Effort is the Key to Better Hiring and Better Careers Jim Gilchrist B.E.S






Our regular contributor Jim Gilchrist B.E.S of CAES in North America offers us some sobering statistics on the hiring process. Read on and see if this matches your experience – we’d be pleased to hear from you.

Too many organizations are hiring the wrong people and too many employment seekers are making the wrong career choices. The root of the problem is a lack of real effort by both.

A recent article in the Toronto Globe and Mail newspaper (January 15th, 2013) caught my attention. The article reinforced what I have been witnessing for years – employers are not making consistently accurate hiring decisions and employment candidates are not getting what they really want in a career. The reason for this mismatch is that neither party in the “hiring equation”, employers or career seekers, is putting forth the effort required to effectively accomplish their respective goals – and both are paying a price for it.

Within the article, the author quoted Development Dimensions International which, via a number of surveys conducted with organizational Staffing Directors around the globe, found that:

  • employers report that 14% of their new hires were failures in the first 12 months
  •  nearly 1/3 of the Directors blamed hiring mistakes on an over-reliance on the Hiring Manager’s evaluation of the candidate,


  •  only 1 in 3 felt their Hiring Managers were skilled in conducting high-quality interviews, despite the fact that interviews overwhelmingly remain the key selection tool relied upon, 50% rated their hiring process as ineffective and that their Hiring Managers need to go further below the surface to get to the truth about an employee’s fit for the job, and


  •  as well, 21% of the Directors also blamed poor hiring on candidates being too good at “selling” their skills.

To sum up, there are significant numbers of actual hiring “failures” (even more unreported instances of hiring poor, mediocre and average performers – think even larger numbers), and the poor evaluative and hiring decision-making skills used by the Hiring Managers are further affected by the increased ability for the employment candidates to “fool them”.

Effective managers don’t need to be told about the numerous costs associated with hiring people who fail, who perform poorly, mediocre performers and even ‘just average’ performers. Yet ineffective hiring practices continue to be more the norm than the exception. Too many organizations continue to hire (and retain) the wrong people for the wrong reasons, creating numerous problems in organizational performance, profitability, and growth. More often justifying their existing ineffective hiring approach than actively pursuing process improvement, this lack of effort is at the root of poor individual, managerial and organizational performance results. Better methods of finding, evaluating and hiring managers and staff do exist – people just need to be open to learning about them and then willing to utilize them.

While I certainly appreciate that the surveyed Staffing Directors are concerned about the quality of their respective hiring processes, the question must be asked … “what are they actively doing to change the process”? If their Hiring Managers have insufficient candidate evaluative capability, what are they doing to either elevate these skills or, alternately, to out-source the function to people who possess the necessary evaluative expertise? Further, how much attention is the organization’s upper management paying to the issue? Are they actively creating an environment in which skill development is supported and encouraged, where people are safe to admit that they need to develop specific skills, and where people at all levels are held accountable to achieve defined performance objectives?

Effective change requires effort from all levels.

When making hiring decisions, a satisfactory hire requires much more than reading a resume, accepting a referral from an acquaintance, friend or family member via our “network”, accepting the recommendation from a reference, or knowing that they were “in the business”. Minimally, it requires a thorough evaluation of the match between the expected performance results, and the actual technical skills, education and experience that the person brings to that specific position. But the reality is that, to have the most effective match between candidate and position, the evaluator needs to go beyond this technical foundation to also incorporate a performance-personality match between the candidate, the work, the team, the immediate manager and the work environment (culture) as a whole.

Understandably, the majority of Hiring Managers are typically not equipped to effectively evaluate a candidate’s performance-related personality characteristics. Even in capable hands, the technically-focused personal employment interview is a challenge, better yet entering into the realm of personality. But this is the reason that personal interviews are the least effective predictor of future performance. Limiting the evaluation to only technical capability neglects a key component of actual performance – the match between an individual’s performance-related personality characteristics and the role in question.

So it should be no surprise that, by neglecting the impact of personality, Hiring Managers make evaluative errors, and hired candidates disappoint in later performance. Detailed personality-related evaluation is not easy and it requires both effort and capability. For those who at least try to attempt to understand performance personality, caution must be taken. There are no real “short-cuts” – although personality assessment “vendors” will try to tell you that their standardized “solution” will answer all your questions. Performance related personality evaluation is highly complex but, when done properly, the results justify the effort required. So organizations would be wise to either fully develop their Hiring Manager’s multi-level evaluative capability or to out-source the task to an expert. If not, they will continue to be “fooled” by a “slick” presentation.

We need to take the word “sell” out of the hiring process and replace it with “match”.

On the other side of the hiring equation, too many employment seekers are being trained in how to convince decision makers to hire them. There are all types of resources (educational placement offices, outplacement service providers, networking groups, free online internet advice, online job search sites, you name it) that are focused on educating the seeker to “sell” themselves in order to compete. This “training”, combined with the weaker evaluative skills of the “employer”, has enabled them to sell themselves into positions that they are not really capable of performing, or that they really do not want in the first place.

