Guest Blog: Strategies for Selecting the “Right” Employee


While on vacation I though it would be a good time to offer a couple of guest posts from trusted colleagues. Today’s comes from Gordon McAleer, President of McAleer & Associates, which provides expertise in the field of executive & professional search and human resource consulting.

Selecting the right employee can be a value added decision for your business or a very costly one. It is much easier to hire a new employee then to absorb the disruption and costs of a bad hiring decision. The selection needs to answer two fundamental questions:

  1. Does the candidate have the knowledge, skills and experience to perform the job successfully?
  2. Will the person fit into the culture of the firm and become a productive and positive team member?

A fully qualified candidate will pass both criteria.

  • The first question is addressed by evaluating the candidate’s academic credentials, certifications, and licenses where applicable.
  • The second question requires going beyond the technical qualifications into the composite picture of who the candidate is, what are his or her values, and will the person be a positive member of the team.

A strong predictor for the candidate’s future success is the past employment history. If the candidate has hopped from job to job, with evident gaps between employments, this is a big caution flag for the employer. However, the current recession has adversely affected countless, very good people. The employer needs to dig deeper into the reasons for job changes.

The interview process is critical to gauging the fit.

Using a team approach to interviewing candidates is very useful. The interviews should use a standard set of questions to verify the consistency of the responses from the candidate. Having the candidate come back for a second or third round of interviews allows more team members to be involved in the process and increases the odds of getting to know the candidate.

For a key management position, which requires the person to represent the firm to customers, investors, vendors, and regulatory agencies, take the candidate to dinner. Here’s why:

  • Provides a more informal setting for learning more about the candidate and how he would interact with key stakeholders in a social setting.
  • Candidate’s conduct over dinner will reveal much about his or her ability to converse, relate to others, and
  • Demonstrate their level of social etiquette skills.

Additionally, the candidate’s postings on social media websites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are another source for information on the candidate’s professionalism.

The employer should have policies on the accepted use of social media information and refrain from using this information as the sole reason for rejecting a candidate. Employment lawsuits are cropping up based on allegations of discriminatory actions on the use of social media information for terminations or rejections of candidates.

Some firms use industrial psychological tests to gain further insights into the candidate’s emotional intelligence, style of leadership, mental intelligence, and possible presence of pathological traits. Examples of tests include:

  • Meyers Briggs Type Indicator (personality, style of leadership, and inherent career interests),
  • Birkman Method (measures social behavior and compatibly with the corporate culture), and the
  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI – measures presence of pathological traits).

The caution is that the tests are not infallible and can render false positive and false negative results. The tests should only be used in conjunction with together information obtained from interviews and background checks.

When the final decision is being made to extend the job offer, it is a good idea to listen to your “gut.” Rely on your intuition to answer the question of will this person fit into the culture and prove to be a valuable addition to the team. If there is any hesitation, it is best to explore those feelings of uncertainty. Assuredly a hint of a quirky behavior during the interview process will be magnified on the job.

Finally, references and thorough background checks are essential. The job offer should be conditional upon clear background checks. For leadership positions, be sure to include verification of academic and licensure credentials, credit ratings, and driving history. The candidate needs to sign a waiver for these checks.

Regrettedly mistakes can be made with the decision to hire someone. The employer should incorporate an early feedback system to gauge how the person is performing and take measures to work with the person for correcting shortcomings. A three to four month period is usually enough time to determine if the match will succeed. Cut your losses if the match is not working cut, terminate the person, and start the process over.

One thought on “Guest Blog: Strategies for Selecting the “Right” Employee

  1. Cathy Goodwin says:

    I agree completely with your points about culture. When I was a college professor, we took people to dinner with different faculty members. We learned a lot because sometimes candidates would relax with a faculty member they viewed as “not important.” One candidate asked me nervously, “Do you think I’m doing okay?” (Not good,) Another met me for breakfast, then proceeded to ogle an attractive young lady sitting nearby in short shorts (she was wearing the uniform of a fitness facility).

    But I am not so sure about the use of tests, even as supplements to the interviews and background checks. Annie Paul’s book, The Cult of Personality, shows that these tests have no scientific basis. A smart candidate knows how to answer and the MMPI seems intrusive.

    Regardless, there’s only so much info you can gain. In her book Tough Choices, Carly Fiorina writes about her process with Hewlett Packard; she turned out to be a bad fit culturally and possibly managerially. And nobody screens more rigorously than the service academies, yet we have the “cadet murders” of just a few years ago.

Comments are closed.