Selecting employees to hire is one of the most important parts of HR departments, but sometimes there isn’t an obvious front-runner in the group. Here are some things to consider about employee selection for your company.
How Do You Go About Selecting Employees for Your Organization?
How does your company choose to hire? Most people will immediately respond with something like “We get the best candidate,” but adequately defining what makes a candidate the best is often harder than it sounds.
Selecting staff for a company should be a transparent and understandable process. Gut feelings rarely work as well in business as they do on television. Employment selection methods should ultimately focus on what will benefit the company the most and how the business can evaluate that through its candidate selection methods.
Let’s talk about how this works in more detail.
What Are Some of the Most Important Factors You Consider When Making Your Selection?
What separates a candidate from others for a specific role, and do you know how to quantify that?
Discussion forums for programmers abound with stories of HR departments asking for absurd things, like more years of experience with a piece of software than it’s been out. That’s not a qualification any employee can realistically hope to offer, and if a company rejects everyone who fails that requirement, it will have zero hires.
This is why the first part of all employee selection methods is understanding the real requirements for the job and the context for each qualification. If a company doesn’t understand what’s appropriate and what isn’t, you can rephrase it. Instead of asking for a certain number of years of experience, you can say something like “familiar with [insert software here].”
However, pure skills aren’t the only factors companies consider.
The elephant in the room for most people is salary. Workers want the highest compensation they can get, while HR and businesses want to pay as little as possible. Hiring managers don’t want to have to justify hiring someone who’s asking for a salary above budget. For that reason, they will prefer an employee who accepts a salary within the predefined range.
Budgetary expectations can swamp other parts of the hiring process because many employees aren’t willing to compromise past a certain point even if they like the job. Let’s talk about some very uncomfortable numbers.
As of early 2022, median rents for apartments crossed $2000. Landlords often refuse to rent to employees unless their monthly salary is at least three times their rent, which means a renter needs $6000 a month, or $72,000 a year, to meet the requirements.
Renters don’t necessarily have to do this alone. Couples can split the payments, but Federal Reserve economic data indicates the real median wage for employees was about $35,000 in 2020. That means two people working full-time with a median wage could still be earning too little for an apartment, and that’s not considering the many people below that line.
The problem for recruiters is this: How will you convince a candidate to accept an offer if their salary doesn’t even cover their rent, never mind letting them enjoy life? Housing and other bills have been going up faster than wages for decades, and it’s hit a tipping point.
Paying the right salary is huge for companies, but it’s increasingly getting to the point where trying to pay the minimum isn’t enough to attract any talent, never mind anyone good. A lack of flexibility here can do a lot of harm to a business.
Numerous other qualities can be relevant to a business, from the expected growth potential of a particular employee to a need to hit metrics. For example, you may need to hire workers with disabilities to get Federal contracts.
Companies must decide what factors are genuinely vital and what are nice to have. Placing qualities in the wrong category can cause serious problems.
How Do You Ensure That You Are Making the Best Possible Choice When Selecting Employees?
Now that we’ve discussed some of the issues surrounding candidate selection methods, we can consider some ways to make a better choice when selecting employees.
First, beyond all the selection employees go through, you should evaluate the many ways you can look at employees. Start by creating a list of essential qualifications for the job. This isn’t the Christmas list of every skill in the world, it’s the genuine must-haves for performing the role. Here are the main categories most jobs need to consider:
- Location: Where is the work performed? Is it something that must be done in person, or can it be done from home? Is a hybrid role appropriate for the job? Many employees prefer WFH when possible, so this is a good area for businesses to be flexible.
- Availability: When does a worker need to be available? Are you offering a 9-5, or do you expect them to be on-call at all times? Are you willing to compensate them for any extra uncertainty?
- Skills: What skills does an employee need at a professional level for this role? Remember, the key word here is “need.” Anything beyond the basic requirements is superfluous at this stage.
- Retention: How long do you need someone in this role, and how much are you willing to pay to retain the employee? If you need a position for ten years and replace someone every two, that could result in significant delays for the project. Decide early on how much is too much. Promotions should factor into this, too.
- Responsibilities: What are the job's responsibilities, and are they appropriate for one person to perform? Asking someone to take on three people’s worth of work because each element sounds easy is a mistake that doesn’t help the company.
