The Odds Are…

I was reading yet another article about hiring better using only interviews (when will these supposedly smart CEOs ever learn?), when I saw the author stumble upon an important fact about selection: No one (or methodology) is perfect. She accepts an 80% success rate as good (nor surprisingly, based on a gut feeling and not any data). I’m not going to challenge the specifics of that here, but the point is a good one.   Selection is the science of risk assessment and doing a good job of it increases the probability of success.

Improving your odds of making a good hire starts with developing quality applicant pool. The greater the average talent of your candidates the higher the probability that you’ll make a good hire. You can stack the odds in your favor by writing job postings which all people to select themselves out of the pool. You do not necessarily want a large group of applicants. Rather, you want a qualified group of applicants. If you have a talented applicant pool even randomly choosing from it will lead to better than a 50% success rate.

When it comes time for assessment, I am often asked what my success rate is. It’s an interesting question because it is such an elegant one, but at the same time it is an oversimplification. It implies that someone is either good or bad at their job and there’s no middle ground. The better question is, “What percentage of the people who score high on the test turn out to be among the best performers on the job?” There are steps you can take to ensure that this number is high, or, if you’d prefer, the risk of making a bad hire is low. These include:

1)    Validate your assessments. If that is impractical, use those which have been validated for similar jobs. Without this kind of data, you don’t know if you are improving your odds of hiring high performers.

2)    Use assessments (tests and interviews) that measure varied valid attributes rather than measuring the same thing multiple times.

3)    When setting passing scores, consider your risks. The higher the passing score, the more likely that you’ll be hiring excellent performers, but you might miss out on some of them. A lower passing score will capture nearly all of the excellent performers, but you will be letting in some poor ones. In a vacuum, the former is always preferable.

When evaluating the success of your recruitment and selection practices, keep track of whether the performance of new hires meets your expectations based on their scores in your process. This will allow you to have the answer when your boss asks about your success rate. And you will know by how much you are beating the odds.

For more information on pre-employment testing and skill assessment systems, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or  [email protected]

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