When the Talent You Hired Is Not Performing

“She seemed perfect for the position.” These are the exact words of a CEO I was recently talking with about a search to replace a candidate they had hired six months earlier, who wasn’t performing. The CEO explained how they had spent a lot of time with the candidate, she had multiple interviews, she completed a DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness) behavior assessment, and simply put, “We all loved her for the position.” Yet, after all of this effort, the person wasn’t able to perform. It all seemed very perplexing.

 
My partner, Barry Deutsch, and I have heard this same story many times in our collective 50 years+ as recruiters and in our hiring best practices workshops. One thing we can all agree on is that something went wrong. Although no hiring process in the world will get 100% results, it is possible to raise the hiring accuracy to the 80% level. That is pretty good considering studies have shown that traditional hiring methods produce candidates that meet or exceed the hiring manager’s expectations around 56% of the time. This shows that something is going wrong with hiring in many companies.
 
I started by asking two questions to better understand how this company went about hiring this “perfect” candidate.
 
I asked if she would email me the job description. When I read it, I thought the document was very traditional. It was mostly focused on the candidate’s background and experience, not the job. In reality it was a people description, not a job description. It had great detail about all of the experience the company wanted the person to have, education, years of experience, all the behavioral traits, a very comprehensive list of duties, tasks, and responsibilities, and requirements for management and leadership. Over all it was well thought out and I know they spent a lot of time developing it.
 
The next thing I asked the CEO was, “Have you audited, not co-interviewed, but audited whether the people in the hiring process are even competent interviewers?” She said, “No.” So another classic problem reared its ugly head. What if just one of the many interviewers wasn’t competent at interviewing? Interviewing is only as good as the worst interviewer on the hiring team. People often assume that just because a person has hired in the past, he or she must be a good interviewer. This is just not true.
 
It was easy now to identify why this person, that everybody loved, may not have worked out.
 
The job description didn’t really define the real job. It defined a person everyone expected or thought could do the job, because they had done it before. Not true. Just because someone has done the job before may make them a great X, but it doesn’t make them the right X for your position. This is positively the number one biggest hiring mistake.
 
The people doing the interviews were not trained and since the job description didn’t describe the real job, most just conducted a generic interview. They asked the same questions they were asked in interviews. They assumed what the real job was and asked if the person had ever done these tasks before. Which of course they had, as it was obvious from the resume.  Add to that the likability factor and is it any wonder why this hire went wrong?
 
If she wants to hire a successful person, the first step is defining success in the role. Few job descriptions actually do this. Most define a person’s background and experience along with the very basic duties and tasks. Neither of which define success. If the person only performed the listed duties and tasks most would not consider this a top talent hire. She had to define outcomes.
 
What level of performance is this person going to be held accountable to? Even the basic duties have an expected level of high performance. For example, process X number of invoices per hour, make X number of sales call per week, receive a score of X or higher on customer feedback forms, respond to all customers within 24 hours, and so on. Now this defines performance and success.
 
Then she had to develop interviewing questions that determine the person’s ability to deliver this level of success. Now the people interviewing are actually interviewing with a purpose. Not just a free for all. Everyone understands what the goals are and what questions to ask. It is not random. The people interviewing are now focused on determining the candidate’s ability to deliver these results.
 
Finally, the candidate also knows what will be expected of them when they come on board. In some cases this will scare off those good solid below average performers. Once they know what is expected of them they may not want the job. This is a good thing.
 
You can evaluate your hiring process before this happens to you. Download our Hiring Methodology Assessment Scorecard. Find the weak points in your hiring system and focus on fixing them. Click here to download yours.
 
If you would like some examples of job descriptions that define success we have those available for you. Click here to download some examples.
 
About the Author
Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions in the U.S. and co-author of You’re NOT the Person I Hired and This is NOT the Position I Accepted. He is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.
 

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