HR Strategy Partner General Zebras Don’t Chan...
Zebras Don’t Change Their Stripes. Neither Do Candidates.
Zebras Don’t Change Their Stripes. Neither Do Candidates.

Hiring the wrong candidate can be a costly error. Learn how talent assessments can take some of the risk (and cost) out of your organization's hiring strategies.
Any marriage counselor will tell you: Don’t marry with the expectation you will change the other person after the wedding. The “stripes” we carry into a relationship are usually there for the long run. The same advice applies to organizations that are selecting individuals for key roles. Here are a few things to consider when reviewing candidates for key organizational roles:
  1. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Look for themes and patterns that characterize how the person has operated in prior roles. It is difficult to “turn over a new leaf” and no organization wants its success to depend on a candidate changing the patterns of a career.
  2. What you see is what you get.  Do not make excuses for a candidate. Never apologize for the candidate’s behavior or how they come across in the selection process. Learn to use yourself as the barometer for the candidate’s behavior, attitude, and past results. A candidate who snaps at or is even nasty to your administrative staff is likely to operate that way with other people in your organization.
  3. Cultural fit matters. Organizations’ cultures vary in many different ways. Candidates differ in their values and preferences that relate to attitudes concerning status, social mores, financial drivers, and decision-making predispositions. Candidates that are not a good fit for the organization’s culture are either going to be unhappy or work to change the culture to fit their values and preferences. A candidate accustomed to making decisions based largely on intuition is going to have a difficult time in your organization if it values analysis of data and a logical decision-making process.
  4. When in doubt, there is no doubt. The answer is NO! If the hiring leader, prospective peers, and other key stakeholders have doubts and reservations about a candidate based on capabilities revealed by past performance, personal style, and questions of culture fit, keep looking. The cost of a bad selection decision is higher than some people realize, and at a senior level role can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Hiring Strategies That Work
When I assess the two or three finalists using a multi-component assessment process I describe the degree of fit to the job requirements and identify any “red flags” from a personality or style perspective. The hiring manager makes the decision to hire or not. Time and time again over the last decade I have identified candidates as not aligning well with job requirements. If those candidates were hired anyway, in most cases it did not end well. The organization ended up being as disappointed with their hire as someone who wanted the acceleration of a turbo-charged V6 but bought an underpowered 4-cylinder car. The power is just not going to be there when wanted.
How can you avoid being similarly disappointed? It’s critical to follow a rigorous assessment process, especially when vetting candidates for senior-level positions. As an example, here is the assessment framework used for senior-level positions by Right Management:  
  • Online self-assessments, including: Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI), Hogan Development Survey (HDS), and cognitive abilities assessments that measure critical thinking ability and decision making.
  • A background survey to capture the candidate’s experiences in areas relevant to performance.
  • A competency-based behavioral interview designed to identify the candidate’s accomplishments, operating style, and outcomes in specific performance examples.
  • A peer simulation exercise, in which the candidate is observed leading a meeting with a peer and working to accomplish specific objectives.
  • An analysis and strategy exercise in which the individual has to assimilate disparate information, respond to emails, develop a strategy for their division, and present in a compelling manner to the leadership team. This exercise is used to assess how the candidate processes and responds to information as defined by the behavioral competencies. 
  • A direct report simulation exercise that involves the need to inspire and motivate a direct report during times of significant change—useful in assessing the behaviors exhibited by the candidate against the behavioral competencies.
Hiring the right employees is critical for ongoing organizational success. So, as you evaluate your “zebras,” assess rigorously, pay attention to past behaviors, don’t make excuses, consider the cultural fit, and if doubts creep in, trust your instincts!

Would you like to discuss further with a Right Management expert? Contact us at LeaderDevelopment@Right.com

 Author: Steve Doerflein, Ph.D., Senior Consultant, Talent Management, Right Management
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