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How to avoid making a mess of your recruitment policy


Writing for HBR.org's 'Best Practices' blog, Amy Gallo offers some advice on avoiding recruitment disasters.

As Gallo points out, hiring staff can be both nerve-wracking and time-consuming, and the outcome is often uncertain.

However, the author insists you can make disasters less likely by outlining and adhering to a disciplined process.

Gallo draws on the expert opinions of Claudio Fernández-Aráoz (a senior adviser at Egon Zehnder International and the author of The Definitive Guide to Recruiting in Good Times and Bad) and Adele Lynn (founder and owner of The Adele Lynn Leadership Group and author of The EQ Interview).


Fernández-Aráoz says "typical unconscious psychological traps" must be avoided in order to pinpoint the best candidate, such overrating those who made you feel most comfortable or making snap judgements. It is important to properly assess the competencies of the candidates in relation to the position they hope to fill.

You also have to ask the right questions. Lynne says: "Often, companies are desperate to fill a position, so the interview process includes some generic questions and some information about the position."

Instead, she says the interview should include behavior-based questions and motive and reflection questions, such as: "Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a co-worker and explain how you resolved it." This way, Lynn says: "You get a much more thorough understanding of how a person will behave in the future."

Once the candidate has successfully negotiated the hiring process and they begin work, on-board care is essential, says Fernández-Aráoz, explaining: "Most companies let their new hires sink or swim, and as a result many sink. Some form of integration support reduces the chances of failure, accelerates learning, and increases the contribution of any new hire."

Expectation-setting is key, says Lynn, who insists: "Especially with knowledge workers and younger workers, there is a strong need to communicate both expectations of performance and behaviour."

If you begin to suspect you picked the wrong candidate, you should canvas opinion from others discreetly to see if they agree. Once the root of the problem has been identified you can explore whether it can be corrected through coaching.

Give feedback to the new recruit as early as possible and draw up a plan to resolve any issues that have arisen. If the problems remain, you can try to find the new hire a more suitable role in the organisation.

If all these steps fail, termination might be your only option. But Fernández-Aráoz warns: "Most likely as the hiring manager you have a large share of responsibility for the mistake, and thus should never fire a person without thoughtful consideration."

How to Prevent Hiring Disasters
Amy Gallo