So good in the interview, so bad on the job

“He was so good during the interview, so where’s the person we hired?”

According to statistics released by PR News, 46% of new hires fail within 18 months, with another third rated as only fair to marginal performers – which means 81% of new hires eventually prove disappointing.  And these results continue to occur despite advanced methods we see companies use to search the globe for top talent.

Poor hiring is incredibly costly for organizations, both in terms of direct expense and the opportunity cost and disruption created as people cycle through jobs.  Because of these significant costs, there is a constant stream of articles with suggestions about how to improve hiring.  Some of these suggestions are classic (behavioral interviewing, multiple observations, etc.) and some are more exotic (simulations, talent intelligence systems, etc.), but none seem to get at the essential challenge of fitting person to role, a challenge I will attempt to take on here.  Following are some simple yet critical steps any company can take to make better matches and reduce the number of mis-hires.

  1. Define the role in terms of effective results.  So many job descriptions focus on knowledge, skills, and experience – and not on the desired results and causal actions.  However, job performance isn’t measured on knowledge or skills, it’s measured on results and key activities, but job descriptions and interview protocols often focus attention in the wrong place – so it’s no surprise they often miss the mark.
  2. Focus on “perspective” not simply behavior.  Bob Kegan, a Harvard psychologist, talks about perspective as a lens on the world – a way of understanding situations that changes motives, judgments, methods, plus the capability to see and create value and deal with environmental pressures.  A common cause of failure to perform is a mismatch in between the job demands and the candidate’s perspective.  To assess perspective during selection, you must surface the person’s thinking, not just actions, and focus on WHY the person made the choices they did.
  3. Make sure to ask about HOW, not just WHAT.  Most companies now do some form of behavioral interviewing, which is an effective way to get information about skills.  However, most candidates also know that they are supposed to talk about behaviors – what they did in certain situations.  But unfortunately, people can talk about behaviors that they can’t really perform.  Perhaps even more common than perspective gaps is the gap between talking about something and actually doing it.  The best way to avoid this problem is ask people to actually role play the critical conversations they claimed to have.  If someone says, I resolved the conflict, make sure to say “great, replay that conflict conversation as if I’m the other person” and then jump into the role play.  IF a person really has the skill, they can play it and not just say it.

If you make sure to follow these three critical tips, you should improve the effectiveness of your selection process.