“He blew up all over our jambalaya!” Exclaimed a client last week as we reflected on the luncheon meeting we did as part of the Hire Slow Protocol I utilize.

This client had experienced a few mis-hires in the past and didn’t want to repeat the same costly mistake. So he hired me to conduct a pre-hire cognitive/behavioral assessment of a candidate who was interviewing for a position as Plant Manager. As a seasoned consultant, I recognized a “red flag” on this job candidate’s Birkman assessment. Over lunch I proceeded to probe deeper on this “flagged” behavioral area. Within 5 minutes the candidates was spewing aggravation, blame, condemnation, and an array of victimization characteristic that rivaled the variety of spices in our meals. He clearly was not a good fit for a meat manufacturing and cutting plant.

Hiring is part art, part science. What it is not is a skill set most small business owners possess. Mis-hires are estimated to cost up to 3 x the salary of the hire. Only 21% of business owners feel that they hire well. Eighty percent are disappointed by external hires and 75% by internal promotions. At a CEO conference I attended last week the CEO of a company called The Predictive Index spoke about studies of the predictive success of interviews citing that only 6% of unstructured interviews are predictive of good hires.

Would you keep a piece of equipment or endorse a work process that was only accurate 25% of the time?

The predictive estimate on interviewing goes up to 23% with structured interviews but up further to 51% with structured interviews plus behavioral and cognitive assessments.*

One reason the stats for most interviews are poor in predicting workplace performance is that there is a lot of unconscious bias at play during the interview process. I’ve been working with small business owners for over two decades and this holds remarkably true.

What is the antidote for poor hiring? Here are three techniques to help put more science into the hiring process:

1. Get clear on what values you are looking for in a good hire. Define key work habits and behaviors that lead to success in your companies’ culture. Then include questions to get at how a candidate has used these values and behaviors. Most people are fired for lack of value alignment, work motivation, consistency in execution and culture fit. None of these elements are a typical part of resumes or the standard interview process. Get some help to design interview questions to get at values, habits, and attitudes not just job experience. Download a document I created called: Interview Tips to Secure the Best Talent.

2. Use assessments and seasoned consultants to get under the hood of the candidate in an efficient, unbiased way. Once you see the engine you can test drive the behaviors in a structured, multi-step interview process. There are some strong, reliable cognitive and behavioral assessments available. I frequently use Birkman but am skilled in using other tools as part of the overall behavioral interview process.

3. Involve a variety of interviewers. Train people in basic interview techniques. Peer interviews are a great idea because if the peers like the candidate they will work harder to help them succeed as an employee. Take your time!!!!! Perform a variety of types of interviews; Phone, Skype, group, as well as in person.
Take the time, make the investment, improve the process and save yourself the stress and money of making a poor hire.

*Personnel Measures’ Ability to Predict Overall Job Performance (adapted from Hunter & Schmidt, 1998)