Avoiding a Bad Hire

Word count: 812; approximate time to read: 3 minutes 10 seconds

How much will a LeBron or Michael Jordan-caliber executive help your organization???

Their impact will dwarf the results of the next best team member!

But their supply is limited.  If you don’t recognize and secure their employment…you risk losing out to your competition.

Or worse yet, if Mr/Ms. Right thrills your team during interviews and turns out to be Mr. Wrong…you’ve taken two steps back (at least).

So…what lengths do you go to in order to find, assess, attract and retain this kind of talent?

And how do you REALLY know if they in your midst?

Making great, executive-level hires can be a complex mix of art and science.  And no process is foolproof.

That said, there is one simple thing you can do that will go a long way towards minimizing bad hiring decisions and maximize your great ones:

Use a formal, objective “assessment” that uncovers elements of a candidate’s HARD-WIRING that are difficult to surface using standard interview techniques.

Assessments today are fast, easy and inexpensive to administer online, and can be extremely helpful in pinpointing issues to probe at a deeper level during interviews.

If a candidate scores in the 90th and 95th percentiles on “control” and “independence” will they necessarily have trouble being 2nd in command, or operating as a collaborative team member?

Perhaps not.  But the quantitative data exposed in an assessment can reveal areas where you’d be wise to seek supporting evidence.

And every candidate knows the right, “can do” tone to strike when it comes to how they will tackle company goals.  But do scores in the 35th and 40thpercentiles on “achieving” and “ambition” suggest a different story?

There are a myriad of assessment options to choose from.  Appropriate use of any instrument is likely better than none at all.

If for some reason you have an aversion to FORMAL assessments, however, one rudimentary and fun “MacGyver-type” tool that you can use spontaneously at absolutely any time and place is the 4-quadrant method that expert recruiter Lou Adler has written about.  (Seriously, I used it this week in my kitchen with some dinner guests.)

The gist is to draw a horizontal axis (real or imaginary) that represents the speed of decision making.  Label fast and instinctive on the right…slow and deliberate on the left. Those on the right prefer to make fast decisions with limited data. Those on the left are more cautious and would rather ponder a bit, collecting as much information as possible before deciding.

Then draw a vertical axis through the middle of the horizontal axis to create a “+” with 4 distinct quadrants.  The vertical axis represents a focus on people or results. (Label results at the top…people at the bottom.)

Those who are very people-oriented are less concerned with getting things done on time and on budget. They’ll tend to let things slide to ensure that everyone is okay.

Those who are extremely results-focused will be less concerned with the needs of the people involved. They’ll tend to push for results, even if it upsets some of those involved.

As a test, plot yourself and/or others you know well on the horizontal and vertical axes…and see if you think it’s accurate.

Based on where you plot people on these two dimensions, they will fall into one of the four quadrants.  Each quadrant represents a general personality style (see description and graphic below).

Top left = analyst (“technical,” detail-oriented, cautious, methodical, and conservative in their decision making)

Top right = director (hard-charger, dominant, and fast-paced; less sensitive to the needs of others; delivering results is their #1 priority)

Bottom left = diplomat (proudly professes to be a “people person,” strong soft skills, gets along with everyone but sometimes doesn’t get enough done)

Bottom right = influencer (classic sales personality, tends to make instant judgments based on first impressions more than substance)

Near the center of both axes = coach (often flexible and able to exhibit traits from all 4 quadrants as the situation requires)

Each of these general styles has inherent strengths and weaknesses that will impact their fit with the job.  Though this informal “assessment” is not very precise, it can still provide some valuable clues as to where to focus your interview questions.  (It can also predict the weaknesses of your internal interviewing team.)

That said, I’d challenge you not to settle for this shortcut when the investment is so small to use a bona fide assessment that is significantly more exact and comprehensive.

You would likely have to work closely with someone for MONTHS to uncover what a good assessment can reveal in minutes. (Which is precisely why using an assessment will go a long way towards minimizing bad hiring decisions and maximize your great ones.)

About the author

Scott Kaufman is the founder of Convergence Recruiting, a firm that helps organizations hire and retain peak performers. 

He has successfully placed executives in large and small companies, non-profits, most industries, and for all functional areas of leadership (including general management, operations, finance, HR, IT, marketing, and sales).

Typical clients have revenues of $15MM to $500MM with 50 to 1,000 team members.

More information is available at www.ConvergenceRecruiting.com, or Scott can be reached at 678-879-7980. 

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