Test Your Systems…You Might Not Hire Back Your Own Employees!

Most employment selection systems are so bad that if you submitted the resumes of your own firm’s top performers, they probably wouldn’t get re-hired. It’s not as unusual as you might think. Most selection systems fail to track their own effectiveness. Now before you get nervous, be aware that checking selection systems does not require a complicated validation procedure. Here are some simple ways to see how well yours is working. Send Your Own Employees Resumes Through Take the current resumes of your top performers (start with five). Change the names to fictitious ones and substitute another firm’s name for your own. Now submit the resume anonymously through your normal channels. See how many of the five are called for an interview. In one case at a major computer firm, only two out of five of their own top employees survived the first cut. Sometimes these errors are a result of:

  • Setting the standards for skills and experience too high so that not even your own current performers would meet them
  • Using the wrong keywords or weights for screening resumes
  • A slow response time in getting to the submitted resumes and in finding the time to search the resume database
  • Weak recruiters inaccurately sorting resumes so that top candidates are sent to the wrong job. I know one case where a person without a bachelors degree was sent for a lawyers job requiring a JD.
  • Prejudices on the part of candidate screeners. For example a major symphony orchestra listened to musicians play their instruments and used that performance for selecting their new members. Mostly men were selected as a result of the tryouts. The next year musicians were asked to perform from behind a screen. The result was a dramatic increase in the number of women selected!

Force Rank the Resumes Managers almost uniformly say at the end of the hiring process that they hired a “top candidate” from those that applied. That is often not true. In part, this is due to the delays managers take in interviewing and selecting the candidate. Bad screening and interviewing can also contribute. To test the notion, ask an expert (or the hiring manager) to force rank the resumes received and to rank them from best to worst. Write the ranking number on the back of each resume and after you select the final candidate turn over the resume and see what number is on the back. In one test the candidate selected was No. 75 out of 100. Obviously the manager had not selected a top candidate even though their perception was that they had! Track the Performance of Your Hires Everyone thinks that they hire top performers but the only way to really tell is to track the performance appraisals scores (or outputs) of your new hires and see if the top performers also received the highest scores on interviews and on other selection tests. Often the reverse is true. Track the Sources that Produce the Top Candidates Managers often assume that well known sources produce the highest quality hires. Identify the top performers that have been hired during the last three years and see what they have in common. Don’t be surprised if the top performers don’t have great grades, perfect references, or a degree from a top school. Track the Sources that Produce People who are Easy to Retain Managers often assume that all sources are equal in producing long tenure hires. Identify the top performers that have remained for over four years. Check to see which sources produce those that stay the longest or shortest.

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Track Customer Satisfaction Surveys of people that went through the selection process often find that applicants are treated poorly. One study found that the primary reason for rejecting offers was how poorly candidates were treated during the hiring process. Give all candidates selected for testing or an interview an e-mail questionnaire (or a postcard), so that they can tell you what when right and what didn’t. Use a Mystery Shopper Hire actors or market research people to periodically call HR, fill out an application, visit your website, etc. Ask them to assess courteousness, responsiveness and the accuracy of the information given out. Send the Same Resume Through Again Many resume screening systems are unreliable. Take the same “OK’ resume and send it through the system numerous times. Don’t be surprised if sometimes it’s accepted while other times it is rejected. Send the Same Resume Through Again with a Different Name Resume screeners can have prejudices. Take the same “OK” resume and send it through the system numerous times each time with a different name (names that reflect different ethnic groups and both sexes). Don’t be surprised if sometimes a resume is accepted with a Caucasian male’s name, while other times it is rejected with a minority or a woman’s name.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on staging.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.



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