Recruiting Myth #4: The Best Applicants Make the Best Employees

Illustration by Dreamstime
Illustration by Dreamstime

Editor’s Note: Humetrics CEO Mel Kleiman has been helping employers standardize and systemize the way they recruit, select, and retain frontline hourly employees/managers for over 30 years. He knows what works — and what doesn’t. This is part four of his “Recruiting Myths.”

By Mel Kleiman

Do the best applicants make the best employees? If this is true, then why did the person who made such a great impression in the interview turn out to be such a dud on the job?

The odds are you hired a person with the ability to put their best foot forward and dazzle you with canned answers and perfect presentation skills – instead of a person who would be the best on the job. This happens whenever the hiring manager has not spelled out what is specifically required to be successful on the job.

The best and easiest way to do this is to use the CAPS formula:

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  • Capacities: What are the mental (IQ) and physical capacities required? How smart and how strong (physically capable) must the successful applicant be? Capacities are the first and foremost important factors to consider. (No matter how talented or qualified, a person who could not work on her feet for hours on end would not make a good waitress.)
  • Attitude: After capacities, the most important requirement is attitude. According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, more than 87 percent of employee failures are due to an unwillingness to do the job. Unwillingness is an attitude problem. Attitudes to look for include customer service, honesty, reliability, responsibility. It’s much easier to train someone with a great attitude how to operate the cash register than it is to train an experienced chronic complainer to be more positive.
  • Personality: It would be wonderful if you could find the right personality fit each time, but, in reality, there will rarely be a perfect fit because there are actually four personalities involved – the applicant’s, the manager’s, the job’s, and the company’s (corporate culture). Personality traits include attention to detail, assertiveness, competitiveness, activity level, dominance, sociability, and impulsiveness. While not as important as the required capacities and attitude, you would not hire the same personality type to be a salesman as you would to be a librarian.
  • Skills: The ability to read and write English is a skill; the ability to learn to read and write English is a capacity. Skills are the easiest job requirements to identify and verify. It is strongly recommended that you test for the skills you need. Have the line cook applicant whip up a meal and the driver applicant make a delivery (or, at the very least, talk you step by step through how they would do it).

Now, think of two or three of the very best people who ever worked for or with you. Which capacities, attitudes, personality traits, and skills did they have in common? Now, go look for more just like them.

This was originally published on Mel Kleiman’s Humetrics blog. His last Recruiting Myth was “If We Make Jobs Hard to Get, People Won’t Apply.”

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. He has been the president of Humetrics since 1976 and has over 30 years of practical experience, research, consulting and professional speaking work to his credit. Contact him at


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