The New Hire Checklist - Find the Right Person for the Job the First Time

Bad hiring is wasteful, expensive and an embarrassing experience. This new hire checklist will help you find the right person for the job.

Laura Machan, Partner, LHH Knightsbridge, Stephen Hime, Partner, LHH Knightsbridge , and Greg Leskew, SVP, Talent & Leadership Development, LHH
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There are very few HR professionals who don’t acknowledge that a bad hire is a wasteful, expensive and sometimes embarrassing experience. This new hire checklist will help you find the right people for the job.

There is all the time invested in recruiting, advertising, engaging a search partner to develop a hiring strategy and onboarding. The costs here are measured in both time and money.

Then, there are the less obvious costs. When a hire has flamed out, existing employees can lose confidence in the leadership team and the entire hiring process. Bad hires also hinder an organization’s overall performance, leaving critical teams shorthanded and top performers being forced to carry more than their fair share of the load.

While we all know the consequences of a bad hire, we’re not as good about figuring out what went wrong. 

The challenge is the hiring process at most organizations is a combination of science and gut feeling. However, if a hiring process lacks objective data, it opens the door for unconscious bias to bleed into decision-making, and that can counter an organization’s efforts to improve diversity and inclusion. 

Organizations that rely too heavily on gut feeling tend to have unstructured approaches to interviews and candidate assessment. And that’s a huge problem; research has shown that an unstructured interview has roughly a 50-50 chance of predicting future job performance. 

For many years now, researchers have been attempting to measure the potential for unstructured interviews to predict a good hire. A seminal 1998 study published by the American Psychological Association found that unstructured interviews could only predict about 14 percent of an employee’s performance, which was only slightly ahead of things like reference checks and the number of years of experience.

What, then, do we mean when we say a structured interview? These typically involve consistent sets of questions with a pre-established criterion to assess responses. 

A structured interview should also involve behaviour-based questions, where people are presented with a specific scenario and asked to describe how they would respond. It should also feature additional assessment tools that look at a sample work test or that measure cognitive ability and leadership style. 

The thing that all these tools have in common is that they create a pool of data that is consistent across a group of candidates. Even adding one additional assessment tool can dramatically improve the information you’re getting back on each candidate.

Of course, structured interviews are only one element in a longer list of steps that you should take to plan and execute a hire. Other steps include:

  • Stakeholder Review. Even in instances where there is an urgent need to fill an opening, you need to talk to colleagues, managers, and HR to confirm the job as it stands today and determine whether you will be expanding the scope of the job as you look for a new candidate.
  • Reviewing Job Description. The stakeholder review will help build the job description that you ultimately use to build the post. At this stage, it’s important to ensure that you’re using language that will result in the most diverse selection of candidates possible.
  • Confirming Skills/Competencies. Another byproduct of the stakeholder review is a confirmation of the skills, and competencies you need from a new candidate. Was the person who previously held the job missing a key certification or area of knowledge? How much emphasis will you put on previous experience and academic credentials? If you know the demands of the job will be changing, additional competencies should be built into the job posting.
  • Identifying rewards necessary to draw good candidates. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make when trying to fill a job is to assume the salary and benefits paid to a departing employee will help you land a new candidate. The market rates for hiring someone with the same skills and competencies may have gone up; if the job description and candidate requirements have both increased, then so too should the remuneration.
  • Defining the Hiring Process. Along with identifying your interview questions and assessment tools, you will need to define the process by which you vet the initial pool of resumes and establish a short-list. You will also need  to decide exactly how many interviews each person will be required to go through and who will be involved in making the final decision.
  • Defining Success Profiles. When you get down to the final two or three candidates, it is essential that you know exactly what you will pull from the resumes and what you are going to get from the assessment tools. Having a clear idea of what data you’re going to get from each source will ensure that you’re not allowing gut instinct to leak into the data analysis.
  • Post-hire review and assessment. Like any important HR function, it’s important to gather your hiring team together at the end and take stock of what you did, what worked and what might need additional attention.

The goal here is not just to ensure that any single hire works out; this is a blueprint for putting in place a consistent and repeatable process to ensure that the gross majority of hires end up justifying the time and expense of the hiring process.

No organization can promise 100 percent good hires. But a thoughtful, methodical approach can ensure that the gross majority of your new hires not only meet but exceed expectations.

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