In the article, Development Dimensions International further reported that, in the last year, 50% of new employees (globally) expressed “buyer’s remorse” after starting a new position. So the candidates, while “selling” themselves into an immediate employment position (albeit satisfying short-term financial needs), are neglecting to fully understand and focus on what they really want in their careers,  as well as what capability they will need to achieve a performance match. The result is that they not only fool the new employer, but they also fool themselves and hinder their long-term career aspirations.

So if candidates are fooling managers into hiring them for positions that they are not capable of performing, should we be surprised then at the pre-mentioned high failure rate of new hires? If people do not truly want the position, and are simply “selling themselves” into a position to resolve some short-term employment need, should we be surprised at their later dissatisfaction with their employment? When people are not really satisfied and thus motivated to do the work, we should not expect them to actually perform well, or to sustain strong performance over time. Those who overtly ‘fail’ will risk dismissal. But many will “fly under the radar”, and simply become another member of the significant global dissatisfied workforce ready to leave their employment when the leaving is good.

This interpretation helps to make a distinction between what I call the “job-seeker” and the “career-seeker”. The job-seeker has a short-term “sell themselves” mentality, while the “career-seeker” has a long-term self-development orientation. The job-seeker puts in minimal real effort into their employment search, preferring to create image instead of substance and then “selling” the image to the employer. The career-seeker puts in the effort to self-invest and to develop real performance capability – the quality that employers should really want.  By possessing real capability the career-seeker is relieved from having to “sell” themselves. They can instead be more selective in their choices of employer, and they can more honestly participate in the accurate matching of their capability to the employer’s performance requirements.

The Toronto Star article also quoted a recent survey conducted by Right Management, a well established outplacement / employment services organization. Right Management found that surveyed USA and Canadian employment seekers expect to get their next job via:

  •  person-to-person networking                                    50 %


  • online job posting                                                          22 %


  • through an agency or recruiter                                  19 %


  • through cold calling a prospective employer               8 %


  • through a newspaper advertisement                          1 %

Right Management further found that, when tracking actual job-search success stories, the reported successful search results were in line with these expectations. This should not be surprising, because if people expect that one approach will work for them they will be more likely to use it. The problem is that while their approach of choice may be getting them a job, it is not getting them the career that they want, or career satisfaction.

When you look at the list, think about which approach would truly require the most effort.

“Who do you know” networking may involve more of a proactive personal approach, and some degree of greater effort, than posting your resume online or sending it to a recruiter reactively “hoping” for a response. But just because a person “knows you”, knows the person referring you, or has heard of you, does not mean that they know how capable you currently are. For many people, it is easy to be fooled by the comfort that comes with whatever degree of familiarity that exists between the decision-maker and the “known person”, and this comfort can mistakenly lull people into making evaluative decisions based on lesser effort. From a different perspective, networking may help a candidate to identify unknown vacancies, but just because there is an open position does not necessarily mean that there will be a capability fit – and often the candidate will resort to “salesmanship” to force one.

While all of these approaches can take up various amounts of time, honestly, the most likely to help you to get the career position that you want is the one that requires the most effort – cold calling prospective employers.

Targeting and calling prospective employers does require more thinking, strategizing, time commitment and effort – but it is most often the most rewarding. If you put in the effort to understand yourself and your ambitions, to then plan your career accordingly, and to fully define your needs in a position, a team, a manager, and a suitable working environment, it will be easier for you to target suitable prospective employer organizations. You will need to be realistic in your approach and your choices, and you will need to put in the necessary effort to research, assess, target, and professionally present yourself to appropriate potential managers – but the effort you put in will be returned to you by the achievement of desirable results. By taking the time to identify them, those employers that match your criteria will be most interested in hearing from you.

Investing in deeper self-understanding creates better self-awareness, and it will provide you with the ability to honestly present your value to potential employers in an organized and confident manner. By understanding your performance-related personality characteristics, you will be able to go far beyond an explanation of your strengths and weaknesses to explain why you can solve their problems and how you will accomplish performance objectives. Not only will you be better able to ‘field’ performance-related questions, this ability to ‘drill down’ will distinguish you from the competition who take the typical minimal-effort search approach and who thus resort to “selling themselves”. Your efforts will be welcomed by those preferred hiring decision-makers who actually know how to evaluate, as well enabling you to ‘wow’ those who still don’t.

Stop trying to sell yourself, present your performance capability.

Effort gets real results. Hiring Managers who put in the effort to hire properly will not be fooled by under-performing candidates who rely on sales pitches instead of real substance. By focusing on performance-related personality characteristics they will be able to evaluate and hire the performers that they want. Career-oriented candidates who put in the effort to actually develop their performance capability, to identify and approach their targeted employers of choice, and to properly present themselves as providing real solutions, are more likely to get the career that they want.