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HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Singapore
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Joshua Yim

8 rookie errors to screw up the hiring process

BY JOSHUA YIM

Everyone knows that hiring the wrong individual will end up costing your organisation far more than their monthly salary. Here’s how you can ensure that happens by screwing up the selection process with these rookie errors. Thankfully, we also give you tips on how to cover all your bases.

Get distracted
Has this ever happened to you: You went out for lunch with the intention of getting a cheeseburger but along the way, the smell of char kway teow from a nearby hawker centre was too tempting to resist and you decided to have that instead?

The recruitment process is a little similar in the sense that it’s easy to get distracted especially when you have a buffet of options in terms of the spread of good quality candidates. You may find yourself being smitten by several candidates, each flaunting ever more attractive qualities.

To avoid getting distracted, make sure you are clear on exactly what you are looking for from the start. Get your needs right by determining the most important qualities and criteria needed for the role you are looking to fill.

It would also help to benchmark these against the industry standard, and manage your expectations accordingly.

Having said that, however, you don’t need to be overly rigid. It’s alright to be a little flexible, as your requirements may change along the way, depending on which way economic headwinds blow.

Ask the same old questions
The best way to get the worst results during the interview process is to ask the most basic questions like ‘Tell me more about yourself’ or ‘What are your strengths and weaknesses?’.

These have been done to death over the years and candidates will simply spew well-rehearsed answers that in reality give you very little insight into whether they will be able to walk the talk and perform well on the job.

What you should do instead is to ask situational questions whereby you pose hypothetical scenarios and the candidate will need to share how he or she would handle it.

An example of a situational question is, ‘What is the biggest mistake you have made in your career so far? And if given a chance, what would you have done differently?’ This line of questioning tests the candidate’s analytical and problem-solving skills and forces them to think on their feet.

Don’t do your homework
Don’t bother conducting reference checks because you’re just too busy. And if you do make those calls, stick only to the most basic questions. Surely, common sense will tell you that all the references will say nice things about the candidate.

Instead, you should throw in some unusual questions that will catch the referee off-guard, such as ‘What do you think (candidate’s name) needs to succeed in this role?’. Being unpredictable will induce a more spontaneous response, which is likely to offer a more authentic take on the candidate’s background.

I would even go a step further to suggest using reverse psychology to provoke a more accurate response from the reference. For example, say something negative about the candidate and see how fervently the referee defends him or her.

Rely solely on psychometric tests
It makes sense to hire the candidate who scores highest on psychometric tests, right? Wrong! While psychometric tests do indeed have their merits in measuring the knowledge, abilities, attitude and personality traits of candidates, they should not be taken as the Biblical truth.

This is because some candidates could be intelligent enough to know what the ‘right’ answers should be in theory, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they would perform in line with those model answers when it comes down to the execution.

I have personally come across instances in which the candidate doesn’t score well on the test but the hiring manager recruited the person anyway based on gut feel and the individual ended up excelling in the role.

Don’t trust your gut
Following on from the previous point, you would be remissed if you focus on just technical metrics to arrive at your hiring decision. Some candidates look good on paper but may not be able to perform when it comes down to the crunch.

A few years ago, I handled a recruitment assignment for a company in which two candidates were put forth to the company after a stringent screening process. The company favoured one candidate due to his experience in their particular industry and because he had many relevant contacts and was familiar with some of their customer accounts.

I had a strong feeling that this guy may not be able to perform and advised them against hiring that person and encouraged them to go with the other guy instead. The company didn’t take my advice and indeed, four months later, the candidate they originally selected was let go as he simply could not perform.

The other candidate that I had strongly recommended was then hired to replace the first guy. So you would do well to complement all the technical measurements with some good old-fashioned instincts.

Go for cheap
Budgets are tight and you need to keep costs low so hire the candidate who’s asking for the lowest salary.

No! By now, everybody knows that if you pay peanuts, you’ll get monkeys. But you’ll be surprised at how many companies I come across that would rather pay $2,000 salaries for three new hires instead of one $6,000 salary.

Of course it is important to exercise financial prudence but ultimately, you need to ask yourself if the cheaper candidate has all the necessary skills, experience and aptitude to not just get the job done but really excel in the role and help take your company to the next level.

A cheaper candidate who cannot perform will end up costing your company far more in terms of productivity loss and even business opportunity costs.

Drag the Process
Take your own sweet time to make a decision as the candidate you’ve shortlisted has all the time in the world to wait for your offer.

I’ve come across some HR Managers who take forever to make a decision and then find that the good candidates have been snapped up by their competitors. This may be two to three months after the interviews were conducted and by then, you would have wasted a lot of time and money as you now have to start the selection process all over again – or have to settle for the less ‘hot’ candidates that are still left on the shelf.

Ideally, you should decide on which candidate to offer the job to within two weeks of the interview stage. At most, you may stretch this out to one month but no longer than that.

Let candidate bring home the appointment letter
Sure, let the candidate you’ve offered the job to take home the appointment letter. Now they’ve got all the chips in hand to go to their present employer and use it as leverage to ask for a raise.

This is actually a big no-no. We have encountered many candidates who are not serious about seeking greener pastures but put themselves out there simply to find out their market value so that they are better prepared to negotiate with their current employer for a salary increment.

To weed out these guys, my company asks candidates upfront whether they will stay with their current company if they receive a counter offer of a 20% increment. If they hesitate, red flags immediately go up.

To further mitigate our company’s and our clients’ risks, we also ask them to sign a letter of agreement with us, stating that they will pay us one month’s salary if they change their minds after signing the Letter of Appointment with our client.

If they refuse to even sign such an agreement, it clearly shows that they are not serious about looking for a new job opportunity.
 

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Joshua Yim

Joshua Yim

Joshua Yim is the founder and CEO of Achieve Group, an HR consultancy providing human capital solutions for national conglomerates and MNCs in the Asia Pacific region since 1990. The veteran HR professional has received several business awards over his career, including the Spirit of Enterprise Awards 2011, the Outstanding Entrepreneur Award at the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award 2010 (APEA), and the Entrepreneur of The Year Award 2009.

His company, headquartered in Singapore with an office in Malaysia, has also garnered a number of prestigious awards including the 2011 Singapore Enterprise 50 Award, ASEAN Business Award in 2011 and 2010, and Singapore Prestige Brand Award 2010.

A prominent figure in Singapore’s HR community, Joshua is often invited as a speaker for HR and business events. He has appeared in interviews on national TV, radio, magazines and newspapers, and also actively contributes his industry insights to the various media both local and internationally.

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