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It CAN be done - start to change your selection processes

Common barriers to improving your selection process and 3 steps for how to begin to overcome them.

by Sharon Boslet

Head of Selection Consulting (Americas) 28th Sep 2017

Does it seem to you that the gap between “what’s possible” in hiring tools/processes and “why it can’t be done” is just getting wider? If so, you are not alone.

There are many options out there for organizations that want to upgrade how they select the best candidates. To name just a few:

Savvy HR professionals are aware of these significant advances and the time and cost benefits of implementing them. Lack of knowledge isn’t an issue; anyone with an internet connection can easily check out the latest and greatest best practices (in fact, alexandermannsolutions.com is a one stop shop, with new articles being added all the time).

But I understand that the information overload is as seemingly endless as the possibilities. How about starting smaller, instead? This blog breaks down common barriers to putting advances into action, and some ways to get started doing something about it.

Read on!!

The gap: the goals are the same, the rest has changed

Our goals as organizations certainly haven’t changed: we want to hire the highest quality candidate – one who performs and is retained - in the minimal amount of time.  And, that “minimal amount” is truly shrinking to mean “no time at all.” At least for some jobs, what’s wanted is simply for someone to show up and do the job. Right now.

Candidates’ goals haven’t changed, either: they want to showcase their skills, understand the organization, and land their next job, also in a short (and shrinking) amount of time. They want to do satisfying work and get paid. Right now.

A candidate’s control of the process, however, has changed: 86% of recruiters report that it’s a candidate-driven market, according to MRI Network. With more opportunities and higher expectations, what worked before does not cut it for the candidates of today.

Technology, of course, has changed greatly as well over the last several years. There are technology implications for all aspects of the hiring process, from tracking applicants, to providing a fully branded and engaging candidate experience, to determining candidates’ true capabilities, and to making the offer. And, it doesn’t stop there, as the most innovative organizations are now linking that process with their performance systems to measure employees throughout their entire lifecycle.

It is likely that your organization has changed a great deal over the last several years, too. Changes in leadership, your own IT systems, structure, the way you’re competing in the market – if your organization is surviving, that means it is adapting.

But it may not be keeping up where it matters the most: hiring the right people. That will catch-up with any organization, if it hasn’t already.

With the abundant information available, updated technology, your own organization’s adaptability, and a clear need to keep up with the demands of candidates, why are hiring processes NOT always cutting edge?

In other words….what’s so hard about updating your hiring process?

A few common barriers

“I’m not sure how the pieces are linked up, so it’s hard to justify an update.”

You may know that a given component of your hiring process feels outdated, or that the people you’re hiring are not performing as well as expected or staying as long as you would like. But, without a view of the end-to-end process, with very specific and easy-to-understand measurement at each stage, it is tough to prioritize what parts to improve first.

Is it a pre-screen that is too lenient or strict? A hard-to-understand application or one that lets just anyone apply with one click? Unprofessional recruiters? Clunky, “old-school” assessments that cause your best candidates to drop out of the process? Or endless and subjective interviews?

The very first step to building a business case to improve your hiring process is to map out your current one, with metrics at each phase. Convincing leadership is important, and they’re willing to listen, with 49% of CEOs looking at changing their talent strategy, according to PwCs annual survey. So get this step right.

“In the world of candidate testing, something ‘new  and customized’ can seem risky”

Have you seen those incredibly engaging “gamified” assessment possibilities? Those assessments that compile everything into a single “fit” score? How about those that let you pick and choose – by question – what to ask candidates? They are very slick! So slick that they can make a seasoned HR professional or top level executive concerned. Do they send the right message? And can they be trusted?

The answer, infuriatingly enough, to both questions is: sometimes.

Any part of your hiring process must be job related and lead to actual performance. Validity cannot be sacrificed at any cost.  Gamification or other ways of creating an engaging hiring process can’t compromise its integrity and depth. But, the excellent news on this front is that those previously “dusty” academic psychometricians of the world, along with cutting-edge programmers, have been very hard at work to truly offer the best of both.

Today’s top selection processes, including assessments, are so powerful that they can deliver an incredible candidate experience while upholding required validation. A test that’s cumbersome or not tailored to your company is obsolete. Plus, they can be engaging (dare I say, even fun), while being valid and representative of the actual job.

“We used to have a more rigorous process, but then we went away from that.”

Roughly ten years ago, I used to see many organizations putting all candidates through a battery of testing prior to hire. These may have been tests of integrity, personality, skills, cognitive ability, or some combination. And then….something happened.

