Three Common Hiring Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

by Regan McPhee 27. November 2010 00:17

Hiring a new employee is expensive. It’s not just the newbie’s salary that will deplete the company’s coffers; it’s also the recruitment and training costs, employee benefits and taxes, and equipment, administration and space. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars just to get someone into that one empty seat.


But we know all that. The cost of a new hire is old news. So why do we keep making the same, all too common mistakes when looking for that new employee? And how can we avoid making them in the future?


The first mistake many of us make, hiring based on perceived background, is an easy habit to fall into, but thankfully it is an even easier fix. According to a 2004 study by Higgins and Judge, in the Journal of Applied Psychology, potential employees often use two particular tactics to advance their cause during an interview: ingratiation and self-promotion.


While employers are usually prepared for – and regularly bring into play – a prospective worker’s self-promotion (highlighting positive attributes while minimizing flaws), attempts at ingratiation (agreeing with the recruiter’s opinions, offering to do favours, etc.) frequently go undetected.


And the reason we tend to fail to notice a future employee’s efforts to ingratiate themselves with us is because of the similarity-attraction theory put forth by D. Byrne in 1969. Basically, we tend to be more attracted to people with whom we have something in common.


Therefore, when we are talking to a candidate and they say that they also like working for a small company or that they dislike the way a certain organization is run, just like we do, then we often perceive that candidate as having a similar background to our own, with many parallel values and viewpoints. We can then become so attracted to that particular candidate that we overlook other, more suitable applicants.


So take the blinders off. During the hiring process, always keep in mind a potential employee’s likely use of ingratiation and self-promotion techniques.


Which leads us to our second mistake when hiring: using the interview as the sole evaluation of a candidate.


How many of us have done this?! We sometimes think the interview process is the be all and end all of recruiting. It’s fairly quick, easy and, most importantly, cheap. We don’t have to spend time or money calling references, running background checks and buying psychometric tools.


But in the long run, relying solely on the interview to determine a candidate’s suitability for a specific role within our organization will cost us big, BIG bucks – once we realize we hired the wrong person and we have to start the process all over again.


In fact, according to a study conducted by Hunter and Hunter, at the University of Michigan, the ordinary interview boosts our chances of choosing the best applicant by less than two per cent. And, no, you didn’t read that wrong. Flipping a coin is almost as effective at picking a successful employee as the basic interview process.


To increase your odds of hiring the right person for the job the first time around make sure you do the following.



Structure the interview. Have the questions prepared beforehand and decide what the ideal answers to those questions would be. You may even want to develop a sliding scale of scores for potential answers.

Have the hiring manager check the candidates’ references. And pay attention to more than just the words of the candidates’ past employers. If there is a pause (or, for that matter, a notable lack of enthusiasm) before an ex-manager answers the question, “Would you rehire Bob if given the chance,” you may want to think twice before printing out an employment contract.

Check the applicants’ backgrounds (this speaks to mistake one and two). Lots of people fudge their resumes to give themselves a leg up when job-hunting, so it’s our responsibility to make sure the information they’ve given us is accurate. ( is one good resource. 

Consider using a psychometric tool(s) to help learn more about potential employees. In a 1989 study in Personnel Psychology, Day and Silverman said that, “…even with the effects of cognitive ability taken into account, three personality scales (orientation towards work; degree of ascendancy; and degree and quality of interpersonal orientation) are significantly related to important aspects of job performance.” MBTI, EQI and DISC are just three of the tools that can help you make the best hiring decision possible.




Which brings us to hiring mistake number three: assuming everyone defines the needs of the position to be filled in the same way. And what happens when we assume? It may be trite, but that doesn’t make it any less true: we make an ass out of u and me. Plus, we could end up losing a lot of money when the individual we hired based on our assessment of the role’s needs is unable to fulfill the actual needs of the position.


While the 2010 IBM Global Chief Human Resource Officer Study (Working Beyond Borders) may not have been speaking directly to the hiring process when they mentioned “capitalizing on collective intelligence” as one of the three capabilities needed to advance an organization, it actually explains perfectly how to fix this particular hiring mistake. We need to begin “fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing” in order to be more effective recruiters.