- Compensation: How much can you pay for this role, and how does it compare to the industry average? A common mentality among employees is “minimum wage, minimum effort.” If you want a better employee, you’ll need higher compensation.
- Intangibles: What are the less-obvious requirements for the role, especially the ones hard to quantify? Some jobs require a lot of teamwork, while others may have people being alone for extended periods.
- Worker Pool: How many potential employees do you have access to? If you refuse too many people for specific roles, you may have a challenging time hiring anyone.
- Special: Finally, are there any unique or special requirements for this job beyond the basics?
Remember, these are the must-have elements for the job. A worker’s ability to do more is always preferable, but focusing on core expectations provides context for the rest of your decision-making.
Once you have the essentials of the job down, it’s time to figure out what makes candidates excel in that position. This isn’t always obvious. A programmer may have fewer years of experience but outstanding problem-solving abilities that put them ahead of your other options.
In other words, now that you know what people need to do, you need to figure out what will make them perform best. Looking for candidates who match the position is an essential part of hiring the right person for the job.
Don’t forget to prioritize sections. It’s unlikely that you will find a perfect candidate. Even if they don’t meet your preferred minimums, they might be able to do so with some training. Be willing to teach employees who are almost good enough, and invest in their potential, or you may find yourself too limited.
What Are Some of the Common Mistakes Made During the Employee Selection Process?
Companies can make many mistakes while trying to hire for a position. Here are some of the most common errors.
#1: Inaccurate Job Descriptions
A good job description is honest and accurate about the position. Rather than having a list of duties, it should explain how these tasks fit in with the company and what the primary areas of responsibility are. Don’t promise more than you’re going to offer, but do post the salary. If it’s too low for a candidate, they’ll remove themselves from consideration and save you time.
#2: Over-Emphasizing Interviews
Most companies focus on interviews for hiring, but this is often a mistake. Hiring managers often try to confirm impressions, rather than making genuine progress, and this can bias the results. Instead, interviews should be limited and focus on specific things the company needs to know.
#3: Consider Internal Promotions
Your company may already have the right person for a job. Promotion doesn’t always need to involve managerial tasks, either. However, keep in mind that pay increases need to match any new responsibilities someone has. If they have twice the stress for ten percent more pay, that’s going to feel like punishment instead of a promotion.
#4: Unconscious Bias
Recruiters may unintentionally fall prey to unconscious biases when picking candidates. There’s a strong preference for people who look and sound similar to existing employees.
#5: Hiring Less-Qualified People
Ultimately, most people at a company are looking out for themselves, and that includes trying to look good compared to others. Don’t fall into the trap of hiring people that might perform worse than you so that you look good in comparison.
#6: Looking for Perfect Candidates
We touched on this earlier, but many companies wait to try and find the ideal person for a role. However, waiting too long can affect other employees by demanding they work much harder to pick up the slack.
Perfect candidates are rare for anything but the simplest roles. It doesn’t make sense to drag a company down for months in the futile hope that they’ll appear.
#7: Relying on References
Having good references is helpful, especially if you want to learn more about a candidate. However, candidates know this and will always try to frame their experiences in the best possible light. If you put too much weight on this, you’re just encouraging people to lie.
#8: Rejecting Someone Who’s Too Good
This ties in with #5. Companies may refuse to hire someone they consider overqualified for the role. It’s true that someone that is overqualified might not feel challenged enough and leave. But analyze if the person could still be useful somehow before rejecting them.
#9: Hiring Too Quick
Applicants don’t want to be on the hook for weeks while you make a decision, but that doesn’t mean you should hire as soon as possible. Take the time you need to evaluate your finalists properly, but try to minimize that and keep them appraised of your progress.
Good candidates are much more likely to wait if you stay in contact with them. If you ignore them for months and then ask them for an interview, chances are they’ll just laugh in your face.
#10: Expecting Instant Performance
Every company wants new hires who can hit the ground running and start producing immediate results. Realistically, they’re going to need about three months to achieve proper integration and show their real potential.
Imagine being a week into a role and getting yelled at and threatened with termination because you haven’t perfectly memorized every single aspect of a complicated job yet. That’s ridiculous, but some employers do it because they’re not setting realistic limitations.
