Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday, Son

In the last few days, I have read some truly “silly” statements (and I am striving very hard to be politically correct) concerning recruiting. We celebrate the fact anyone in this country can present his or her personal opinion without being arrested, but I advise readers to really think about whether some of the comments are “good practices” or just uninformed personal opinions. “Character Is More Important Than Skills” Think about it: How many readers really want to drive a car that is poorly engineered? Work with a tax accountant who can’t add numbers? Hire a lawyer who doesn’t understand the law? Seek advice from a physician who cannot diagnose illness? Character is a critical part of performance, but the only time you can afford to ignore skills is when they are unimportant to the job. Aside from being a politician, do you know of any job where job skills are not important? Recruiting is not a “humanistic” activity. A recruiter does not get paid to employ the unemployable or to reward the “merit-worthy.” He or she gets paid to find qualified people to fill specific jobs. Cry me a river if this is too hard for some folks to understand. Humanism is a key quality for social workers or clergy, but it has limited application in hiring and placement. Ask anyone who had to meet a payroll with character-rich, yet unskilled employees. “The I/O Community Is ‘Out of Touch’ With Reality” Think about it: Is it a good idea to have a complete list of job competencies before you start recruiting? Do you think test scores should accurately predict job performance? Do you believe in following federal employment law? Do you think it is better to discover an applicant’s weaknesses before hiring, or afterward? Has the Web actually rendered anything obsolete? Give me a break. A few years back I stated that Internet recruiting is dead. That comment had people storming my home with pitchforks and torches. I stand by my comment. The Web is a great data collection and communications tool?? a power tool for the industry. Properly used, it can be a real time and energy saver. In the hands of an unskilled worker, it can just as easily put you in the emergency ward. The Web is no more of a panacea to the world’s recruiting problems than writing paper is to solving writers’ block. The only thing the Web can do for an incompetent developer is to promote incompetence. Catapult Recruiting There is an old Monty Python movie where medieval knights go searching for the Holy Grail and come upon a castle defended by Frenchmen. The French soldiers give the English knights a severe taunting and catapult a cow over the wall at them (among the first recorded incidents of using bovines as weapons of mass destruction). See any analogies with some recruiting practices? How many recruiters crank up the catapult, load a fresh cow in the sling, hurl it over the wall at a hiring manager, and hope it doesn’t come back? Message to the uninformed: Line managers don’t care about the difficulty of finding suitable employees! That’s not their problem. When is the last time a line manager said with a straight face, “Hey Fred, I have an open slot on my staff. How about filling it with someone I have to coach, counsel, train, and constantly encourage to be productive?” I/O practitioners’ help companies competently screen out unqualified people BEFORE they are hired and do it in with the least adverse impact. What is the alternative? Hire everyone and see who survives? Recruit people with a good reputation and fire the bottom ten percent every year? Hire for character and pray for skills? Trust subjective personal opinion more than solid data? Use tests that (even the vendor agrees) were never designed to predict job performance? “Test Everyone and Compare the Results Later” Yes, that would work. We call it a predictive validity study. But look at the cost. First, you cannot use a “test” to screen applicants until you have a good cut-off score, so everyone would have to be “passed” until you gathered enough performance data. Next, if 50 people per year were lost at $40,000 per person, it would add up to $2,000,000 annually. A typical front-end investment for a good hiring system is about $35,000?? or less than one bad hiring decision. I may be slow, but it seems to me that corporate politics just turned a small front-end investment turned into a $2,000,000 bottom line hit. Knowledge Test Want to see where your organization stands on good and bad practices? Answer the following statements with true or false:

  1. My company uses style and “type” tests to select candidates.
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  3. We have statistical evidence (not personal opinions) that show my tests accurately predict job performance.
  4. Red chicken feathers are 45% more effective than blue ones for driving out evil spirits.
  5. The jobs in my company are identical to jobs in every other company.
  6. In spite of a poor track record, our managers “know” a good candidate when they see ’em.
  7. We’re not hiring experts, but we play them on the job.
  8. We hold some very strong opinions about things in which we have no expertise.
  9. A good interviewer can learn all there is to know about a candidate.
  10. The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures are only important for avoiding lawsuits.
  11. It is a good thing the EEOC doesn’t have more field resources or my butt would be toast.
  12. Our high turnover and low productivity is costing line $2,000,000 year, but no one wants to spend $35,000 to fix it.

Next, write down everything you know about the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures and the standards for Educational and Psychological Testing. If you cannot list the basic points, then you might also try your hand as a freelance physician, lawyer, engineer, or attorney. By the way, you can get a corrected version of the answer key by sending a money order or certified check for $999.99 to my office address. Please allow three years (or whatever the statute of limitations is in your state) for processing.


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