In the human resources profession, one of our most important roles is to hire (and fire). Unfortunately, sometimes our appointments turn out to be very big disappointments. About 20 per cent of external hires fail within the first two years, so it’s worth spending the time to try to get that risk reduced.
The sequence of appointing a senior hire can be quite complex as we know, and the most common weaknesses and bad choices generally occur within the following stages.
The use of external recruiters can be a problem if excessive expectations are offered to candidates through that medium. The courts have ruled that commitments by such a recruiting agent can be binding on an employer. Employees who arrive thinking they have a super-long time to settle in and are somewhat bulletproof to any changes in the job or the employer’s condition, as indicated by a recruiter, will often become a key source of this ‘appointment disappointment’ phenomenon.
The interview can also be a major source of trouble. Some workers perform at their best as professional interviewees, but are quintessentially hopeless on the job. Broadening the interview process to a wider set of inputs and perspectives is a very wise policy. Establishing a broad-based panel of three people with two different perspectives of the job to that of the boss is often used as a successful hiring technique.
As is the use of so called ‘360’ or ‘road-testing’ interviews, where the likely candidate takes a day to walk around the office, meeting a number of people they would end up working with, all facilitated by HR – which then ‘does the count’ on perspectives and impressions. That also works for the candidate who gains an impression of future colleagues and that 360 experience may tell them they aren’t a fit – either to the role, or to the organisation itself.
It may feel costly to have a top candidate withdraw at the last minute but that’s a lot less expensive than appointing a bad fit, who rumbles around the place for up to a year or so, achieving little but upsetting much – before they finally leave with a large termination package and you are left confronting another costly and time-consuming recruitment process.
The reference check
Faulty or casual reference checking can also be a major risk area. Reference check questions should relate specifically to the role, and as an employer you should wait until you have seen all these answers in writing against all referees spoken with, and their relationship to the candidate, before any provisional job offer is made.
Much use has been made of psychological testing in recruitment, and that has been a matter of controversy among HR professionals. I am quite a fan of psych testing and I have used that to supplement interviewing processes and reference checks wherever possible. My reasons are that good tests like the OPQ or the CPI are impossible for a candidate to game, and if they try, the consistency score will drop like a stone. Then you will know you have someone who is misrepresenting themselves.
More importantly, these tests will show how a candidate relates to others, what gives them stress, how they will likely react to it, and whether they can see the big picture or prefer working with granular operational details. One thing is clear, if you want to use the psychological-testing instrument, you should advise candidates early in the process. Negative reactions can be expected if it’s sprung on them late in the piece.
Writing and executing employment contracts
The writing and execution of employment contracts should not be delegated to a third party either. HR should supervise the preparation of an employment agreement to ensure it meets current employment law standards. It should clearly reflect the nature of the role, the company’s objectives and constitution power, critical employment issues around service, behaviour, performance, termination, leave, remuneration, and company policies and compliance requirements – and where they can be found.
Too many unfair dismissal cases point to weaknesses in these areas by employers failing to exercise an appropriate level of care and patience to oversee and ensure good housekeeping standards in hiring, and employee management.
The power to change job responsibilities and/or location
Another risk area is the power to change job responsibilities and/or location. Some contracts contain unilateralist employer language around initiating future changes to what an employee does, or more specifically will be asked to do without much notice. A common expectation held by the courts is that there is a prior obligation to consult with the employee about significant changes to their roles, and especially ones outside those which they are contracted to undertake. Rapid unilateral changes may well constitute a form of bullying, and our profession needs to exercise care in how these contract clauses are expressed and executed.
So beware of the hiring risks and observe the pitfalls, and your recruiting results will be more sustainable. And you will release more time for doing other things, rather than unnecessarily repeating the recruiting business in a year’s time.