Hire GREAT Blog | November 4, 2016

Doug is the owner of a small business, and runs his operations on a daily basis. Six months ago, he decided to hire an Office Manager to help him with the administrative tasks within his business. Mary, a seasoned manager with a stellar background, came highly recommended from a friend.

Doug was relieved to find someone with so much experience, and didn’t have to go through the process of posting, reviewing and screening resumes, then interview candidates to find a good fit. Doug and Mary talked enthusiastically about what great things they could do together to help each other and grow the company.

Today Doug is faced with a difficult task. It is clear that Mary is not the person for the job. Its not like she can’t do it, its just that she has alienated others to the point that several employees won’t work with her. Her work output is often late and so intensively detailed that it is useless in this fast-moving company. Worst of all, Doug has let this go on for a while without addressing it with Mary.

What happened here? How did things fall apart with such a high-potential hire?

While there are things Doug could have done after Mary started when he saw she wasn’t right for the role, it is likely that the problem is in the hiring process. Up to 75% of performance issues can be linked to the hiring decision. Mary was good in her interview and came with a terrific reference (a friend). When considering what he could have done different, Doug realized she was the only candidate he really interviewed, and no one else in the business interviewed her, other than himself. He has always run his business based on his ‘gut feel’, and he felt right about hiring Mary. The problem is that a gut feel doesn’t always help uncover the factors that later proved fatal for Mary.

Sound familiar? We see these types of mistakes often when hiring.

Here are some suggestions to help you hire GREAT going forward.

1) Employ behavioral interviewing: A structured interview asking the candidate to provide examples of past behavior is better than an unstructured interview. However, most job candidates are prepared with several of these examples that they can readily provide to the interviewer. Instead, ask questions that require the candidate to describe his or her background in more detail and ask for specific examples, not general experiences. Probe by using questions such as “ What was your role in that project” or “Describe to me the leadership skills you used in that situation and how you might apply them to the role you are applying for”. Ask fewer questions that focus on skills or experience as the resume or phone screening will tell you that, and spend your time gaining richer information on desired behaviours.

2) Interviews. Make sure you interview more than one candidate for the position; it’s great to be able to compare and contrast applicants’ behaviours, experience and skills. Also, use an interview process that includes more than one interview and more than one person doing the interviews. Again, more people in the process allow for more perspective and opinions.

3) Consider job context: Job success is dependent on a situation, the culture of the business and the type of business it is. Just because a candidate was evidently a star at Company X doesn’t mean he or she will be successful at a different firm. Can you describe your business’ culture? Know the important cultural drivers in your company and the work style of you or the person they will be reporting to and prepare questions to address these with the candidate.

4) Beware of ‘Just Like’ syndrome: We see this very often when a company wants to clone a star (current or former employee) who is in a similar role, recently was promoted into a different job, or left the company, and there is a strong focus on those star attributes in the hiring process. Alternatively, just because you get along with someone in the interview, doesn’t mean they will perform well in the job. People are complex, and the attributes that make someone successful or not are often interrelated. Consider what is essential in the position and embrace diversity.

5) Pay appropriate attention to personality characteristics: The interview process often puts high value on enthusiastic extroversion. However, research shows that the best leaders often have a quieter style. These people may not come across as strongly in an interview but could be dynamite contributors. Conversely, do pay attention to the trait of conscientiousness. This factor, along with experience and intellectual ability, is the biggest predictor of ability to perform a job successfully.

6) Consider the use of a behaviour and skill assessments: Many companies have added background checks to their hiring process, but only 30-50% of firms use assessment when hiring people. Background checks help you minimize the chances of a bad hire, while an assessment helps maximize the chances of a great hire. It’s another tool and more information in the hiring decision, but assessments can be performed by trained and certified HR professionals, consultants, or some psychologists. The use of instruments, tests, structured interviewing and other techniques that are highly correlated with using past behaviours to predict future success and job performance. In addition, the behavioural assessment report will detail the implications of interrelated issues that may not be apparent in the interview process. Finally, the assessment may provide an objective perspective that can be a helpful addition to the perceptions of the hiring team.

7) Know your turnover. How many people left your organization last year? Why? Have exit interviews been completed? How many people do you plan to hire this year? This information helps you plan your hiring versus just reacting. Most turnover is predictable. If you have a company of 10 employees, 20% growth planned and 40% turnover, you will be hiring 7 people over the next 12 months. How much time and resources have you planned towards that?

Hire GREAT and hire right!!


Recently, an employee gave two weeks’ notice at the same time I was leaving for vacation. I contacted HRfx and provided them all the details to start the RPO process. When I returned after two weeks, I had several candidates to interview and I hired a great applicant from the short list that was given to me.
The HRfx team removed the stress off my plate and I could enjoy my vacation.

Nic Marples, Ocean Park Mechanical