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The Three Keys for Hiring the Right Employee

Updated on March 13, 2019
Dr Jerry Allison profile image

Dr. Jerry Allison has decades of experience consulting with businesses and teaching students elements of organizational behavior.

If we were to make an investment, we would follow conventional wisdom and research the venture and learn what we can before placing hard-earned money into that investment. If we wanted to purchase a house, we would look into every aspect of the house before sinking into it large amounts of money over time. One of the most expensive investments an organization can make is in its employees, and yet the process is often treated as an inconvenience. As a result, many firms get employees that do not fit with the organization and the process has to start all over again.

There are many articles about keeping employees. These are perfectly valid articles and should be very important to those who are involved in management. Replacing a good employee who has gotten dissatisfied with a firm is expensive. There are costs associated with recruiting applicants, costs to hire a person, and expenses to train a new employee. These costs may be minor in comparison to the knowledge and experience lost when the previous employee left the firm. The articles mentioned above concentrate on ways to keep good employees in the firm. However, this article focuses on finding the right employee, one that is more likely to fit into and stay with a firm. Thus, while the articles that concentrate on keeping employees are good, it may be more important to find the right employees in the beginning.

Finding the right employee is not an easy task. There are many firms in the business environment that claim they can find the right employee for a business. Many of these look at resumes and applications to find words that match the “right” criteria. One critique here is applicants can manipulate resumes and applications, even to the point of providing the right words. That does not make the applicant a good employee or one that will fit with an organization. Other firms may ask the applicants additional questions to assess certain characteristics. While this is a little better, the analysis of the answers to these questions can only get to general characteristics of the applicant. The central issue with these mostly Internet firms is they use a somewhat general screening process and, arguably, may provide a pool of slightly better applicants than just reading resumes and applications. A good applicant screening plan has to be tailored for the company and for the job. Only then can an applicant be hired who is highly probable of being a good employee and well-fitting with a company.

A good applicant screening plan starts long before resumes and applications are even accepted. There are three areas a firm must examine before attempting to hire anyone. The first area is the values of the firm. Any applicant that is hired must share the values of the organization. The second area is the required psychological and behavior characteristics for the job. The last area is skills and knowledge necessary for the job. While it sounds silly, sometimes firms hire employees that do not always have the required skills. Each of these areas will be examined further.

The first area an organization must examine before hiring anyone is its own values. Imagine a manager hiring an employee whom the manager wants to take good care of customers, but the employee is only interested in getting sales. Would there be a conflict eventually? Absolutely. Because the manager and the employee are valuing two different outcomes, the employee’s behavior will eventually create a problem with the manager’s expectations. If the manager attempts to force the employee to be customer oriented, the employee, seeing the diminishing prospects of sales, will become a “negative” employee and probably leave the company or worse. The point is a firm must hire an employee who is already in alignment with the company’s values so that everyone is moving in the same direction.

This is why a firm’s values are so critical. They create a significant part of the firm’s culture and, thereby, determine how things should be done. There are several things a firm can do to help align employee values with the organizational values, but it is much easier and certainly more efficient to hire people who are already aligned with the firm’s values. A person who has the best skills and knowledge for a job will still be in the middle of difficulties if that person does not have the same values as the organization. Thus, the first task in an applicant screening plan should be to assess the applicant’s values to determine if these align with the company’s values.

The task of assessing a person’s values takes a little work. There are several psychological tests available for finding what a person values. Unfortunately, the difficulty may not lie in assessing a prospect’s values, but in assessing the company’s values. Many consulting firms, including my own, see firms that say they have certain values (these are called espoused values), but really enforce a totally different set of values (these are called enacted values). If a company is going to hire people that are aligned with its values, then that company must have an idea of what its espoused values and its enacted values are, and the two must be the same. However, continuing to hire employees with the “right” espoused values can help change the firm’s culture so the enacted values become the espoused values. This is just one step in the process and a subject for another article.

The second area an organization must examine is the personality and behavioral characteristics required for the position. The answer to the question of “What type of person belongs in this job?” must be answered. For example, a company that needs a salesperson to make sales calls daily does not need to hire an introvert. This is where resume analysis breaks down. People lie on their resumes. A person may have been a salesperson for the last twenty years, but if he or she did it from behind a desk with phone because they were introverted, the resume will not show this. Most jobs need and most employers want a list of psychological and behavior traits for a position. The employer must make a list of these traits that are desired and then assessments found for them.

As with assessing values, determining if a person has the right personality and behavioral characteristics takes a little bit of work. There are several assessments created by researchers and practitioners that can measure specific traits. If an employer gets the right assessment tools, then a prospective employee can be assessed for traits that match the position.

The third area an organization must examine is the technical skills and knowledge required for the position. The firm must be able to hire an applicant who knows how to do the job. Unfortunately, many firms hire a person based on their resume or even a phone call to a reference. It is much more effective to design one or more tests whereby the applicant can demonstrate skills and knowledge. For example, an automobile repair shop that needs a mechanic could design a test where the applicant diagnoses what is wrong with a given vehicle. Also, an applicant could assemble a set of parts that the repair shop keeps for such purposes. The concept is an employer creates a list of skills and knowledge required for a position and then creates tests to determine if an applicant has “the right stuff”.

The gist of this article is that if an organization is to hire the right individual, then that individual must be good in three areas. First, the applicant must have the same or similar values as the hiring firm. Second, the applicant must have the appropriate psychological and behavioral traits required for the job. Finally, the applicant must have the right skills and knowledge for the job. A hiring plan that assesses these things will be tailor made for the company and for the job – there is no prepackaged plan that can do this. While creating this plan may seem like a good deal of effort, that effort is minimal compared to replacing continually employees that do not work out.

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