A User’s Guide to Bob (or any other employee)

Your company has announced plans to expand. By 600 jobs. In a variety of disciplines. This means tens of thousands of resumes will be submitted. Those will likely be whittled down to at least 2,500 interviews (assuming four per slot). And that’s not counting any phone interviews done prior to the ones in person.

Bob wants one of those jobs. His resume shows a desirable skill set and a solid track record. It probably shows some embellishments, too, which you may or may not catch and/or which may or may not matter. If his resume checks out, Bob’s interview performance will weigh heavily on his chances of being hired. Maybe Bob, as the military puts it, briefs well. Maybe he is as sharp as the interview showed. But maybe there is some personal trauma going on that threw his game off that day. Is Bob eliminated?

For argument’s sake, and the sake of this piece, we’ll say Bob aced the interview and your gut says he is the right person for the job. You make an offer and he accepts, all based on a six-second review of Bob’s resume, a 40-minute conversation, and a hunch. You wouldn’t buy a used car using that formula but people get hired on the basis of just this scenario regularly. And about four and a half years later, when the typical job turns over, you get to do the whole thing all over again.

  • Company: “Well, smart guy; sounds like you have all the answers?”
  • Me: “I usually ask a lot of questions and in doing so, the answers tend to reveal themselves.”  Company: “What sort of questions?”
  • Me: “About your process – have you hired people who lived up to your expectations? How about people who didn’t? What was different about those cases? How many people are involved in the process? Do you do anything beyond the traditional resume and interview approach?”
  • Company: “Like what?”
  • Me: “Like tools that show you an applicant’s occupational DNA, so you know the total person you’re getting in terms of competence, cultural fit, and if the individual is interested in this job? Do you know what motivates this person, what sort of management style he/she responds to best, how a crisis will be handled?

Which brings us to the subject of this article – a user’s manual for your new hire. Or for existing employees, for that matter. To include empirical data that outlines why your top performers are your top performers; as a bonus, you get a benchmark standard for what makes individuals successful in a given job. To quantify how much of a fit each person is for a particular position. And, to know what makes Bob tick, what he really wants out of the job, so you can get the most out of him, and so Bob will want to stay far longer than four and a half years (bonus: you’ll want Bob to stay longer, too).

  • Company: “We can’t do that. That would take way too much time and there is no way to gather that type of data.”
  • Me: “Sure there is and the elements of that data are already on board. You know who your top performers are because you see their results each month and each year. You also know who the folks in the mid-range are and whether they can join the top rung. And you know who is struggling.”
  • Company: “I don’t know; that sounds like a lot of time and expense.”
  • Me: “This will take less time than you will spend hiring replacements for people who did not pan out, and it costs a lot less.”

Whether filling 600 jobs or six, there is risk involved; no one is always to going to hire superstars. But there is some available science to supplement the art, to improve the likelihood of finding people who know their stuff, who fit the culture, and who are suited for the position. There is no shortage of reasons for why hiring decisions do not always succeed; chances are that few of those reasons will surprise anyone yet they are repeated with some regularity. Unless you know who Bob is, who Bob really is – maybe at a level that he is not consciously aware of himself – you may unnecessarily repeat them yourself.

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