But how does knowledge sharing and collaboration make for a better hiring choice?


Collaboration enables us to determine the needs of a particular position objectively. By gathering information about the role’s demands from a variety of individuals who will be working closely with the new employee, rather than just taking it on faith from the hiring manager or the HR manager about the needs of the position, we get a more detailed and accurate view of what the job looks like.


Creating a behavioural benchmark for the position is one key way to gather this information successfully. By asking the new employee’s manager, colleagues and clients to complete a brief questionnaire about the behavioural needs of the job we can get a clearer picture of the functions and responsibilities of the role – some we may never have thought of on our own.


And when the group comes together to discuss their responses to the questionnaire, the lines of communication open up and a true dialogue about the requirements of the role can begin. What we end up with is a yardstick with which to measure our applicants, making it easier to create a shortlist of the best candidates.


Can we make perfect hiring choices every time? Nope. But by being aware of these three particular pratfalls and heeding the advice within, we may just be able to keep our hiring mistakes to a minimum.

Nothing to Fear: Tests and Assessments That Help Rather Than Hurt

by Regan McPhee 27. November 2010 00:14

Tests scare people. They imply that there is a right answer and a wrong answer. But some tests, or should I say assessments, have no right or wrong answers. They are merely explanations and clarifications that should enlighten us. They are nothing to fear.


However, in the past, many employers used these assessments to gather information they then used against their employees, rather than using it to support their employees’ growth, unfairly giving psychometric tools their frightful reputation.


But in fact, the most commonly used assessments worldwide (DISC; Myers Briggs Type Indicator – MBTI; Emotional Quotient Inventory – EQI; and Predictive Index – PI) were created as self-development tools and when they are used correctly, they can enhance our business’ ability to function.


Furthermore, according to research begun in 2008 by Hewitt Associates, a human resource consulting and outsourcing company, employee morale and connectedness is down for most companies due to anxiety, insecurity and turmoil brought on by the recent economic downturn.


 But as Ted Marusarz, the leader of Global Engagement and Culture at Hewitt, says in a July 29th, 2010 Business Wire article, insight into the motivation of employee behaviour is essential for achieving organizational success during good times and bad.


To appreciate the benefits of these tools, we must first understand what they measure and what they don’t. We need to understand what they can and cannot do. And, finally, we need to understand how they should be used and how they can be abused.


Take, as an example, the DISC assessment. It measures behavioural patterns. That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less.


DISC doesn’t measure intelligence or ‘abnormal’ behaviour or past experiences. It can’t tell us what a person’s ideals are or about their educational background. What DISC can tell us are the behaviours a person prefers to use while they are at work.


And because DISC enables us to learn the behavioural preferences of our employees, and therefore their preferred style of interaction (soft-sell versus hard-sell; detailed versus an overview), it is an excellent tool to improve communication within our organizations.


It allows us to communicate more clearly and concisely and in a way that lessens misunderstandings and potentially hurt feelings.


Yet in addition to aiding clear communication, DISC can help determine what behaviours are necessary for the successful completion of a specific task and hiring the right person for the job.


But DISC should never be used as the sole reason for hiring someone.


When using DISC, or any psychometric tool, to aid in a hiring decision, the results of the assessment should not make up more than 10 per cent of the decision making process. We must also consider the interview, the resume, the references and even our intuition when hiring a new employee.


And if we use DISC to justify firing an employee we are misusing the tool. It should never be used to phase out an individual. If anything, DISC is an ideal tool to help adapt the position so it better suits the person performing the job.


Finally, DISC findings should never be used against someone. It is meant to celebrate the unique behavioural style of each employee and what those behavioural strengths bring to our organizations.


So take the next step. Ease the minds of your staff and learn for yourself the advantages of DISC and how to incorporate it into your organization’s daily functions. Re-engage your employees. Show them they are an integral part of your business and give them the education and support they need to grow right along with the organization.


Because tests don’t have to be scary and DISC, when used properly, can help ensure that you have the diversity - and the knowledge to manage that diversity - to succeed.

