As an expert in the science of organizations, I am often asked, “How do I make the best hiring decisions?” My answer is simple and complex: It depends. It’s extremely contextual. What does it mean to perform well in YOUR organization? What does YOUR organization value most in its employees? In order to do selection well, you have to be hyper-focused on the organizational context. This is why it’s hard to write a prescriptive step-by-step list on how to hire employees.
But I realize that many individuals tasked with hiring new talent are lost in the woods. Where do I even start? In an attempt to help them, what follows is a very broad and very basic framework.
This is very high-level — almost stratospheric. If you want more detailed and technical information about making selection decisions see The Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures published by the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. I’m going to assume you already have a pipeline of talent via a recruiter or some other means. This is not about the recruitment of talent, but separating the diamonds from the rough in a methodical manner.
Phase 1: Do a Job Analysis
In other words, define the job and its associated tasks, duties, and responsibilities. In addition — and extremely useful for selection purposes — define the key knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAO’s) that are necessary to perform well on that job. (O’s are typically personality traits.)
Let’s say I want to hire a dog groomer to join my team of dog groomers. The key KSAO’s that I might identify after doing some online research, interviewing current high-performing dog groomers within and outside of my hypothetical dog grooming company, and talking with management might include:
· Knowledge of dog grooming methods and tools
· Skill in calming anxious dogs
· Ability to get along with dogs
· Openness to new dog-related experiences
Phase 2: Gather Measures for Your Key KSAO’s
You need to quantify each of your key KSAO’s. In other words, what are you going to ask your job applicants? You could develop your own measures or you can purchase existing measures that have been developed and validated by experts.
Examples of measures might include:
· A dog grooming knowledge test developed by subject matter experts
· A role-play exercise with real, live dogs, along with with a scoring key, that quantifies someone’s skill in calming anxious dogs as well as his/her ability to get along with dogs
· A set of interview questions that assess the applicant’s openness to new dog-related experiences
Phase 3: Demonstrate the Accuracy of Your Selection Measures
There are lots of ways to do this and I’m not going into the technical details. But here’s my high-level advice: Think about how you can gather evidence to demonstrate that the people who score high on the selection measures that you identified in Phase 2 will also be successful on the job. Making selection decisions is about predicting the future.
Without a crystal ball, showing that our selection measures are related to job success is one of the best ways we can increase our chances of hiring the right people.
Phase 4: Rinse and Repeat
Keep tabs on your hiring decisions. Revisit phases 1–3 early and often. Are you doing a good job? Does something need to get tweaked? Re-think how you are defining job success. Do you need to think more broadly? Re-visit how you are combining predictors. Should they be equally weighted or not?
In the end, making selection decisions is a probability game. You don’t know if you made the right or wrong decision until after the fact. Hindsight is always 20/20. But, if you approach hiring in a systematic way, and gather as much data as you can, you can increase your chances of winning the hiring game.
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