Some organizations decided that a) the process was expensive b) it was cumbersome c) it didn’t lead to higher quality candidates regardless.

Other organizations may have had a rigorous process prior to the global recession of 2008. But, when hiring came to a standstill, it no longer made sense to have such a weighty selection system. They thought: “Why have that kind of discipline during an indefinite hiring freeze?” Or, “We can have any candidate we want since everyone wants a job – we don’t necessarily want them to have a bad experience but they’ll do whatever it takes to work here.” However, though the market recovered, many hiring process stayed where they were and are now incredibly outdated.

Without an efficient process to truly select the best candidates, organizations will not be able to compete. Re-implementing rigor is not moving backwards – in contrast, it is keeping you ahead of the curve.

“I know the hiring manager will just pick who they like anyway so why change?”

If you have been part of candidate selection, you wouldn’t be blamed for being frustrated by those who are absolutely sure that their “gut instinct” is correct within the first 30 seconds of an interview. Especially if that person is a top-level leader, it could be a challenge to change his or her mind if other evidence shows otherwise. A gut decision pulls from past experiences, as Psychology Today proved. That’s the “opposite and also” bias.

The easiest way to get many leaders’ attention is to focus on the enormous financial and efficiency impacts of an incorrect decision. One in five hires is a regretted decision and 1 in 4 leaves within the first year. On the flip side, productivity of the right hire is up to 10x higher.

There is still ample room in most selection processes for the interview. However, since you know you will be doing them, why not improve them? Ensure that the right people are asking the right questions in the right way. And, once equipped with upgraded interview questions and processes, provide clarity on how to objectively evaluate answers and utilize results to make a decision along with other available candidate information.

The ability to interview others is a learned skill; just because someone is in a hiring manager position or that they have interviewed hundreds of candidates does not mean that they necessarily can do it well.

The validity of the interview is just as important as the validity of other aspects of the hiring process.

All of that said, perhaps the hiring manager is still sure that their gut instinct or other previous process is correct. In this case, ask them to try one small, short-term change and see if they like it. Do not present it as a large-scale, lifetime commitment.

Steps for moving forward

It is time to re-examine your hiring process. The world truly has changed. The best candidates expect a lot. A powerful selection system allows organizations the ability to brand their companies and set expectations in addition to selecting the best.  Start with these 3 steps.

Step 1 - Audit: Yes, conducting an audit is perhaps one of the less glamorous-sounding tasks out there but it provides the evidence necessary to prioritize any other actions. Determine if your selection process is future-proof and provides the best quality hires in the minimal time.

Step 2 – Determine what “great” looks like, for candidates and your organization: Think of this as an evolved job analysis. We still need to determine the competencies required for the job and the fit to the organization, etc. Then, let’s add the ideal state moving forward as individuals progress in their careers and as your organization changes.  And, finally define the ideal selection process to streamline and improve talent acquisition.

Step 3 – Update the “lowest-hanging fruit” or your area of highest risk : This will, of course, depend on the outcome of steps 2 and 3. If there is an area that causes true legal or financial risk, that obviously must be addressed first.

In most cases, however, this is a matter of updating one component of your process and going from there. This can be as simple as ensuring that the right interview questions are asked (and that poor ones are avoided) or that hiring managers have current, upgraded interview skills. Or, it could be a map of your talent pool or the incorporation of a truly cutting-edge assessment. Or, If you’re in the 70% of companies on average in the Americas region that think digital HR is important, per a Deloitte University study, it’s time to start doing something about it.

In any case, however, it is not necessary to do everything at once.  Enormous gains can be made by prioritizing and then making one change.

So what’s next?

As you have likely surmised by now, in addition to sharing some thoughts on existing barriers and solutions, Alexander Mann Solutions is uniquely poised to help you overcome them and we would welcome the opportunity to talk with you.

We leverage the best and latest tools and technology from around the world. And, we pair that with true partnership consulting. Let us help you focus on what really matters and execute it with excellence. We will help you cut through the clutter and find the answers you need to overcome your barriers and achieve true process improvements in your selection efforts.

As stated above, it doesn’t have to be a big, complicated change to have an enormous impact. Let’s get started.


For more expert insights into Assessment, check out our webinar and white paper!

Our Making the Business Case for Assessment webinar with Kirstin Schulz explores best practice approaches to Assessment, while addressing how you can get Assessment on the table for discussion with business leaders.

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