Sunday Post: Why Hiring Managers Keep Blowing It

New hires rarely work out (almost 1/2 fail within 18 months!)

HiringWhat are the chances the person you just hired will be here in 18 months? Answer: Flip a coin. It’s sad how bad we’re doing.

News Release (WASHINGTON, D.C.) — According to a new study by Leadership IQ, 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months, while only 19% will achieve unequivocal success. For more on another theory, read “Why New Hires Fail.”

That’s right. Almost 1/2 fail and less than 1 in 5 is highly successful. It’s that bad.

We like to change things on Sundays. Instead of talking about marketing and lead generation, let’s explore why companies keep making terrible hiring decisions over and over. (Find New Customers will use the process outlined below when we begin hiring.)

The Fallacy of the Job Description

Why do companies keep making hiring mistakes? I believe it’s because they rely on an ineffective approach – evaluating candidates based on the job description. They are trying to turn a 3D person into a 2D list of skills.

To illustrate why job descriptions don’t work, let’s look at a scenario, to see if we can uncover the root causes why managers keep making bad collaborationdecisions.

You’re the hiring manager

You’re hiring for a large software company and you are looking for someone to own global responsibility for your largest customer – a huge global firm. Revenue has been stagnant and competitors are nipping at your heels. Time for a change.

You have three candidates under consideration- we’ll call them A, B and C:

  • Candidate A – The current rep on the account. Has handled this huge global client for three years and is well-respected.
  • Candidate B – New employee. He wowed everyone with a fast start, but never handled this account and is new to the industry. Does not know the account or the industry.
  • Candidate C – Handles that global account for our #1 competitor

Whom do you hire?

  1. Undoubtedly the vast majority of hiring managers choose C (competitor rep) – he has experience in our industry and with the client – a safe choice. We try to steal him from our competitor.
  2. Many would choose A (existing rep) – she has experience and client experience too.
  3. Few if any would choose B (green rep) – as he has no experience in our industry or with the customer. They might try if he was an existing employee, but no one would hire B off the street to do this job.

You’re in luck. All three did the job, so we have measurable results from all.  We can examine actual results of each.

Bottom line: It was no contest. One’s results dwarfed the others. But the results are not at all what we expected.

  • Candidate A was up first- revenue continued to decline. She was pushed to the side.
  • Candidate B was up second – revenue shot up by an unheard of 224% in the first 12 months. But after our company shipped a buggy release and lost a key services person, he resigned.
  • Candidate C (the best choice) – After B left, we went out and took the rep on the client from our top competitor. But he did not last 6 months – he was unable to touch Candidate B’s results. We fired him.

Conclusion: Candidate B was the best choice by far. The one no one would choose.

To understand why that happened, let’s examine all three candidates.

A and C were traditional product salespeople. They were old school. But candidate B was very different he worked differently. His passion, teamwork skills and creativity made him a star. He devised a brilliant plan and executed it to perfection.

No one else had a planthey were salespeople, while he was an executive leader. But a job description would not uncover this candidate.

Problem is that any job description for the role would quickly eliminate our ideal candidate. Missing experience would have killed his candidacy.

This begs a question. How do we find stars, especially when we cannot rely on standard measures of experience and industry knowledge?

The key thing we need to do IMHO is to stop driving everything through a detailed job description. Critical information is missing – namely, the personality characteristics of the star employee.

I believe the answer is for companies, before they search for new employees, they look to their top performers. Since you want to hire a top performer, learn about what makes a top performer.

Ask questions of your top performers to learn what makes them different from run of the mill employees. For instance, ask

  • What is about these people that makes them so successful?
  • What are the personality traits?
  • What are the interpersonal skills?
  • Name a time you failed. What did you learn from it and how did you recover? (Stars fail fast and learn.)
  • Tell me a time of when you did something for someone else without asking for anything in return. (Stars are self-less.)

Use what you learn to create a very different job description. I bet you’ll start including factors like passion, honesty, creativity and listening skills.

While I’m today President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers today, I’m was Candidate B at the huge software firm.

By the way, I was featured in the popular book for job-seeking professionals, Get Back to Work Faster.Get Back to Work Faster

What do you think? Why do hiring mistakes keep happening over and over? Do you agree or disagree with my advice?
Read my blog on Kindle

Jeff Ogden (@fearlesscomp) is President of the B2B lead generation consultancy, Find New Customers. He presented at the 140 Social Media Conference on Long Island on May 26th and will appear on Sales Lead Management Radio on June 9th.

Find New Customers helps companies (with between 150 and 5,000 employees who sell complex products to businesses) to implement world-class lead generation programs. As companies struggle to create quality sales opportunities, they turn to lead generation companies like Find New Customers.

7 thoughts on “Sunday Post: Why Hiring Managers Keep Blowing It

  1. Excellent post Jeff, didn’t realise you were featured in Jill’s book, actually didn’t realise she penned a job seekers bible either. In what capacity were you mentioned in the book if you don’t mind me ask? intrigued now. Anyway good post and I’ve experienced very similar derisory BS, I think it’s an IT thing. I successfully sued a previous employer for constructive dismissal because I earned too much commission and they hated paying me.

    Best regards,

    1. Thanks Sean. In answer to your question, I was the example used throughout Jill’s great book for job seekers.

      I also believe this post shows the fatal flaw in the job description/resume process. By looking only at experience and past accomplishments, businesses overlook personality traits that are critical, like passion, determination and creativity. Because of this, less than 1 out of 5 hires is a star.

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