I Wish I Would Have Used An Assessment: Everyone Has Something To Hide

FOT Note:  Who here hates bad hires? (#Everyone) That’s why we recently onboarded Chequed.com as an annual sponsor at FOT, where they’ll sponsor posts like this one, allowing FOT contributors to write without restriction on all things related to pre-hire screening and testing.  Since some FOTers call bad hires “scrubs,” Chequed.com has also signed up to sponsor a FOT video series—aptly named “No Scrubs.”  Be on the lookout for that show later this month.

The world is full of sneaks.

My sister sent me the Huffington Post list of 12 Mindblowing Documentaries On Netflix Right Now. At the top of the list is The Woman Who Wasn’t There.

It is about Tania Head, who posed as a 9/11 survivor. Tania told an intricate series of convincing stories including how her fake husband died in the attacks and how she was saved within seconds of the tower’s collapse. Tania’s fake story was so convincing families asked her to speak at 9/11 victim’s funerals, politicians wanted to meet her and she became the president of ostensibly the largest NYC survivors support group. She kept up the charade for 6 years.

Tania clearly had something to hide yet still rose to roles of prominence when smart folks, whose defenses were down, didn’t have the resources or time to truly assess what was behind the curtain. HR Pros, does this sound familiar?

As an HR pro I’ve witnessed (and perpetrated—yes, mea culpa) hiring decision-making missteps. The operative phrase is “decision-making” since hiring is really an exercise on making decisions. Unfortunately, good decision-making in Corporate USA is under constant attack. And when our defenses are down, unqualified folks tend to sneak past our better judgment and become our next hires.

One source of help can be the use of pre-hire assessment tools. Assessments help in two ways: 1) they help decision-makers focus on the important requirements of the job and 2) they are able to assess objectively through scientific means personality traits.

Here are some decision-making scenarios I’ve witnessed in my HR career when hiring managers defenses were down. A good assessment tool could have helped navigate these waters better:

  1. The “My Own Personal Jesus” job. This happens when a hiring manager thinks the only person to handle their job is, well, Jesus. Or Buddah. Or Abraham Lincoln. Or anything that represents perfection. I mean my receptionist must have a master’s degree and intuitively know that paper clips go on the right of the desk and must greet people in iambic pentameter, right? And I am going to dig in my heals until that “needle-in-a-stack-of-needles” appears! Well, as lovely as this sounds, it is unrealistic and frankly shows lack of focus on what is really important in the job. When your focus is off, that is the prime environment for a sneak to waltz in. An assessment can help managers focus on the main drivers of the job.
  1. The “I Want The World And I Want It Now” manager. This is one degree of separation away from the “My Own Personal Jesus.” This hiring manager wants perfection, too. Problem is he thinks EVERYONE is perfect! The candidate doesn’t have the educational requirements? Yes, but he has a winning smile everyone likes! The candidate wasn’t able to quantify any of his sales accomplishments? Yes, but my best friend’s sister’s husband recommended him! The candidate couldn’t identify his career or learning aspirations? Yes, but it’s because he is perfect and has nothing left to learn!  Slow down, sunshine pump. If you are in this big of a hurry, then you need an assessment tool ASAP to help get your perspective back on track.
  1. The “It’s a Marathon…” scenario. Some companies, like Zappos or Daxko, believe in the “hire slow/fire fast” mantra. However, at some point “hire-slow” morphs into “hire-never” if the manager gets too busy with “real work,” there is lack of urgency, or simply limited focus on the fill based on numerous distractions. So, how does the “It’s A Marathon…” scenario play out for the non-committal manager? Poorly. You know the drill: 6-months later your boss says, “Hire someone. NOW. Or I will hire them for you.” So, the next guy with a pulse who sneaks in the door gets hired. An assessment can help busy managers de-select candidates before face-to-face interviews happen, thus saving precious time.
  1. The Willie Loman/Sham-Wow candidates. This is all about the sell-job. Candidates worth their salt should be able to sell their capabilities. However, candidates are biased in favor of themselves. They usually know the job description and can convince themselves they possess traits they don’t really have. There are two that will sneak into your world very easily if your defenses are down. The Willie Loman and the Sham-Wow. Willie Loman is the main character from Arthur Miller’s, Death of a Salesman. He is the guy who has “Peter-Principled” out of his job, but has deluded himself that he is qualified for work he is simply not. The dilutions of grandeur are powerful and convincing since he feels he has something to lose. And, of course, you know the Sham-Wow infomercial salesman? This guy is just slick, polished and damn good at what he does best—sell. In some roles this could be a perfect match! But if you are not 100% focused on what your job requires, this dude will make you believe he is qualified for everything.

Most of your candidates won’t be a Tania Head, thank goodness. However, it can be pretty rough out there in the hiring space. Assessment tools can be an easy way to bring focus into a very dynamic, and at times difficult, decision-making practice.

Be on the lookout later this month for the new FOT video series called “No Scrubs”—brought to you by Chequed.com.

FOT Background Check

Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke is an HR Leader, speaker and writer, specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture.  Her HR career has spanned the last 20 years, most recently serving as VP of People for Birmingham, Alabama's award-winning technology company, Daxko. That’s right – the very DAXKO that our very own KD is an alum of, because there are only so many people in the big B’ham who are worthy of a VP of People title. A true Generalist, she’s done a little bit of everything, but recruiting and training is where she gets her mojo. She’s based in the good ol' blogging capitol of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, where you can frequently find her listening to the Beatles and REM, watching Breaking Bad reruns (and Snapped and Dateline), enjoying serious amounts of coffee (and cheese, but not together!), dreaming of where she will travel next, and wondering how in the world this theatre grad ever got into football or HR…Check out her blog at dawnhburke.com or talk to Dawn via emailLinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter

One Comment

  1. Unless you’re planning on using a lie detector (if it is even legal in your state), online assessments are the best way to go in order to avoid bad hires. Apart from uncovering hands-on skills, they also help to delve deeper into a candidate’s psyche and know their motivations, leadership skills, risk-taking capacities, and more.

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