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Developing recruitment partnerships

By NEHRA, 11/26/2002

Today's HR professional needs to go beyond the resume, and beyond the criminal and background checks, when looking at a candidate for hire. A single document or two simply does not give enough information to make an informed decision. To complicate the hiring process even more, interviewers tread a fine line when trying to find the real person behind the interview façade. In fact, according to a recent SHRM article, interview expert William S. Swan, Ph.D, reported that a mere 10 to 12 percent of those actively involved in hiring new employees have any kind of formal training on how to conduct an interview.

Continue onto structured behavioral interviewing

Legal issues make many HR professionals wary of the interview process. There are so many questions that are illegal that it is hard to tell what is safe today and what isn't. How can today's HR professional identify adverse behavior patterns without stepping on legal toes? Often behavioral-based questioning can lead a candidate into discussing important aspects of his or her thinking and decision-making style that could affect job performance in a new position.

Some suggested questions include the following.

  • Tell me about some of the times you have had to work under pressure or meet difficult deadlines.
  • Discuss a time in the past when you have failed to meet an objective or goal. Why did that happen?
  • In your previous jobs, have you ever been confronted by management because of an error you made? How did you handle this situation?
  • Has there ever been a time when you were asked to do something that challenged your integrity? What was your response?
  • Would you describe yourself as someone who enjoys taking risks? Tell me about a situation in the past in which you had to take a risk.

Of course, even these questions can be answered untruthfully. After all, a person just has to know how to act to give a good interview - he or she does not have to be the right person for the job. This is where using objective behavioral tests can confirm or disconfirm the information you uncover from the candidate. Many of the better preemployment behavioral tests will provide suggested behavioral interview questions to ask of the candidate.

Administer objective behavioral testing

Many companies have decided to go a step further when interviewing potential employees by incorporating preemployment assessment tests into the process. These behavioral assessments offer a number of advantages to HR professionals. According to the Association of Test Publishers, the following are some of those advantages.

  • Tests are even-handed-they ask the same questions of everyone.
  • Tests typically require less time than traditional interviews, so they are more efficient in obtaining job-related information.
  • Appropriate tests have been carefully screened to be fair and unbiased, and will not include questions asking for improper information.
  • Tests allow the individual's answers to be compared with hundreds or thousands of other candidates' (or current employees) answers to the same question under the same standard condition.
  • The decisions made from test results are based on research studies that prove their accuracy and effectiveness.

These tests give interviewers another perspective of the job candidate, allowing them to assess personal aspects of the individual such as interpersonal skills, initiative, and self-regulation. By adding these assessments to the hiring process, interviewers can answer the questions that eluded them previously. They can determine how the candidate would work within the corporate culture, eliminate candidates whose profiles indicate they would not work well with the leadership style of the manager, and gain some insight into the individual's work ethic. This gives the HR professional more information on which to base a hiring decision.

Another benefit of incorporating assessment tests in the hiring process is the opportunity to conduct benchmark studies on successful performers in a given job. By conducting this type of study using behavioral assessment tests, a company can develop a job analysis of the critical "soft skill" factors necessary for success. These profiles of success can be compared with job candidate profiles and will greatly enhance the probability of hiring the right person the first time.

Does this sound time consuming and expensive? It isn't necessarily so. The following chart represents the cost per hire as reported in the SHRM/EMA Staffing Metrics study released this last year.

Cost per Hire by Size
Size Exempt Non-Exempt
Small $9,044 $3,640
Medium $6,362 $2,434
Large $6,062 $2,177
Average $6,943 $2,546
Source: 2002 SHRM/EMA CpH Survey

While the study indicated the cost per hire criteria varied by company, the averages unearthed are nonetheless significant. Factor in turnover costs, rehire costs, lost production costs, and training and insurance losses and the cost of a bad hire can rise to breathtaking levels. Who wants to keep repeatedly paying costs like these? When everything is factored in, it is far less costly to go the extra step and hire the right person for the job, company culture, and management style the first time.

One caveat to remember, however, is that these tests should never be the sole deciding factor in hiring a new employee. They should be used as part of the entire hiring process, and can help in selecting the candidate with the best fit for the position among other qualified candidates. As part of the overall hiring process, preemployment assessment tests can provide a more comprehensive picture of an individual to help in making the right decision for both the employee and the company. But don't stop here.

Polish with extensive reference checks

There are a myriad of legal issues surrounding reference checking, but it is wrong to think that not checking references is the safest policy. As an employer, you have the responsibility and the right to check references. The courts agree that checking references is a lawful business practice. An increase in negligent hiring litigation is warning employers to use reasonable care in selecting employees. Your company may choose to select an outsourced vendor to assist in your reference checking, or if you choose to do this screening function yourself, just make sure the information you seek is job-related.


Upon implementation of a thorough hiring management process, it is recommended that you document the procedures and processes and train department managers, as well as recruiters, on all screening and interviewing processes to remain consistent. In summary, if you just need a "warm" body, or if you are in dire need to hire someone quickly, then why even conduct an interview, why not just tell the candidate when and where to show up? The truth is you conduct an interview to get a better feel for the candidate's ability to do the job, as well as whether they will do the job in your company. In addition to the interview, it is critical to incorporate background checks, behavioral interviewing, behavioral tests, and reference checks to further determine if the person will do the job effectively, and if he or she poses a "risk" to your organization. When your organization has implemented these steps into your interviewing and screening processes, you will have gone far in reducing your company's exposure to employment-related claims and increased the likelihood of unearthing top talent.

This article is the second of a two-part series on best practices in hiring. Part 1 addresses looking beyond the resume and criminal and background checks.

Mike Poskey is vice president of ZERORISK HR, Inc., a Dallas-based human resources risk management firm. For more information, visit www.zeroriskhr.com or e-mail mike.poskey@zeroriskhr.com.


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