Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hurry and register for the 2012 IPAC conference!

You only have two more days to take advantage of the "early bird" registration rate for the 2012 International Personnel Assessment Council (IPAC) conference in Las Vegas on July 22-25.

This year's conference promises to uphold the high quality of presentations and opportunities to network that you've come to expect.  Great keynote speakers are lined up, such as Wayne Cascio, Kevin Murphy, and David Campbell.

Check out the flyer and the preliminary program to see all the goodness!

Saturday, June 09, 2012

I hate resumes

Okay, I know last time I talked about how I hate interviews--or at least how they're used.  I promise this blog isn't turning into 100% rants.  But some things ya just gotta get out.

My dislike for interviews is far eclipsed by my distaste for resumes.  In fact the process of reviewing resumes as a selection device is far worse than most interviews.

Why?  Because, like interviews, resume requirements are ubiquitous, but research has shown their validity (i.e., the relationship between resume scoring future job performance) is worse.

Aside from straight up not working very well as an assessment tool, what else is wrong with resumes?  Here's a sample:

- They're not standardized.  You'll get some information on some resumes, different information on others.  So you end up comparing apples and oranges.  Not exactly what you hope for in terms of reliability.

- They don't lend themselves easily to a scoring rubric.  Sure, you can try giving a certain number of points for a degree or a certain amount of experience (assuming you can support it), but that's assuming the person writes it down in the way you need...Otherwise, it's easy to let them fall into "piles" (definitely yes, maybe, hell no).  Unfortunately at that point you're essentially saying there is no variance within each pile, which is obviously not true.

- They're open to all kinds of bias, ranging from racial discrimination to wild assumptions about education ("hey, look--they went to the same school I did! cool!")

- They're time consuming to review.  We've all seen resumes the size of small novels (hint to job seekers: this does not impress most employers).  Separating the wheat from the chaff is about as much fun as a 4:30 meeting.

- Like training and experience (T&E) measures, they tell you nothing about how well someone did something, just that they did it.  Assuming they're telling the truth, which leads to...

- You're forced to take on faith that the education and experience they describe was actually obtained.  Sure, you'll verify it (right?), but at the very least you've wasted time including liars/embellishers in the process.

- The information you need may not be there.  You will almost certainly find yourself thinking, "gosh, I wish they had given me more detail about X..."

- On the other hand, they contain a lot of information you don't need.  Applicants try to put their best foot forward and are also guessing what you're looking for, so they waste their time and yours.  They're just plain inefficient--for applicants and employers.

So why do employers use them?  For a lot of the same reasons they recycle interviews:

- It's easy; heck, just put "resume required" on the ad...because...well...why not? It doesn't require us to think very deeply about the recruitment.

- It's the devil we know.  It's what people are comfortable with.  People may acknowledge their imperfection, but this personality testing stuff sounds scary...

- Inertia.  Yes, unfortunately "it's what we've always done" has an inordinate amount of influence on the way people in organizations make decisions.

- A lack of attention to and focus on the process.  The reason many selection processes are lackluster is because the hiring supervisors don't take it seriously enough.  Who's fault is this?  Well theirs, obviously, but HR's as well, and upper management.  Hiring should be one of the most important things employees do.

- They don't know any better.  This is perhaps the saddest reason because it's simply due to a lack of education about selection.  Many hiring supervisors are unaware of the range of assessments out there, or maybe they've heard vague rumors about how they can be sued if they use an intelligence test.  HR and upper management, I'm looking at you again on this one.

- They're not held accountable for the quality of their hires and the selection process they're using.  Heck if requiring resumes is easy, it seems to mostly work, and no one's the wiser, why would I change my ways?

So aside from educating supervisors and holding them accountable, what can be done?  There have been several web-based attempts to make resumes more relevant.  But so far there is no "killer app" that both job hunters and employers make a beeline for.  There's no Facebook of resumes (and no, Facebook is not the Facebook of resumes).  In the meantime, here are some tips:

- Don't default to asking for a resume.  Really think about what you're looking for.  Interested in their job-related education, training, and experience?  Then ask for that!  Like...

..."Specifically describe how your experience and training matches the requirements of the position..."

