Modernize Your Hiring Decisions

By Sharon Birkman Fink Print this article Print

Gut feel is not the best metric for selecting and retaining good employees.

Talent management is the greatest human resource challenge, as organizations make decisions on new hires for the first time in nearly four years. Will these jobs be filled using an analytical process, or will the hiring process be unstructured and haphazard?

Unfortunately, research shows that employers continue to rely primarily on “gut feel” in hiring decisions. For example, a 2008 study of more than 200 HR professionals, “Stubborn Reliance on Intuition and Subjectivity in Employee Selection,” reported in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, revealed that by a factor of more than three to one, they believed that unstructured interviews allowed them to learn more about candidates by “reading between the lines.”

The simple fact, however, is that in such a hit-and-miss approach, the HR managers’ own personal perceptual filters and the judgments based on them can be more of a hindrance than an aid in finding the right person for the job.

Testing and Consistency

Organizational talent management should focus on identifying and hiring top performers who can be trained and advanced to progressively greater responsibility. However, we are often attracted to the personality style and type that most closely resemble our own, and we may be tempted to hire accordingly. 

To hire objectively requires an objective measurement tool. It requires integrating personality testing into an assessment process that will identify the best talent and training programs for developing the capabilities of new hires. By identifying which candidates have the potential to excel and the type of performers they can be, personality testing makes hiring a systematic process.  

The Wall Street Journal has reported that more than 80 percent of midsize and large companies use personality and ability assessments of new hires for at least some entry and midlevel positions. The formal aim of the tests may be to help the employer hire a specific type of individual for a job that requires particular traits, or to rule out someone with traits that are likely to lead to job failure.  

More importantly, the use of testing and assessment as recruitment tools helps hiring managers objectively understand how job candidates will interact and communicate with other employees and clients in everyday workplace situations. Effectively applied, it will make it easy to identify candidates who will perform to their true potential in careers and positions that are aligned with their interests and work styles. These are the people who are best qualified to spur improvements in quality and service.

Prediction and Performance

The more an assessment measures, the more useful it is for predicting workplace behavior and the greater the level of understanding it provides on how best to leverage each person’s capabilities. Extensive analysis of workplace situations demonstrates that three distinct factors account for much of the variance in both job performance and job satisfaction: characteristics of the individual, characteristics of the job environment, and interaction of the individual with his or her job description/environment/situation.

Measuring all three factors maximizes the potential for getting the right person in the right job. That means determining whether a given person’s personality traits mesh with the requirements of the job for which that person is being considered. These traits must be described in objective, nonjudgmental language, so employers can make hiring choices that are objective and comply with all legal requirements.

The Birkman Method has been used during the past 60 years by more than three million people and 5,000 organizations worldwide. It uses four colors—blue, red, green and yellow—to represent the professional functions needed by every organization. Each of these four fundamental categories is vital to the overall health of the organization. Each person has some of all four capabilities, although in differing degrees:

• Blue: Design/Strategy

• Red: Operations/Science

• Green: Marketing/Sales

• Yellow: Finance/Administration

These colors help define the distinctive strengths each person brings to a team and the ways each one can best contribute. Not surprisingly, the great majority of HR professionals have an organizational focus color of blue, the color most commonly associated with counseling and training, and many will need to have some yellow if they must deal with details of benefits and compensation. 

Similarly, different job functions require different personal characteristics. And each potential new hire will have unique strengths, weaknesses, productive behaviors and stress behaviors that may be similar to or different from peers. 

Personality testing identifies and brings those characteristics into focus, helping employers choose the individual best suited for the specific job and ultimate career paths that the organization must fill.

Sharon Birkman Fink is president and CEO of Birkman International, developer of The Birkman Method leadership and team development tool.   

This article was originally published on 2011-12-05
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