Selection in the Real World

Jeans resized 600I was recently invited to guest-lecture in an undergraduate Personnel Psychology class. I was quick to accept as this particular professor started me down the I/O path that I’m still enjoying today. I started thinking about what I could tell undergraduate students that would be valuable to them both in and out of the classroom, and I landed on the topic of employee selection. Hiring has become so much more complex since I sat in a BSU classroom, and it really hasn’t been that long.

In many companies employee selection is marked by a few common practices:

1. It begins with an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).
Large multinational corporations use Applicant Tracking Systems to efficiently gather information about large numbers of candidates, evaluate minimum qualifications, and screen out candidates who do not meet basic job requirements. This technology often dictates the kind of information that candidates provide as well as the order and format in which the information is submitted. This can lead to a lengthy application process, which may leave candidates feeling frustrated and poorly-represented by the information solicited. These feelings are likely exacerbated if the individual fails to meet the minimum qualifications and is immediately eliminated from the selection process.

2. It’s not what you know, it’s who you are.
A recent Hyper Island study found that 78% of 500 leaders and employees surveyed rated “personality” as the most desirable employee characteristic, followed by “cultural alignment” at 53%, and “skill set” at only 39%. It is no longer enough to have the right education or previous experience. Candidates must also be able to demonstrate critical individual attributes, such as drive, teamwork, and innovation.

3. You may not be applying for just one job.
When applying for a given position, candidates’ qualifications may be evaluated in terms of the job for which they are applying as well as more broadly. Organizations may apply candidate information to multiple job profiles to determine not only if the individual should be hired, but also where he/she should be placed. In addition, given the challenges associated with finding and retaining high-quality talent, employers are increasingly considering candidates’ long-term potential. Proctor & Gamble’s Careers site offers the tag line “We hire the person, not the position”. They state that they hire not just for a given position, but with the expectation that each candidate should have the potential to grow in the company.

4. Just like a good pair of jeans, it’s all about fit.
Organizations are largely defined by their unique values and culture. To ensure continued success it is critical that they hire employees who fit with that culture and can embody those values. Candidates who demonstrate a high level of aptitude for the job, and perhaps even show leadership potential, may not be hired due to a lack of fit. Employers know that employees who are not a good match for the organizational culture may perform well in the short-term but be difficult to retain.

What common selection practices have you seen in the past? What trends do you see building in talent acquisition?