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Best Practices for Identifying and Hiring Talent

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Society for the Advancement of Consulting® (SAC®) asked its global membership to evaluate the current best practices for identifying and acquiring top talent. Here is a representative sampling.

"I posed this exact question to 50 Fortune 1000 CEOs," comments David A Fields, managing director of Ascendant Consulting and author of the forthcoming book The Solution Inside. "These are respected leaders who have individually hired hundreds of people over their careers; yet finding the right talent is still their toughest challenge." Fields summarized the findings from his interviews this way: "The most successful executives evaluate candidates against three yardsticks: Competence overcoming past adversities (regardless of the scale of that adversity), a self-motivated passion for learning, and a bias for action."

Dr. Alan Weiss, the CEO of SAC, notes that finding and securing talent may seem easier in times when there is so much talent available due to downsizing and closings, but that is illusory. "There are degrees of talent, and also degrees on non-talent who can interview well," he warns, "and just because your chances of finding good people may be somewhat improved, you can still be in trouble if hiring isn't considered a specialized skill and rewarded commensurately."

Dr. Maynard Brusman is a consulting psychologist and executive coach. He is the president of Working Resources, a strategic talent management firm in San Francisco, California www.workingresources.com. Maynard specializes in executive selection, executive coaching and emotional intelligence-based leadership development. He offers a few insights:

"Research indicates that the typical employment interview is only 57 percent effective in predicting subsequent success. This is only 7 percent better than flipping a coin!

"A major problem revolves around the interview itself. Emotions, biases, chemistry and stereotypes play too big a role. True knowledge of the performance requirements of the job usually is weak. There is an over-reliance on the interaction between the candidate and the interviewer, and too little on the candidate's ability and motivation to do the job.

"A candidate is often hired because of his or her ability to interview well; presentation is more important than substance. The candidate is judged on first impressions of his or her personality, social confidence, assertiveness, appearance, extroversion, and verbal skills. Instead, the candidate needs to be assessed for initiative, team skills, achieving objectives, technical competence, management and organizational skills, intellect, leadership and emotional intelligence."

Lack of real job knowledge is another major part of hiring mistakes. It is necessary to know the required competencies of the position based on the performance requirements of the job. The goal is to achieve a better understanding of the expected outcomes of a job. These specific job performance objectives form the basis of the hiring interview. Candidates can be asked how they would achieve the objectives required.

Key points for conducting a job interview:

  • The single best predictor of future behavior is a candidate's past behavior and current motivation.
  • Ask a mix of job-specific and personal-interpersonal questions targeting desired competencies.
  • Stay focused and conscious. Overcome emotional reactions and remain in control. Listen 80% of the time.

Lisa Anderson, a senior supply chain and operations executive and founder of LMA Consulting Group, Inc. says, "In my experience, identifying top talent isn't the optimum area to focus on in an interview; instead, identify a candidate with the ability to execute and deliver results. Although a challenging quality to decipher in an interview, I've found the most successful approach is to ask a series of questions about specific prior experiences/results and follow up with a few diverse case study questions to get an idea of how the candidate will respond to practical scenarios."

Dr. Weiss concludes, "It's a buyer's market, perhaps, more so than I the past, but caveat emptor still reigns."

 
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