What Happens When You Interviewed Dr. Jekyll, But Hired Mr. Hyde?

Joe Smith (not his real name) is interviewing for a sales representative position with XYZ Manufacturing Company. 

They ask him questions about his experience and background, and eagerness to sell. He shows enthusiasm and excitement for the job, and gives examples of successful past experiences.

Joe seems like a good fit, and he’s hired. But after a while, it becomes apparent that Joe’s not performing as he should.

He’s been given a quota of $500,000, but he’s only doing $300,000 in sales, despite the fact that he has a good territory and has undergone extensive sales training. His demeanor is relaxed and laid back, and he shows little passion or motivation.

What went wrong?

Bad hires = tons of hidden costs

I call it: “You interviewed Dr. Jekyll, but hired Mr. Hyde.”

The interviewee acted enthusiastic and excited, and gave examples of how he was successful, but he was playing the role of a passionate, energetic sales person like an actor in a play. This happens over and over at companies. Why? Because they hire the person who does the best interviewing — which I equate to acting — not the person who’s the best fit.

According to a 2012 article in Forbes titled, Hire for Attitude: An Interview with Mark Murphy, 46 percent of new hires fail within 18 months.

Bad hires create a myriad of hidden costs: Damaged relations with customers, lost business opportunities, high turnover rate with good employees, increased stress, time loss, and legal issues. Most studies say the average cost of a bad hire is 50-300 percent of a person’s salary depending on the specific position and level within the company.

One of the main reasons for this is that employers don’t know how to identify a person’s innate characteristics.

Article Continues Below

Identifying innate characteristics

Innate characteristics include traits such as assertiveness, extroversion, and detail orientation. These characteristics remain stable throughout a person’s life regardless of time and circumstances.

Non-innate characteristics can change with time and circumstances, and thus have far less ability to predict fit and behavior. Non-innate characteristics include attitudes, values, energy level and personal interests. These traits are important, but can change. They’re also easier to determine with good interview questions.

Unfortunately, interviews alone don’t identify innate characteristics. A high-quality, scientific-based assessment does, and can reduce employee turnover from 75 percent to 25-50 percent.

In an Inc. article titled, How to Hire Great People – Every Time, Les McKeown points out that managers should treat the hiring process “as the most important strategic planning your company needs.” The reason: Every new employee can either make or break a company. Managers need to hire employees who will help the company grow and become more profitable, not bring it down.

5 tips for hiring great people

McKeown listed four (4) tips. I’ve added some of my own thoughts and an additional fifth tip for hiring great people:

  1. Don’t ask crazy interview questions, like this one: “If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?” asked in an interview for a Bed Bath & Beyond sales associate. Google used to ask brainteaser interview questions. But last year, the company said they were no longer using them. “They don’t predict anything,” Google exec Laszlo Bock told The New York Times in June 2013. “They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart… Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.”
  2. Clearly define what it takes to be successful in the position. This includes identifying innate characteristics as well as experience, attitude, and values. Too often employers focus on job responsibilities or qualifications, not whether someone has the ability to do the job from the start. It’s important to focus on a person’s ability to do a particular job, since innate ability does not improve over time.
  3. Include an objective, science-based assessment to measure innate characteristics before engaging in the interview process. The interview process is inherently subjective; we’re human, and tend to hire people that we feel good about. Therefore, it is next to impossible to determine what someone is really like from interviews alone. Don’t waste your and the candidate’s time and effort when you have objective evidence that a person cannot succeed in your job and environment.
  4. Include others in the hiring process. Whether you’re working with a recruiter or not, it’s important to include all the people who will be interacting with the job candidate.
  5. There are literally hundreds of assessment tools, but many are outdated and focus on non-innate characteristics, which change over time. A great source of simple, practical and unbiased information that can help you make a wise decision can be found here.

Bad hiring can set a company back in many ways and result in financial and legal challenges. Using tools to find the right hire, on the other hand, can reduce employee turnover, putting your company on the path to growth and success.

Brad Wolff is the People Maximizer. He specializes in helping companies make the most of their human potential resources. His passion is empowering people to create the business success and life fulfillment they desire, in a deep and lasting way.

Brad is managing partner for PeopleMax, an Atlanta-based workforce optimization firm. Its focus is helping companies gain control over their people problems to increase productivity, profitability and employee engagement while reducing stress and conflict. This encompasses employee alignment, development of a great culture, successful strategy and leadership effectiveness.

With more than 20 years of experience helping companies hire and retain the right people, Brad combines his understanding of human psychology and behavior with his analytical skills.  He’s also a Certified Professional Coach through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). He also has a Certification in Managing Change in Human Systems from the Center for Human Systems. As a former CPA he also understands the numbers and quantitative side of every business.


