The Top Four Hiring Frustrations and How to Overcome Them
By Chad Hayward | June 30, 2008
As someone who makes hiring decisions, you certainly understand the frustrations associated with sourcing, screening and selecting new employees. The hiring process can be tedious to say the least, and often requires a significant investment of time, money and energy to ensure that the right candidate is ultimately chosen. Worse, however, is that most widely-accepted selection practices (particularly in the SME community) do very little to help you predict candidate success, giving rise to uncertainty about your decisions and disappointment when those who are hired do not perform to your expectations.
With that in mind, let's talk about the four key hiring frustrations experienced by most employers and offer a few general suggestions on how to overcome them. In future articles in this series, we will discuss more specific strategies that you can employ at each stage of the hiring process, to ensure that you make quick confident selection decisions and consistently hire top talent for your organization.
Number of Applicants
Although it may be easier in a world where there is one job for every person, the fact is that the employment market will always present us with one of two situations that lead hiring managers to feel anxious and frustrated:
- Too few candidates for too many positions.
- Too many candidates for too few positions.
In the former case, competition between employers is fierce and each are doing whatever they can to attract applicants to their particular organization. Hiring decisions are delayed as companies take time to source the rare individuals who will meet their needs, if they are able to find them at all. Some leave vacancies open and suffer the lost opportunity that would be gained from employing someone who could produce in the role. Others acting out of desperation end up hiring whomever they can to fill empty seats, leading to the selection of poor performers whose inability and bad judgement can cost employers more than it would to leave the position vacant.
In the latter case, employers are bombarded with applications, which can be just as frustrating to employers as receiving too few, depending on the quality of the selection system that they have in place. Sourcing is relatively easy in such economies but hiring decisions are often delayed at the screening stage, as hiring managers spend weeks sifting through resumes and conducting phone screens to help identify individuals with basic qualifications. In this type of environment, it is the candidates who are often acting out of desperation, applying to whatever jobs they can in order to increase the chances of being hired. The number of unqualified candidates skyrockets and, with that, the chances of mistakenly hiring a poor performer greatly increases, particularly without the use of effective assessment tools to uncover potential limitations.
Although we will discuss more specific recommendations in upcoming articles, we can offer one solution here that will help in both of the situations outlined above:
Market yourself as an employer just as you would market a product or service and find ways to quickly filter out those who lack the basic qualifications required to be successful in the role and organization..
This means understanding as much as you can about your ideal customer – high-potential job applicants – and taking steps to appeal to this group. That includes discovering more about the places that these "customers" frequent, presenting them with an offer that is designed to attract them specifically, and recognizing the difference between true talent and someone who is simply looking for a job.
There's no doubt about it – hiring is expensive and time consuming.
Surveys conducted by the Conference Board of Canada have shown that hiring managers often spend nine to 15 weeks in job advertising, screening and interviewing applicants for professional, managerial and executive positions. The monetary costs can range anywhere from $17,000 to $43,000.
Of course, these statistics are based on traditional well-accepted practices that do not necessarily work in the best interests of employers. Sourcing is often passive, involving posting a fairly bland advertisement or job description and waiting until one receives enough applications to warrant a viable applicant pool. Then a host of unstandardized resumes are reviewed, often taking between three and ten minutes to read for each applicant, potentially leading to days or weeks of screening time depending on the number received. Finally, unstructured interviews are conducted that are often more akin to casual conversations than job-related discussion and, because they are unfocused, result in much more time being invested than is truly necessary.
The monetary costs can be subtle; yet, consider the costs involved in the following tasks and you will likely agree that hiring can be a very expensive undertaking:
- Developing a job posting
- Advertising vacancies.
- Contracting work out to third-party recruiters.
- Managing hiring logistics.
- Paying staff members to administrate the process.
- Paying hiring managers to conduct resume reviews, interviews, and reference checks.
- Processing and onboarding the new employee.
- Covering any other costs associated with the sourcing, screening and selection of new hires.Â Â
Want to develop a more efficient system?
Review your hiring process to identify the steps that are key bottlenecks in terms of time and money invested. Improve your approach within these steps to include techniques that provide the most value for the least cost.Â Â
For example, surveys would indicate that resume reviews are one of the most time-consuming steps in any hiring process. As an alternative, more sophisticated employers are avoiding them altogether and instead requiring that applicants complete a structured application form that asks for information on only those qualities deemed important to success in the role. Basic qualifications are easily compared and applicants can be quickly ranked to identify those who should progress to more expensive steps of the process (e.g., interviews).
