Every manager has done it at least once in their career – interviewed that polished, refined, impressive “Lexus” of a candidate only to find out later that when it comes time to do the actual job the candidate suddenly starts performing like a Yugo, the car that Car Talk called “worst car of the millennium”.
How do these hiring mistakes happen? How can a candidate look so good, so right for the role, and yet end up being such a poor match? Well certainly, every hiring situation is unique, however there are trends and research that can help us understand the weaknesses of the interview process and some of the common pitfalls of communication biases.
As we pointed out in our earlier post Hiring for Cultural Fit – Look Beyond the Résumé statistical studies have shown that “decisions based on interviews alone are accurate only 14% of the time. That means we have the chance to be wrong 86% of the time in the hiring of top performing individuals.” Michigan State University Study, John Hunter and Rhonda Hunter, “Validity and Utility of Alternative Predictors of Job Performance”, Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 96, No. 1, 1984, p. 90 (links to pdf)
In other words the interview process alone only gets the hiring recommendation right one out of seven times – not a great average. Without the use of other hiring tools to derive objective data it can be easy to be dazzled by a strong surface presentation – a confident manner, neat professional appearance, firm handshake, eye contact, etc. However are these attributes truly predictive of success for the job at hand? Most people feel comfortable with people with whom they share similar behavioral profiles, they also tend to see certain profiles as aspirational – a candidate who shares a similar behavioral style or projects one that the hiring manager believes themselves to be will have an advantage in the interview process similar to the salesperson who is able to establish instant rapport with a prospect who natural feels more comfortable and trusting of someone whose behavior patterns mimic their own. This can also be true of projected attributes for a given role. For example, an executive candidate may project the demeanor of leadership along with the refined, polished manner and eloquence expected of a leader, but may not necessarily have the behavioral style suited to the demands of that particular organization – the surface “paint job” may impress the board, but a slick “luxury car” appearance won’t help you if what your organization needs is a leader who performs with the behavioral metaphor of a tough, hard-driving off-road vehicle, or a practical, economically-minded mini-van.
The hiring manager’s own effective behaviors, or projected behavioral assumptions for the role, may not be the effective behaviors needed for success in the position being applied for: As an example a department leader who is both a people person and very decisive may need to fill a slot for an analytical role that requires high compliance and a comfort with working in an environment with low people interaction. Although a candidate that shares the high people orientation and decisiveness (and perhaps an equivalent aesthetic sensibility) may seem like an appealing hire, once placed in the performance environment the very attributes that made the candidate seem familiar, attractive and credible would become impediments to optimal performance. The disparity would inevitably lead to some form of disruption whether it be stress/anxiety on the part of the hire, poor performance of job duties, or some other team disruption caused by the mismatched assignment.
The use of objective tools can be indispensable in identifying the aptitude of a candidate for a given role. However, pairing this approach with identifying not just a functional job profile, but a behavioral profile for success will allow the interview process to have an effective “check and balance.” There are tools specifically designed to streamline the process of creating a behavior-based job profile so that you can make sure the candidate selected is closely matched for behavioral alignment, and therefore job success. Using assessment tools to both understand the behaviors needed for the position and the behaviors displayed by the candidate can help you choose a new employee who has what you need “under the hood” no matter whether the exterior looks like a Lexus or a Yugo or anything in between.