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How to Avoid “Coin Toss” Hiring

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coin toss

Do you leave your hiring process up to the flip of a coin? If you follow conventional hiring practices, you probably do. 

You interview, hire and onboard a candidate without the full picture of who they are or how they will fit with your organization. Maybe it will work out, or maybe it won’t — not that different from flipping a coin.

Dealing with a bad hire can be costly, and it’s a situation no one wants to find themselves in. Management consultant Susan Bellows talked more about this phenomenon in a presentation she gave at The Family Business Center of Pioneer Valley in Northampton, Massachusetts.

How Bad Hires Begin

In her presentation, Susan tells the story of a client who hired her to do a pre-employment assessment on a potential sales candidate. The assessment found that the candidate was outgoing and extroverted — and not at all suited for the desk job he was being considered for.

Susan’s client did not heed her advice and hired the candidate anyway. Six months later, he connected with her on LinkedIn to let her know that he had become a mortgage broker. All the time and money the firm spent training him to make outbound sales calls was wasted.

This is just one example of how employee turnover and bad hiring decisions are related. Some people leave a job for personal reasons or inter-office conflicts, but far more leave because the job they have was never a good fit for them in the first place. 

The Pressure to Toss the Coin

In some industries and geographic regions, the demand for quality candidates far outweighs the supply — which means it’s tempting to jump at the chance to hire the first remotely qualified person who walks through the door.

When you hire someone without doing a full skill or personality assessment, you are literally tossing a coin on whether that person will be a long-term success in your organization. As Susan’s sales example shows, even the best-laid plans can go wrong if you don’t take the proper precautions throughout the hiring process.

Much like tossing a coin in real-life, the likelihood of a successful outcome is 50/50 at best. This is why it’s essential to leverage assessments and other tools to help make sure the coin lands on the correct side with each hiring decision you make.

Steps for a Sound Hiring Process

A sound hiring process begins with a sound job description. There’s been a lot of talk lately about the crazy language in job descriptions. That’s fine if you want to make a splash and gain attention, but it can’t come at the expense of discussing what the role is and what skills are required to be successful in it. 

Once you know why the job exists, you’ll be better equipped to find someone to fill it. From there, your initial interview questions should assess how well the candidate will fit the job description and your organization’s work environment. 

This is also the stage when a pre-employment assessment should occur. You can test for specific skills, like sales, as well as emotional competence and personality type.

Hopefully, the assessment will match your perception of the candidate from the initial interview. If it doesn’t, that’s a major red flag to watch out for. You want to hire someone who is going to be truthful about who they are and what skills they have. 

Closing the Deal

Once the assessments and initial interviews are complete, it’s time to proceed to in-person interviews and reference checks. By this stage, you’ve done a lot to avoid the coin toss hire, but the last few steps are equally as crucial to securing the right candidate. 

We’ve written a lot about how to create a power interview and ask the questions that will return the information you need to make an informed decision. An interview is your only chance to get to know the candidate before you make a hiring decision, so make the most of every minute that you have together.

Finally, professional references are essential to understanding how your candidate works with others. One immediate red flag should be if the candidate can’t provide professional references. You can’t understand how someone performs at work by talking with friends or family.

Once you have the references secured, make the most of their time and yours by asking the right questions. Don’t be afraid to ask for details and specific examples. Remember that the more you know, the better your hiring decision will be.

Adding these steps to your hiring process requires extra time and energy up front, but is well worth it when you hire a good candidate that becomes a long-lasting and valuable member of your team.