It’s terrible for morale, too. If a company threatens a worker’s livelihood over small matters, that tells the worker it’s an abusive workplace and they should look elsewhere. They can and will try to find another employer, which means higher turnover and lower metrics overall.
How Can You Avoid Making These Mistakes in Your Own Selection Process?
As you can see, there are many ways a company can go wrong when selecting new employees. HR’s job is to minimize the selection employees go through while still selecting the best candidates. Since we’ve discussed the problems, let’s discuss the solutions to them in order.
#1: Ensure Accuracy of Job Descriptions
Make sure that every job description is as accurate as possible. If you can, try to talk to anyone in a similar role. Make sure you understand what you can expect from people on that career path. Don’t try to hire a master for the duties (and pay) of an apprentice. Don’t try to fool workers because they’ll just quit if they’re unhappy.
#2: Minimize Interviews
Don’t set up six rounds of interviews for a position where you can accomplish it in two. Similarly, don’t rely too much on the results of interviews. Many people jump to immediate conclusions and try to justify their instincts later, but that’s a bad way to pick employees. Make sure to consider a candidate’s skills and experience alongside the interview results.
#3: Know What Existing Employees Do
Understanding what existing employees do is a good way to figure out if an internal promotion makes sense.
Remember, some managers hate promotions because they feel like they’re losing a valuable worker. However, if that worker feels stuck in place and like they’re not getting raises or support, they’ll probably quit anyway. The manager loses out either way, but the company usually benefits more if you hire internally and only need to fill one role instead of two.
#4: Manage Your Biases
There are many ways to manage your biases, starting with acknowledging them. Ask questions to figure out when you might be biased, especially when you might not react the same way to a candidate from a different background. The more you actively address bias, the easier it is to resolve it.
#5: Hire the Best You Can
Don’t try to hire bad people just to make yourself look good. Instead, try to hire the best people for a particular role at all times. By doing so, you will demonstrate your value to the company and encourage them to keep you on. Anyone who consistently hires great employees is, by definition, doing their job extraordinarily well.
As part of this, you may need to negotiate more favorable hiring terms for employees. Your job is to help the whole business, not to save the company as much money as possible. Great employees can bring in even more profit, making hiring them a good financial decision. Look at the big picture, not the small one that’s right in front of you.
To help with this, try to include employee performance over time in your metrics. This can call attention to their long-term success, and therefore the validity of your decisions.
#6: Accept Imperfect Candidates
Hiring the perfect employee is an unrealistic and often unobtainable goal. Instead, accept that no candidate is perfect and look past that to see the best match for the job. Be flexible and willing to consider training, mentoring, or additional investments to help the employee reach their full potential.
Remember, employees who are excited and feel like they’re getting a good deal are far more productive.
#7: References Are Just a Trend
References are an indicator of past behavior, not future behavior. If a candidate quit their last job after three months, it may have been because their manager was making absurd demands, and the job wasn’t like it was advertised. Changing jobs doesn’t make them bad employees or imply they’d quickly duck out of a good job.
Instead, look at references as a way to see how the employee is likely to respond to certain situations. If the responses are positive, you can try to replicate that. If the responses are negative, you can avoid that.
#8: Be Flexible With Jobs
Sometimes, the best option is to change the job instead of the candidate. If someone is overqualified for a role, chances are they’d be a great mentor. Alternatively, it may be worth creating a new position for them. It doesn’t make sense to let great employees slip through your fingers.
Companies should be flexible. The more you’re willing to accommodate great workers, the more you’re going to benefit.
#9: Figure Out a Good Pace for Hiring
The ideal pace for hiring is just long enough to determine the best candidate. Don’t waste people’s time and look for ways to shorten the process without sacrificing the quality of your final choices.
#10: Have Realistic Expectations
It takes people time to settle in, get to know their coworkers, and figure out the exact way your company operates. It’s one thing to have a realistic pace, and something else entirely to expect performance no employee could realistically achieve.
Hiring a new employee is always a complex process with many variables and subjectivity. But there are good methods for trying to find the best employee possible. Remember to write a job description that is as much accurate as possible and that you won’t find the perfect candidate. So aim to find the closest match.