successful organization. It is one way to beat your competition.
Please visit my website, for access to my commentaries on employee selection and personal job search techniques developed over a thirty year career as an executive recruiter and staffing manager. My career included over ten years on the corporate staff of Rubbermaid, Inc., as Manager of Executive Recruiting. During that time, Rubbermaid, Inc., quadrupled in size and was twice named by Fortune Magazine as "The Most Admired US Corporation". My contribution was to personally recruit over one hundred executives, including seven Division Presidents and four of the eight members of the Corporate Executive Committee.

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