"I can spot them as soon as they walk through the door!"
When it comes to hiring a new person, it is actually like looking into a crystal ball; you need to predict whether the person will know how to do the job, get along with other people and all the other relevant factors, in very limited time. This Especially if you are hiring a new leader, the decision is even harder because being a leader is not about working on tasks, it is about working with people. Working through people, actually. Knowing them. Knowing what motivates them. Knowing what is a trigger for someone and for someone else maybe not. Persevere even when everyone else around you thinks the Earth is flat. Predict how people will react in a bunch of different job situations.
With all these challenges, it is no wonder that there is so much research on leadership. We might call it a science, or maybe even art. Based on research, there are several traits that good leaders possess including:
- positive energy - the ability to persist in good as well as turbulent times,
- the ability to energise others,
- edge - the ability to say yes or no, not maybe,
- the ability to execute and make things happen,
Some of these traits are innate, some can be taught. How to assess all these traits in an average interview which typically lasts less than 30 minutes? In a situation when you need to hire a new leader, are you sure that your "gut feel" is enough when deciding whether someone will have the ability to energise others and to persist through difficult times, or not? How frustrating can a false positive be?
Research shows that the classic job interview, which is usually non-structured and seem more like a discussion over a cup of coffee, is correct in only about 20% of cases (Taylor, 1998). Don't rely on a candidate's years of experience either, it explains as little as three percent of a person's future job performance (Bock, 2015). Sadly, this means that using only "inner sense", "good selection skills", "extensive experience with hiring people" etc. will lead to around 80 percent of poor hiring decisions.
The good news is, however, that there are other selection methods which have proven to be much more effective. If you interview a person in a structured way, meaning you set the selection criteria upfront and use the same set of questions for all candidates, and give a person a real on-the-job situation simulation, the predictive validity* improves 20 percent. If you decide to use assessment centres, which are a comprehensive set of psychometric tests and work simulation tasks, the prediction validity becomes very powerful at about 60% -70% correct decisions.
To conclude, there is nothing more expensive than the wrong hiring decision but it happens often. To avoid it, make the effort, define in brutal detail the kind of person you want to have and then implement all of the possible assessment methods when deciding whether someone fits the criteria or not. Don't trust your gut. This applies particularly to leadership positions where there is both an art and a science to leading people which simply cannot be assessed over a cup of coffee.
*Predictive validity in hiring process is the extent to which a score on a selection method or test predicts actual job performance.
• Bock, L. (2015). Work Rules!
• Taylor, I. (2008). The Assessment and Selection Handbook: Tools, Techniques and Exercises for Effective Recruitment and Development.
Saša Fajmut, M.Sc., Director Leadership Services at Amrop, responsible for leadership assessments and development. She holds a Master's Degree in Clinical Psychology and an Executive MBA.