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Hiring managers spend too much time interviewing candidates—and asking them the wrong questions. Then they're often surprised to have to fire those same candidates a few months later after discovering that good interview skills don't necessarily signal a great job fit.
The problem: Employers often hire for hard skills but fire for soft skills.
“Our new slogan should be, 'Fire them before we hire them,'" says Karl Ahlrichs of Hiring Smart, an Indiana firm specializing in employee selection.
Ahlrichs advocates a streamlined system that front-loads the hiring process by placing more responsibility on job-seekers. It relies heavily on automating the application process using web-based applications and tests to capture much of the information traditionally covered in face-to-face interviews.
A 4-step hiring process
Here's Ahlrichs' four-step process that, he says, can provide richer information than four traditional interviews:
1. An exhaustive application. Require candidates to fill out a meticulously detailed initial job application. Ahlrichs advocates a four-page application that covers all the usual application questions—and then some. In addition to job experience, it asks applicants to explain why they left jobs and requests their supervisors' names and phone numbers (along with permission to contact them).
It also asks a series of open-ended questions designed to reveal the applicants' perspectives on areas like supervision, teamwork and customer service (areas important to the employer).
"This is a filter that weeds out about 40% of applicants,” Ahlrichs says, especially "the tire-kickers who can't be bothered with so much work.”
"The application effectively functions as a good first interview for most positions,” he says. "You may not even need to see a résumé.”
2. Five-minute phone screen. Call the best prospects from your now much-smaller pile of applications. Use their applications as the basis to gain a basic feel for a fit. Not all will make the cut following this "second interview.”
3. Online assessment. Here's your "third interview.” Have remaining applicants complete an online survey that measures values, attitudes, sense of responsibility and other intangibles that separate good employees from bad. Several of these types of instruments are available online. (Do a Google search for "online employment assessments.”)
4. Face-to-face interviews. Now you are ready to meet the best candidates. And you'll come armed with all the information gleaned from the first three steps.
"By now, applicants are really committed,” Ahlrichs says. "They've put a lot of work into the process, and they've already had four opportunities to opt out.”
Ahlrichs says companies using this process have seen 50% reductions in both new-hire resignations and firings, and new-hire absenteeism has fallen as much as 75%.