(How to increase the probability of a great hire while eliminating as much as possible, improper bias in the hiring decision.)
Frequently we are asked why resumes do not play a bigger role in our new hire selection process for clients. Let me say up front, it is not because we believe that resumes are embellished or false. We do not believe that at all. They are a necessary guide to the work history of a candidate. However, they can also create bias both good and bad, in hiring managers.
Anyone who has participated in a hiring decision has done it before..Looked at a resume seen a name, and formed some conclusions. It most likely didn’t stop there.. we have all probably looked at the education line and formed a conclusion. This is considered an assessment according to the DOL’s report on assessments. If the conclusions led to elimination of that candidate from consideration or even just to rank the candidate, your interpretation of the resume data requires reflection.
● What were your biases in your conclusions? Were they empirically based on evidence or just a hunch?
● Were they in compliance with the myriad of rules covering bias in hiring? Did they limit your organization's ability to create a diverse and inclusive workforce?
● Did your hunch eliminate a future star performer from consideration?
● Did your conclusions advance a candidate for the wrong reasons in spite of no real evidence as to their potential on the job performance?
Now think about the interview. We all form first impressions in a first interview of a candidate. Many professionals do not know how to ask questions that are truly predictive of on the job performance and/or professional growth potential. As a result, they make assessments about a candidate's potential based on how they “liked” them in the interview. These interview conclusions also require the same reflection found above.
Therefore, we believe resumes and interviews alone cannot lead to optimum choices in hiring decisions both in terms of the right fit and in terms of eliminating unconscious bias that may lead to a reduction in a diverse and inclusive workforce.
At KLG, we believe in bringing large companies selection tools to small and medium sized organizations. We are committed to helping organizations make their hiring and promotion decisions based on evidence and not just their gut feel and eliminating as much as possible their unsubstantiated biases.
We do this for two reasons that we sincerely believe make a significant difference in our clients’ teams.
1. With people, as with other things, past performance is not necessarily a guarantee of future success especially with new hires or promotions.
2. We all have biases subconscious or otherwise. Some of those biases violate certain employment rules and others have no reasonable basis for predicting on the job performance.
We believe the key to making a great hire is to use evidenced based tools to assess if candidates are a fit for the position and your culture. We do not just look at what they know but how they learn and adapt to see if a candidate might be a fit for a particular position. This is key, because the same position in different organizations may require a different set of workflows, systems and institutional knowledge to perform well. That benchmark of performance must be understood and the adaptability of candidates’ cognitive capacity in the context of the skills to do that job well, should be measured to closely match the benchmark. The key is to measure specific job skill aptitude, not general cognitive ability. We use custom built cognitive assessments for each job for this reason.
However, that is only one type of fit. The other is culture fit. Some Human Capital consultants think this is the more important element of job fit. A skilled professional who does not fit culturally, or who cannot adapt culturally, either will not stay long or will become disruptive. While we can measure current behavioral tendencies and we do, we also want to look at “coachability.” Can the candidate be assimilated and add value into the culture and modify their behavior and become a high performer and team player?
"Can They Become One of Us, While Being Themselves?"
Part of this is dependent upon your onboarding and training program but it is also incumbent upon hiring managers and HR, to use a tool to measure job skill, cultural fit and adaptability, pre-hire, while trying as best as possible to ensure compliance with anti-bias rules in the selection process. There are many tools to do this, some say over 5,000 are on the market in the USA. At KLG we use custom cognitive assessments and the Hogan suite of behavioral tools.
Keep in mind that in becoming one of us doesn’t mean hiring someone just like the hiring leader; it also means bringing diversity to the team to balance the culture as a whole. The Hogan tool can help identify the potential right fit for your company culture while eliminating personal assumptions based on looks, gender, and socio economic background. The key is to assess hardwired behavioral tendencies balanced against potential and the ability of a candidate to grow through coaching and other professional development programs.
What is potential and how do you measure it? That depends on the position, the industry and the size of the company. All of those factors and more, need to be taken into consideration to set a benchmark for growth potential and adaptability in new hires. This takes skill and a methodical interview process of the hiring manager, HR and/or the board of directors for c-level positions. The position's requirement for an ability to adapt, create and inspire vision in others, analyze complex problems and/or handle a quickly changing macro environment, needs to be assessed.
The last factor that should be considered is the candidate's desire to succeed. Some people call this motivation and that may be a more accurate term. We prefer to find out what the candidate really desires to achieve in their career and through their career. Any assessment process should answer this question, "is the candidate's desire aligned with what the position and culture delivers?" This can be measured in many ways and financial success is only one determinant and in some cultures and organizational structures, not the most important one.
If a position and culture only deliver extrinsic rewards such as financial incentives, hiring managers need to be honest about that while looking at cultural fit of candidates. Conversely, if a culture is based on the intrinsic rewards of purpose and cause for example, candidates must be assessed for this type of desire or motivation.
In summary, we believe hiring managers and organizational leaders need to know their people and that includes their candidates for open positions and/or promotion. For many reasons, some legal, some evidenced based best practices in hiring decisions, this can not be left to gut feel, personal biases and/or luck. If you want great employees and a diverse workforce, you will need state of the art tools and methods to get you where you want to go.
Kenneth L. Greenberg is the CEO of KLG Consultants, LLC, a Talent Acquisition and Management firm based in Colorado. The firm offers large company, C-Level talent on an outsourced and permanent hire basis to Organizations of all sizes. Visit www.klgconsultants.com for more information.