...Or even better: "This job requires an advanced ability to put peanut butter on bread.  Describe specifically how your training and experience qualifies you to perform this task."...

- Don't assume that standard applications solve the problem.  They tend to have a lot of the same problems--e.g., the candidate gets total flexibility in describing their previous jobs.

- If you need, for whatever reason, to ask for a resume, try asking for it in a specific (chronological, functional) format.  And be clear about what it should--and should not--contain.  And limit the length.  Who knows, it may at least speed things up for you.

Resumes and interviews.  Probably the most frequently used personnel selection tools used.  And sadly in many cases severely lacking in validity.  Really the problem gets us back to the core of good selection: taking hiring seriously and spending time thinking about job requirements and a plan for assessing them.

These steps aren't that hard, and simply taking a more critical look at them may give you more payoff than any other revamp of your hiring and promotion process.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

I hate interviews

I hate interviews.

Let me clarify.  I don't hate doing interviews, I hate how they're used.

Try this exercise.  Spread your arms out as far as they'll go (or envision it).  That's how much of a person's competencies employers think they are measuring using the interview.

Now put your hands about a foot apart from each other.  That's how much of a person's competencies they're really measuring.  And that's if they interview well (which many don't).

So why do employers like interviews so much?  Yes, when done right they've been shown to predict performance pretty well, so it makes sense that over time supervisors would see them as a decent way to hire the right person (although how many of them correlate interview scores with later job performance?).

But I think it's more basic than that.  Interviews are the basket that many employers put all their eggs.  Why?  It's been argued that they're addicted to interviews and stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their flaws.  But really I think there are three main things going on with the average hiring supervisor:

1) competing demands for their time/attention;

2) laziness ("let's just do what we did last time"); and

3) a genuine belief that SEEING someone tells you a lot about them.  I believe this factor is particularly powerful.

Here's another exercise: ask a bunch of hiring supervisors how many of them would hire someone without interviewing them.  I'm guessing no one volunteered.

Why?  Why is it so uncomfortable to imagine hiring someone without having seen them?  What are they hoping to measure in the interview? 

- Job knowledge?  Heck, we could put together a 10-15 item m-c test that would do a better job than a couple "what would you do if..." and "tell me about a time when..." questions.  The slight additional time involved in putting them together would be worth the increased confidence in the breadth/depth of their knowledge.

- Oral communication?  First of all, is that important for the job? Second, is an interview really the highest fidelity situation you can think of?  Are you hiring for...interviewee?  Ask them to put on a training presentation.  Do a role play.  Be creative!

- "Something else"?  Like, I dunno, friendliness?  Social skills?  "Fit"?  Do you really think you're seeing an accurate picture of these qualities during an interview?  Why not use an assessment that's actually designed to measure these things and reference check the heck out of the person?

Aside from the variance you're picking up on job knowledge and communication, really the best you can hope for is that the person messes up.  Pity the poor applicant who hasn't memorized the organization's webpage and job bulletin, smiles continuously, and knows which magic words to utter.  Instead, what if they:

- Show up to the interview late
- Wear something weird/inappropriate
- Complain inordinately about previous coworkers/bosses
- Ask you bizarre questions

I don't have any data to back this up, but I'd guess nine times out of ten when it comes down to the final group of applicants the "there was just something about them" factor trumps.  But can it be quantified?  Defended?

So what can be done?  There are two big leverage points that organizations need to focus on to avoid the automatic recycling of interviews:

1) HR consultants need to be assertive and available.  They should be contacting supervisors when they know about a vacancy, when the advertisement goes out--WHENEVER--just make contact.  Find out how you can help.  As a hiring supervisor myself, I can tell you it makes a HUGE difference when a consultant asks me if there's anything I can do (to which I respond, "God, yes!").

2) Supervisors--and HR--need to be held accountable for their hires and their reputation as a destination employer.  Supervisors, if you have the resources available and you simply fail to take advantage of them, if you never look into why you're having recruiting problems but just keep using the same methods, shame on you.  HR, if you know you should be providing this service and you aren't, or if you know you should be better at it but aren't, shame on you.

So it's a big problem, but it's one that with sufficient attention can be tackled.  If it seems like I'm being overly negative about interviews and their real-world application, all I can say is...you should see how I feel about resume reviews.