Hiring and Keeping the Best

Courtesy of Douglas A. Strouse, Ph.D. CEO of Global Data Source/ President of CEO Clubs, Baltimore Chapter

Think about this.  Every time a woman business owner makes a mistake and hires an executive or a manager who does not work out, it costs her organization about 3-5 times the person’s annual salary.  This can be quite costly, particularly when executives and high-level managers are earning six figure salaries.  When mistakes are made, your organization has, among other things, the costs of replacing them, the long-term costs of how they treat your customers, the costs of the negative things they say to their co-workers, and the anguish you have to go through in dealing with them.

Now retired, Jack Welch was the CEO of General Electric for about twenty years.  As CEO, he built GE’s market cap to approximately $450 billion and, in so doing, established himself as one of the most admired business leaders in the world.  When asked recently what one thing contributed most to his success at GE, he said, without hesitation, that he always tried “to hire the best people that could be.”

1.    Hire Slowly, Fire Fast:  Quite often, we see some women in business (and other organizations in general) do the opposite of this.  They’ll hire applicants haphazardly because of pressure felt to fill positions “with a body.”  Yet, later on, they realized that these same individuals weren’t performing their jobs well, and then they’d take too long in deciding to replace them.  By hiring slowly and systematically, these organizations could make certain to put the right person in the right job in the first place, thereby not needing to replace them.

2.    Do a Qualification/Competency Analysis:  It’s impossible to hire the right person for a position unless you analyze the job with regard to the specific qualifications (e.g., experience, education) and competencies (e.g., leadership, time management, and communication skills) needed to be successful.  This is best done by assembling a few people in your organization who are familiar with the position, and then asking them to list all of the tasks of the job, and then brainstorm all of the qualifications and competencies needed for success in the position.

3.      No One-Size Fits All.  If your goal is to hire the best, you will need to customize the hiring process for each job, or family of related jobs, within the organization.  It is unrealistic to think that one interview and/or one set of tests could be able to predict the subsequent job success of applicants across a diverse family of jobs.  This is comparable to trying to use the same exact set of hand tools for handling all construction jobs.  The results of the Qualifications/Competency Analysis will dictate what interview questions and what set of tests need to be used.

4.    There Must Be A Good “Culture-Fit:”  Every organization has a unique culture or climate, just as every person has a distinctive personality.  Its culture is based on its core values (e.g., integrity, customer-focus, teamwork).  No matter how impressive applicants might be with respect to their qualifications and technical competencies, they will not succeed in their positions unless they “fit-in” with what your company stands for and how employees are expected to interact with one another and with customers.

5.    Eliminate Your Pet Peeves:  We all have our pet peeves when it comes    to making hiring decisions.  Most of the time our idiosyncracies contaminate our hiring decisions.  A perfect example of this is something Thomas Edison, one of the foremost inventors of all time, did.  We would all agree that Edison was an extremely intelligent person and effective CEO.  Yet, when Edison needed to hire someone to work in his Menlo Park lab, he always made sure to take the applicant out for lunch or dinner.  Once the food arrived, Edison watched closely to see whether the person put condiments on their food before tasting it.  If they did, they were finished as far as Edison was concerned.  He concluded that they could not possibly be successful in his laboratory because they lacked poor planning skills!

6.    Provide Interviewer Training:  More managers and supervisors need to learn how to interview applicants rigorously.  Specifically, they need to learn how to compose interview questions that assess accurately the needed qualifications and competencies for the job.  Too often interview questions sound like, “Why are you interested in this position?”  Questions like this are easily faked by applicants and, consequently, are a waste of time.  It is also crucial that managers and supervisors guard against falling victim to numerous judgment errors such as first impressions, leniency, and stereotyping.

7.         Make Sure That You “Are From Missouri”:  Interviews and written tests can be excellent hiring instruments but, typically, they’re not enough.  Why is this?  It’s because neither of them delves into the applicant’s behaviors.  As part of your hiring process, you need to design hiring systems that put applicants in situations that simulate what they would encounter in their jobs, if hired.  For example, an applicant for an executive position needs to be observed doing such things as making presentations at meetings, adeptly handling numerous e-mail and other messages, and providing 1-on-1 coaching to direct reports.

8.    Provide a Realistic Job Preview.  Every applicant needs to be given a “realistic job preview.”  In other words, as part of the hiring process, they need to be told not only the positive things about the position and the organization, but some of the negatives as well.  By doing this, you lower subsequent job dissatisfaction and turnover on their part.  How does this work?  In a sense, you are innoculating or preparing them ahead of time regarding some of the unpleasant aspects (e.g., stress, irate customers) of their future positions.

9.     Track Your Success Rate:  A good hiring system should attain at least a 90% hit rate.  In other words, for every 10 executives or managers hired, 9 of them should be “keepers.”  Make sure that people in your organization are tracking the success of their hiring process. If your process is not achieving at least a 90% accuracy rate, then something is wrong.

10.   Seek Needed Professional Help:  If your hiring systems are failing to achieve hiring the kinds of people needed for your organization to achieve its strategic objectives and business plans, seek professional help.  There should be HR people within your organization who can improve your hiring process.  If this is not so, then seek outside help from professionals who are trained and experienced in designing valid and legally defensible hiring processes and systems.


Doug Strouse received his Ph.D. with emphasis in Organizational Management and Organizational Psychology in 1982 from Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.  His dissertation, Dimensions of Job Satisfaction and Stress, was published by Catholic University Press.

Doug has advised organizations in such areas as: leadership and management development, performance management and appraisal systems, organizational change and development system analysis, strategic planning and executive coaching.  Doug has also spoken extensively on these subjects to various groups throughout the United States. He is a Managing Partner of Wexley Consulting, an internationally known consulting firm that offers practical solutions to enhance organizational, as well as individual effectiveness. To contact Doug visit: www.titleprep.com / www.wexleyconsulting.com


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