December 15, 2015

Three Tips to Prevent New-Hire Surprises

Did you know that pre-hire assessments have been in use since the third century? According to a Harvard Business Review article, Chinese imperial leaders of the Han dynasty used them to assess “knowledge, intellect, and moral integrity when selecting civil servants.”
Today, 76% of medium to large companies use pre-hire assessments to evaluate job candidates. And this is much more than just evaluating someone’s knowledge or skill; this is about preventing surprises after the “honeymoon period” (the first six to nine months on the job, when the new employee is on their best behavior).

Hiring the right person for the job

It’s at the end of that six-to-nine-month time frame that the real personality of your new employee starts to emerge. That’s when they feel settled in enough to relax and let down their best-behavior guard. And that’s when the surprises start happening – unless you take steps during the hiring process to understand who your candidates truly are.
Here are three tips for you to experiment with and modify to suit your specific situation.

  1. Don’t just ask knowledge or skill questions. Do explore situational awareness and emotional intelligence by asking questions that require a judgment call or a personality-based response.
     A example question from retail; the job is a customer-service representative in a cell-phone store:
     You have a customer who needs extra help understanding how to use their new phone. The store is unusually busy right now, and there’s a line of people waiting for service. Do you (a) tell the customer you can’t help them (they’ll have to figure it out for themselves); (b) give the customer all the help they need (the other people will just have to wait their turn); or (c) tell the customer that you’d be glad to help at another time (and schedule a service appointment).

  1. Don’t ask the same questions of every candidate. Do select questions based on the most-desired characteristics for the role the candidate is applying for.
     An example question from software development; the job is a systems analyst, and you know that your best analysts are patient and curious:
     You’re researching requirements for a new system, and you’re on a very tight deadline. One of the key users of the new system is disorganized and hard to get hold of. Do you (a) go around this person and interview his co-workers; (b) plan to “accidentally” bump into him on the way to lunch and invite him to join; or (c) go over his head and ask his manager to intervene?

  1. Don’t overlook the importance of organizational culture. Do ask questions probing how someone will behave within your company’s environment.
     A high-pressure organization example question; the job is a team lead role:
     Author Douglas Adams famously said, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” What’s your thought on that idea?

As you can see in our examples, probing these issues in a face-to-face interview can be awkward at best. The real advantage comes when you screen candidates on these factors prior to scheduling them for an interview.
 In addition, the process of customizing questions to evaluate an applicant’s fit based on key characteristics of your successful employees can be time-consuming when you’re not familiar with the process and/or aren’t using an established screening assessment.
 We’ve been in the pre-hire assessment business since 1968. We use the leading validated survey tools to help our clients avoid new-hire surprises, hiring best-fit candidates who go on to become high-performing employees. Contact us to learn how we can help you!