Personality in the Workplace: Does It Really Matter?

by Regan McPhee 22. November 2010 07:02

Why should we care about the different personalities in our organizations? Does it really make a difference if Joan wants to focus on the details of a task or if Stanley wants to be left alone while working on a project? And do we truly need to trouble ourselves with all that touchy-feely stuff when all we’re trying to do is hire someone to fill the position?


Yes, yes, and most definitely, yes. But personality isn’t touchy-feely; in fact, it’s downright scientific. All we have to do is read some of the numerous research studies published to realize that personality, and the prediction of human behaviour, is quantifiable when valid psychometric tools are used.


According to the 2006 webcast panel hosted by the Human Capital Institute, Why Assessments Work: Answering the Debate, psychometrics measure either one of two things. They can measure an individual’s “Can-Do Competencies” or their “Will-Do Competencies”. Can-Do competencies include skills and knowledge tests and evaluate a person’s maximum performance level (like those found at: Will-Do competencies include outlook, drive and personality and assess someone’s normal level of performance (like MBTI, DISC and EQI).


So the question shouldn’t be why consider personality in the workplace. The question should be why not.


Why not create an organizational environment that reduces the number of false recruitments.


The Talent Institute ( published research, Evaluating the use of Psychometric Testing, that showed while false recruitments are inevitable, it is possible to lower our number of bad hires. The study indicates that unstructured interviews offer a mere validity of 0.18 whereas can-do and will-do assessments offer a combined validity of 0.60.


Rioux and Bernthal, authors of the Recruitment and Selection Practices study, found that companies who have developed highly successful hiring processes are 15 to 22 per cent more likely to include behavioural interviewing, motivational inventories, etc. when recruiting. Those companies also “experienced higher business outcomes (i.e. financial performance, quality of products and services, productivity and customer satisfaction) and employee outcomes (i.e. employee satisfaction and retention of quality employees)”.


Why not make that much needed reorganization of your company an unmitigated success.


GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) did. In 2009, GSK Finland asked SHL Group Ltd. to help with the reorganization of their regional sales team. SHL accomplished a successful transition by selecting specific psychometric tools that addressed the core competencies identified for each of the new roles and by training the GSK HR team on correct interpretation of assessment results and “competency-based interviewing”.


Susanna Grundstrom, the GSK HR Project Manager, was surprised at how often the hiring managers agreed about which candidate was the most suitable for the role in question. They “managed to see beyond the person whom they might already know personally” and the few disagreements they did have were quickly worked out “by looking at it from a ‘what is best for the candidate’ perspective," Grundstrom said.


But taking into account the core competencies of the roles and the personalities of the job candidates weren’t the only benefits of using psychometrics during the GSK reorganization. It also increased the level of understanding between the hiring managers and the HR team. Ultimately, personality helped Grundstrom and her HR team utilize, “the potential of our human capital in a better way”.


So why not harness your own company’s potential and become one of the Best.


Because when you look at the list AON Hewitt compiled for Maclean’s “Canada’s Best 50 Employers”, 2010, employee recognition, training and communication are repeatedly mentioned as reasons why employees are happy working for these organizations (11, 26 and 25 times respectively).


Here are just of a few of the reasons why these companies are so great to work for: “highly collaborative and communicative culture”, CHUBB Insurance Company of Canada in Toronto; “culture of empowerment”, CISCO Canada in Toronto; “respect and trust”, Clark Builders in Edmonton; and “open and transparent communication”, ING Direct in Toronto.


We’re not going to get comments like these if we continue to blithely ignore the personality needs of our employees. An individual is going to find it difficult to respect the organization they work for if their managers continue to push them into sales when they’ve made it clear they’re uncomfortable in that particular role. Or if someone prefers to be a part of a team and yet they’re repeatedly asked to work on solo projects.


Slow pace or quick pace? Leader or follower? Forest or trees? Trust happens when we know, and respect, how our colleagues will answer these questions. Developing a “communicative culture” also requires that same knowledge and reverence of personality. Someone who favours one on one communication is unlikely to open up in a town hall meeting. And if that’s all we’re offering, as a means to voice concerns, then we risk alienating a key portion of our workforce.


At the end of the day, personality really does matter. Because in order for our companies to be the best, we need to fulfill our employees’ needs. And in order to know what our employees need, we need to know our employees’ personalities.