Unfortunately, hiring managers rarely feel sure that they are making the right decisions throughout the selection process, let alone at the final stage when they must choose who to hire. Their preferred candidate may seem to have the right qualifications and experience, but there is often a nagging feeling of having missed an exceptional individual somewhere in the process, or of having chosen a candidate who will turn out to be a poor performer or perhaps leave the organization within a short period of time.
It's no wonder that many feel this way, considering the subjective nature of most commonly accepted hiring practices and the temptation for applicants to exaggerate or falsify their qualifications.
"To get a clearer picture of the extent of resume fraud, I searched a variety of academic and Internet search engines to find organizations that have conducted internal research on resume fraud. On the basis of the 15 studies, the best estimate of the percentage of resumes containing false information appears to be 25%."
Professor of Psychology, Radford University
The three most practiced approaches to evaluating job candidates (resumes, unstructured interviews, and reference checks) are particularly sensitive to these types of problems and often lack the objective data that you would need to feel comfortable predicting a candidate's future success. This is likely a key reason why research has clearly shown a poor relationship between these methods and a candidate's future performance on the job.
Here's what you can do to help increase your confidence level throughout the process:
Place less weight on subjective methods, such as those that are based on opinion and speculation or where people may be tempted to falsify claims. Instead focus on objective data gathered through well-researched assessments and verified background information.Â Â
Generally, our hope is that a new hire will later perform to the standards set out for a person in a certain role, to meet our performance expectations. In other words, we want the person to be able to contribute at least to the same level as the average employee in a particular field, in our specific industry - and thus feel satisfied with our decision. For salespeople, this may include a quantitative dollar amount, such as $200,000 per year; for team leaders, it may be qualitative, such as the level of contentment and motivation felt by direct reports.
Dissatisfaction occurs when our hiring decisions result in employing people who do not perform to this level and generally hold the organization back from being as successful as it could be. To put this in perspective, Hunter, Schmidt and Judiesch, leading experts in measuring employee productivity, conducted a major study involving tens of thousands of employees and found that:
Low performers contribute 19% to 48% less than the average employee, depending on the complexity of the position.
So, in the case of salespeople, a disappointing hiring decision may be one in which employees generate only half as much revenue as average, perhaps just $100,000 per year; in the case of team leaders, disappointment may come from knowing that an employee's direct reports feel less than half as satisfied or motivated as they did working for a more capable manager.
If this occurs frequently in your company, you can rest assured knowing that you're not alone. Peter Drucker, whom many consider to be the father of modern management, found that disappointing hiring decisions were being made very often (about a third of the time) in companies that devote a great deal of attention to the issue.
The solution is fairly straightforward:
Understand what it takes for a person to succeed in the role and build a selection process around those competencies. Use evaluation methods that are objective, time and cost-effective, and proven to relate to job performance, and make sure that they meet the hiring standards that were set out by appropriate governmental and employment agencies.
A Better Alternative
You certainly know what a frustrating yet important job you have being responsible for employee selection, and the significant repercussions that can occur as the result of making the wrong hiring decision. Simply put, few decisions have as much impact on the success of a venture than those made when selecting new employees.
"Identifying and acquiring talent is one of the most important processes in human resource management, and a key element in being competitive in a knowledge driven, talent constrained economy." (Boudreau & Ramstad, 2001)
But don't feel disheartened. Over the next series of articles, we will discuss each step of an ideal hiring process in turn and offer a number of practical tips and strategies that will build on the solutions offered above, and will help you hire more quickly and with much more confidence in the future performance of the employees that you select.
These articles will focus on:
- Outlining role objectives and uncovering the attributes that candidates need in order to be considered top performers.
- Increasing the number of qualified applicants who apply for your posted job vacancies.
- Efficiently screening out applicants who lack necessary skills and competence.
- Identifying and selecting candidates who are most likely to meet or exceed your expectations.
- Onboarding your new employees so that they can be successful as quickly as possible.
- Measuring the success of your hiring efforts and improving your selection system.
- Developing your employee base and implementing a succession planning program to secure the future of your company.
We welcome any comments or questions you might have about employee selection, particularly if you have suggestions to add that will help other members of our SME community. What problems have you experienced when selecting new employees, and what types of methods do you use to overcome the four frustrations outlined above?
All the best in your hiring efforts!