Everybody Knows How to Hire, But Few Know How to Hire Very Well

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I could argue, although many HR/Talent vendors don’t want to hear this, that hiring is still a black art.

Our reality is we, still in this day and age, have no idea how someone is actually going to perform in our environment in the position we put them in — although we truly believe we do know exactly how they’ll do.

That lasts until they fail, then we blame them and not our own inept ability to select the right talent for our organizations.

Expertise without anything to back it up

I have two quotes from Seth Godin regarding expertise. The first:

It’s easy to pretend expertise when there is no data to contradict you.”

That’s true for all of us and our hiring managers who claim we are “great” at hiring yet have no concrete evidence to back up this assertion.

We also allow ourselves to ignore what our data is telling us, if we don’t believe it fits the story we want to tell. “Well, Ted is a one of our best managers; he’s been here a long time. Sure, his 90-day-turnover is twice as high as the next hiring manager, but that’s not Ted’s fault — he has high turnover positions.”

Ignorance and motivation is a bad combination

Here’s the other Seth Godin quote:

Relying on the ignorance of a motivated audience isn’t a long term strategy.”

These two quotes go together in my view of hiring.

Many times, we allow hiring decisions to be made by very motivated people who need talent and are being pressured to get things done. When you add these two things together, you have disaster, not in the short-term but in the long-term.

Have you ever seen the resume of the HR Pro who tends to last three to four years at an organization, then moves on, and on, and on? Every three years or so?

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Few people know how to hire very well

This is what happens: Ignore data. Rely on the ignorance of a motivated audience. Eventually it all catches up on you, and you need to go perform your black HR magic somewhere else!

Everyone knows how to hire. Very few people know how to hire well.

The best are the ones who listen to their data and don’t allow those incapable of hiring to hire.

This isn’t easy. This takes courage.

You will have some battles to fight within your organization to make this happen, but it beats moving all of your stuff every three years.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


4 Comments on “Everybody Knows How to Hire, But Few Know How to Hire Very Well

  1. I disagree that hiring is a black art but I do
    agree that you need data in order to hire well. At my last company (SAP) we used a scientifically validated survey to help us assess behaviors and
    were able to very accurately predict how people would perform on the job. The
    system was called the Predictive Index. We hired over 100 millennials/early
    talents and after 3 years, 97% are still with the company. That didn’t happen
    by accident, that happened by using data to support hiring the whole person. Not
    only were we able to increase retention in this demographic but by looking at
    the whole person and not a list of random “job requirements” we were able to dramatically increase diversity in those early
    talent hires. I was so impressed with PI that I left my corporate role to start
    representing it. It’s the real deal and takes hiring and coaching out of dark. (@HollowayRhonda or linkedin.com/in/hollowayrhonda/)

  2. Well said, Tim – and please, would all the folks out there in the HR galaxy listen to this basic pearl of wisdom? Yes,hiring is both an art and a science, but if you’re a slave to the art and ignore the data then you deserve the mediocre talent that you get. The best part? The science isn’t hard and once you properly use data to inform hiring decisions, you will never go forth without it. Oh, and you’ll be wildly popular, too.

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