As organizations struggle to fill vital roles with qualified candidates, some of the greatest frustrations experienced by managers come from failed recruitments. Whether your organization has 10 or 10,000 members, the ability to select the right candidate is a game changer in the war for talent and the quest to reduce personnel costs.
A proven way to avoid costly turnover from failed hires is to offer qualified candidates a realistic job preview.
Such a preview can reveal pivotal aspects of a job and test whether prospective candidates are likely to succeed. Gaining this accurate perspective on the job's true demands provides the best chance for both sides to determine fit before a commitment is made. While there will always be the risk of a mismatch in hiring, a preview offers some safeguard against the guesswork that often pervades this critical decision. Here are three strategies for implementing previews to reduce the incidence of bad hiring decisions.
Go beyond the job description. Once the recruitment and selection phase has ended and the employment relationship is solidified, only then do most people discover the true demands of a new job through a process of trial and error. Coming to terms with these brutal facts can derail a new employee’s success if the reality severely contradicts their expectations.
This occurs in part because of the double reality of work: All the tasks and activities listed in a standard job description tell only part of the story about what it takes to succeed. On the other hand, there is always the “job within the job.” That's made up of those hidden components like effectively collaborating with difficult people, navigating confusing workplace politics and getting great work done amid shrinking resources and increasing demands.
While it may be true that this double reality of work is unavoidable at some level, a realistic job preview can reduce the surprise factor and help avoid the painful blind-side effect of a severe mismatch. Start by going beyond the job description and analyze a position with core questions to reveal deeper details, such as these:
1. How does this position contribute to the organization's overall success?
2. What unique contributions will the successful candidate make to the team?
3. What subtle challenges confront a person in this role?
4. What unique capabilities does the candidate need to succeed?
The goal of questions like these is to spark a different kind of conversation, one that exposes the known complexities of the position and limits the remaining pockets of ambiguity to those unavoidable circumstances that can only be tested on the job.
Related: Secrets of Successful Interviews
Design the interview accordingly. The interview experience is the next focused arena for providing a realistic job preview. This can be accomplished, however, only if the interview is structured in a way to increase transparency, reveal concrete expectations and provide insight into the cultural factors the new employee will encounter within the organization. Each position is different, so the following options can be combined so provide an environment for painting a clear and compelling picture of the job:
1. Biographical interview: Focus on a chronological assessment of a candidate’s past experiences.
2. Behavioral interview: Seek specific examples of how he or she has performed certain tasks.
3. Unstructured interview: Stage an improvisational discussion that includes unscripted questions.
4. Stress interview: Do scenario testing that creates anxiety so you can how see how candidate responds.
In addition to using formal interview processes, other vehicles can help both sides arrive at a realistic preview. Employers can request work samples or offer trial experiences to assess performance. Organizations can produce interactive videos that illustrate basic expectations and day-in-the-life scenarios. And candidates can spend time on-site shadowing workers or attending question-and-answer sessions with current employees.
Provide an “out” to confirm commitment. Job previews can provide an “out” for both the candidate and employer; they weed out the ill-equipped and disinterested and focus qualified candidates on the true criteria for success. While it may seem counterintuitive, this escape mechanism can intensify legitimate commitments from those truly fit for the opportunity.
Although a comprehensive evaluation of the employment relationship is better for both parties, pressures faced by employers and potential employees may deter them from taking advantage of realistic job previews. For job seekers, the desire to be employed is often strong enough to force lingering doubts aside. If so, candidates might roll the dice and accept an offer -- even if it’s based on limited information, a superficial job description and filtered details about the organization’s culture -- and lack the patience to test for a careful match.
A company may feel compelled to produce glossy materials portraying the organization in the most positive light. Yet ultimately it would be more effective for managers to move past the veneer and present a fuller picture of the firm’s past success, as well as its goals for future growth and improvement. This candor ideally would lead them to providing useful details about the chemistry of the team, managers' decision-making habits and the relative pressures and the challenges and opportunities that could affect the position.
While it may take time and energy to shift to a “warts-and-all” approach to recruitment and candidate selection, prospective employees will gain a deeper sense of commitment as a result. This will lead to solid hiring choices that improve retention and reduce costly failed hires.