How to Make a Tough Hiring Decision
There’s a lot riding on your hiring decisions. Studies show, when companies make good hiring decisions, employee turnover goes down and productivity and profits go up. The reverse is true when hiring decisions go wrong. Employee retention and morale go down, customer service suffers and companies struggle to maintain a competitive advantage. Whether an employee leaves voluntarily or is terminated, filling the empty chair costs thousands.
It’s easy to see why the future of an organization depends on making great hiring decisions.
But so much of the hiring process seems subjective. Assessing education and work experience is the easy part. Hiring managers face difficult decisions when assessing for personality, culture fit, and soft skills. Abstract qualities such as these are difficult to quantify. Hiring teams that rely on intuition to assess these abstract qualities may find themselves making decisions based on personal biases.
When considering how to make a tough hiring decision, develop a data-driven hiring process that artfully mixes objectivity with sound intuitive judgement to choose the best candidate.
Making Great Hiring Decisions
The pressure is on to make great hiring decisions. Creating strong teams and reducing employee turnover are effective ways to reduce costs and increase profits. Great hiring decisions rely on three important factors.
- The first of these factors is the quality of the data you gather. When applications and resumes come in, you should have an effective way to analyze and sort the information they contain. Recruiters often find the internet brings mixed blessings in their search for top candidates. The internet is an effective way to increase the radius of your search. But oftentimes, recruiters are faced with too many unqualified applicants. Stellar candidates can easily get lost in the mix. Use applicant tracking software to help you organize and sort the responses that your job ad garners.
- The second important factor for great hiring decisions is an objective set of criteria against which to measure all the candidates. For this, you’ll need an updated job description. Resist the urge to just go with what you had when you were hiring the position three years ago. Supervisors and team member can help you make sure the job description accurately represents the role. From there, develop a list of necessary qualifications. Don’t let your anxiety over hiring the wrong candidate get the better of you. Don’t require a college degree for entry level positions unless it’s absolutely necessary. Personality traits like motivation and loyalty may be more important than oodles of work experience.
- Your emotions will likely influence your final hiring decision. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. That’s why sound intuitive judgement is our third factor for great hiring decisions. At some point, you’re going to have to “trust your gut.” But you’ll find your gut is trustworthy when you learn how to make emotionally intelligent decisions.
Distribute Hiring Authority
You can make the best data-driven, objective, and intuitively sound decisions when you rely on a hiring team. Avoid “group think” by including a diverse group of people from throughout the company. A variety of personalities with various roles and stakes in the organization can provide the well-rounded perspective you need to make great hiring decisions.
You’ll want to include the new hire’s supervisor and perhaps even a team member. These individuals are in the best position to assess the unique qualities required for this role. They’re also in the best position to assess how a candidate’s personality will mesh with existing team members. But be careful not to enable a toxic work environment if there’s conflict among members of the current team. In that case, look for a new hire with the positive attributes that will make the team stronger and address existing conflict separately.
The most successful companies are the ones with a strong, unifying vision. For this reason, you need someone on your hiring team with deep knowledge about the company’s culture, its goals, and values. This person can help you make sure the new hire’s values align with the company’s mission.
Finally, you’ll need someone unassociated with the department in which the new hire will be working. Departmental heads can sometimes be blind to the weaknesses within their own teams. An outsider can appreciate the strengths an introvert may bring to a team of extroverted members.
Consider Amazon’s Bar Raiser Program. Amazon proactively identifies star performers within their organization and then trains them to be skilled interviewers with a focus on hiring candidate’s who demonstrate 14 Leadership Principles. The program helps ensure objectivity during the hiring process and influences behavior centered around the company’s values.
Choosing Between Two Quality Candidates
If you find that you’re repeatedly forced to choose between two equally qualified candidates, it may be time to reexamine your hiring process. Ask the following questions to better describe how your hiring manager should decide to hire the best applicant.
- Are you collecting enough data about candidates during the application process?
- Are you quantifying the soft skills and personality traits required for the job?
- Have you created an assessment against which to rate candidates?
No matter how well thought out your hiring process, from time to time you will be lucky enough to find yourself with two stellar applicants. The hiring process is no time to draw straws. So how do you choose between the two?
If you haven’t called all of their references, pick up the phone. You may get information that will sway your decision. Consider administering assessments to test for the personality traits that will make your new hire successful. If there is still no clear winner, don’t jump to consulting your gut instinct just yet. Develop some tie-breaker interview questions first.
Tie-Breaker Interview Questions
Tie-breaker interview questions uncover hidden, but important, personality traits. The right list of questions can help you develop a personality profile for the candidate that gets underneath the mask they put on when they wear their best interview suit. You can gauge an applicant’s maturity level and emotional intelligence. You can find out what motivates them, whether they possess self-confidence, and whether they’re committed to personal growth. Tie-breaker questions are unexpected and, being unrehearsed, will give you the greatest insight into your applicant.
Examples of open-ended tie-breaker questions include:
- Why are you interested in working for our company?
- What are your short and long-term goals? Where do you want to be in two and in ten years?
- What do you like best about your current job? Why do you want to leave it?
If there still isn’t a clear, logical choice, don’t be dismissive of your intuitive powers. Your marketing team will be quick to tell you most of our decisions are emotional. No matter how rational you fancy yourself to be, many of your choices are rooted in your emotions.
And using your intuition to make decisions isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Studies show your mind processes far more information than you can juggle in your logical, working memory. The conclusions your super-processing brain make come through as emotions. A decision feels right or it feels bad.
Make sure hiring decisions are rooted in healthy emotions. If the new hire’s department is known to be toxic, you may hire someone you think is tough enough to handle the negativity. In reality, you’re probably hiring a person who will contribute to the negative atmosphere. The better, and more difficult, solution, is to hire people with desirable traits while separately dealing with undesirable behaviors that have already taken root.
Final Decision on Hiring
You can avoid needing to make a tough, last-minute hiring decision if you develop effective strategies to determine how the final hiring decision is made.
Start with applicant tracking software that can scan resumes and pull the most qualified candidates for you to review first. Count on a diverse hiring team to provide different, yet valuable, perspectives. Recruit a specially trained person to assist with recruitment decision making who prioritizes the company’s culture and is also unaffiliated with the position’s department.
Incorporating tie-breaker questions throughout your entire application process can help you uncover each applicant’s true personality. When you’re still faced with a tough hiring choice, an intuitive judgement call from an emotionally healthy place can be your best tool for making a final employment decision.
Assign one person who will make the final hiring decision in the selection process if you find your team can’t agree on the best candidate. Remember one of Amazon’s Leadership Principles: a bias for action. As important as the hiring decision and selection process are, there are other equally important factors that can lower employee turnover and develop your team’s potential. Effective onboarding and training programs are useful tools that can help an average new hire become great.
Are you interested in developing better interview questions? Download our guide that shares best questions and advice from over 70 hiring experts.
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