6 Comments on “What Happens When You Interviewed Dr. Jekyll, But Hired Mr. Hyde?

  1. Assessment tests can be faked too, for anyone with above average intelligence. I kept being honest on tests, like they wanted, and not getting contacted for positions (I’m introverted, independent, and highly intelligent- most managers don’t want to deal with people like me), so eventually I got annoyed and answered it the way I knew they wanted me to. It was extremely easy- I just chose the answers that your basic robot drone unimaginative amoral employee would choose. I was contacted for interviews multiple times over the next few weeks for multiple positions, none of which I accepted obviously- but it was eye opening.
    But it was easy to beat the test. Just sayin’. 😉

    1. In the exact same boat. The tests are transparent to anyone with half a brain, but the point isn’t supposed to be for us to provide the answer they want to hear, the point is supposed to be a true answer. I have never successfully passed one of these tests because I answer honestly and find them insultingly silly. I wonder what kind of mutant could both answer honestly and still pass the test. One such test I took was for a banking position that integrity and trustworthiness would be something one would consider an intrinsic part of the job. When I failed the test that supposedly defined who I was at my core. They said I could come back in two weeks and re-take the test. Needless to say I don’t do business with a bank that hires people who lie on a test to get hired. As an employee I have always been the go to person everywhere I work and always complimented on my work ethic. Tests filter out the best to find the game players.

  2. As previously stated – responses can be faked, in both interviews and written/computer assessments. Also, assessments that do not have proper validation evidence supporting their use for the job in question are a bigger problem than one that is outdated.

  3. While the article is interesting, isn’t it just a long advertisement for the services of the author? Not really informative, just a sales promotion about how important it is to make smart hiring decisions and how costly it is to make poor ones. Our experience using recruiters has actually resulted in lower quality candidates with bigger issues than when we have handled the process from start to finish. When we used recruiters we trusted them to have done quality pre-screening and ground work that never was performed at the level or in the way we needed. To be effective we found that we really needed to do everything as if we were doing it all on our own. Logically it occurred to us that if we were doing everything as if we weren’t using a recruiter it probably didn’t make sense to use a recruiter. Every business is different, so maybe recruiters make more sense for other companies.

  4. Hi Sarah, Yugwen and Kristen, thanks for your responses and concerns. I completely agree with you that a LARGE percentage of the assessments that are available have this exact problem (and others as well). The average person in most cases can understand what the assessment questions are getting at and answer the questions to appear any way that they want to appear. What value do these assessments have? Little if any in my opinion as well. It is refreshing to hear from people who realize this truth!

    Interestingly, most well-known assessments that were developed in the 1940’s and 1950’s and have not kept up with the changes in the understanding of psychometrics that are available today.

    There are some assessments that are not easily fooled (it is not clear what the questions are getting at) and catch a person’s attempt to appear a certain way that is not authentic. They stay away from the belief that you can measure certain qualities by asking a person if they possess those qualities. I believe that you are correct that many assessments do not have proper validation evidence supporting their use for the jobs in question.

    This being said, there actually are assessments out there that have evolved to address these concerns and do not pretend to measure qualities that they cannot measure. Here is a website that you may like that speaks to your concerns (www.aboutassessments.com).

    Most companies have found that the Interview process alone is not adequate to understand what people are really like. A truly good assessment that can measure things that can be measured and not fooled in the process can add objective insight that truly makes a huge difference in results.

  5. I think many companys expect too much from sales people. I know a sales person who has worked at the same place for over 25 years. so now he makes more than any other sales person (yes he has the highest sales) but the company keep trying to get rid of him so that can replace him with some one younger that they can pay half what he makes.

  6. Great food for thought in here, Brad! It also makes me think about those instances where employees end up turning out like Mr. Hyde (in the eyes of the boss or employer) but it is actually due to poor leadership and management, which naturally ends up eliciting the less-than-stellar characteristics of employees. In my experience as coach/consultant to high-level execs we find out that, more often than not, “employees that turn out bad” are a symptom of the leaders’ ill-fitting/antiquated management practices, uninspiring corporate culture, lack of mentoring, etc. And once the leader can see how his/her behavior contributed to the situation, they can take ownership for turning things around with that employee, instead of living into a story of “a bad apple snuck into the company… again”.

  7. Great Article!! As a Recruiter, we see this happen time and time again. We have someone that is extremely enthusiastic about a position when they start; however, as time goes on, they become less enthusiastic and even unhappy with the position. I believe that the enthusiasm is genuine in the beginning; but when the person starts doing the job, they realize that it is not fulfilling. When this happens, it is not only the employers that have lost time and money, it hurts the individual as well. Now they have a short-term job on their resume, that will follow them for years! It means constantly explaining why they left the position. {And if they have a few of these, it gets harder to explain}. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the personality assessments should be used to determine whether to hire someone; however, I think that we all have innate characteristics that make us naturally better for some positions. So if taking a personality assessment helps me to find the right job, then I am all for them! If I don’t get a job based on the assessment, then I have to trust that it was not the “Right” position for me.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *