FACTOR “66”™ have
YOU in its grip?
When my son Josh graduated from the University of Kansas,
he was contacted by a large, profitable telecommunications
company for a job interview. Josh, like most
enterprising young men, was most anxious to make his way in the world and was
looking forward to this interview with great anticipation—and more than
a little trepidation.
The interview lasted two hours. When I asked him how it went, his reply, “Good,” and
his further comments about how “…nice the guys were…” sent
my mind reeling. “But,” I asked, “What are the responsibilities
of the job? What will you do? How will your performance be measured?” He
had not a clue.
I, on the other hand, have a clue. It’s my business to understand and
to help my clients understand—people—to
look at the whole person and through an educated, systematic approach find
the best person to fit a particular job. We at THE KENNA Company call it “job
fit” and in our opinion it is the most essential element in a company’s
hiring process. So now I’m sure you can better understand my befuddlement
upon hearing my son’s assessment of his first interview. 1): He did not
understand the job. And 2): What was this huge, profitable, supposedly state-of-the-art
company thinking? What criterion did they use when they hired their employees—if
The next day, one of the interviewers called and made Josh a very lucrative
offer which he accepted—and for three months—he sat there doing
nothing. Now besides Josh’s total unhappiness and job dissatisfaction,
think of the company’s losses in terms of time, productivity and revenue.
In the end, Josh quit and started his own company, Front
and is now a very happy, successful entrepreneur.
MORAL OF THIS STORY: Clarifying
the job’s requirements is the right thing to do for the company to
understand if the candidate is right for the job—and for the candidate
to understand if the job is right for him/her.
In our business, it’s estimated (first by Peter
Drucker) that 66% of a company’s
hiring decisions will prove to be mistakes within the first year. This
thought-provoking, disturbing dilemma was my impetus,
my reason for naming this pervasive phenomena
Factor “66”™. Think about it. If we make the wrong
hiring decisions two-thirds of the time then for every three employees
we make two mistakes or at least could have done a lot better".
on Your Bus?
Jim Collins, in his very instructive and inspirational book, Good To Great:
Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, says that
great companies “…(get) the right people on the bus, the wrong
people off the bus and the right people in the right seats.
Now let’s relate this to job descriptionS. A job description that accurately
and comprehensively describes the job is a guide, a standard that’s
going to assist you in finding the right person for just the right seat
on your bus.
Maybe you want a person to sit in a window seat to count STOP signs in
a four block stretch from Point A to Point B. But what if the person
is allergic to
sunlight or is legally blind? You get the picture…
The more detailed the job description and that includes its Key
the reason the job exists; the goals of the job; the job’s accountability
for achievement, the more effective your company will be when asking
key questions during interviews. But even those who consider themselves “EXPERT
overlook personality traits that may be detrimental to the job itself—hidden
traits which the interview won’t reveal. That’s why pre-employment
assessments are so important to nail the selection process and make it
The Proof Is in the Pudding…
Here’s an exercise that I think you will find most enlightening. Before
retrieve three to five job descriptions for current positions within your company
including your own. If there’s an “open” position, grab it
Take a look at the “job doc” for a position you are getting
ready to fill or have recently filled. Now answer the following questions—based
solely on the job description, not what you know about the job or the person
in the job:
* Why does this job exist?
* What are specific goals of this job?
* How will the employee’s performance and success be measured? How will
you measure their success in achieving their goals?
* How will this job interact with and impact other divisions of the company?
How will this job interact with and impact your customers?
* How might this job change based on the company’s vision and mission?
Your Report Card?
First let me say, “Kudos to all who had strong, accurate, concrete
job descriptions! You’ve done a great job! Let’s give you an ‘A’” Unfortunately,
I would my experience shows that most of your job descriptions, in terms of
answering the questions above accurately, concisely and factually, came up
What do you think your grade should be, a “C” or even lower? Don’t
despair. Let me say that most job descriptions are poorly written, out-of-date
and don’t describe the job accurately or comprehensively (although they
may list tasks and requirements fairly well).
If there is lack of clarity about
a job, how can anyone
select the candidate who will really fit the job?
True story: To prove this point
to his staff one CEO who is a client took five job descriptions into a
staff meeting. He removed job
overtly obvious clues and then
passed out all five
descriptions to each staff member asking them to identify the positions.
Of the five, three were identified incorrectly, including
Let me give you more examples from my own, personal experience:
One executive told me that the company “…didn’t put much
content in the job description because it’s a legal document. The
less documented the better.”
Give me a break!
Some clients said they “…didn’t have time to spend working
on job descriptions.” But when I asked if it’s important
that they hire the right person for the job, they answered, “Very important!”
clients have told me their job descriptions are “OK.”
What does that mean?
it’s like this. If you drive from New York City to Los Angeles,
you need a map. Without one, you may end up in Nova Scotia or Tijuana
or worse. The
map in this instance is your job description. It keeps you on the right
roads, gives you support and information, and allows you to make a successful
On the flip side, we’re also well aware that all maps are not created
equal. Some are much more accurate and detailed than others—and
exactly the same with a job description. The better you write it, the
better your chances of hiring an employee who will fulfill the job’s
performance expectations AND be happy in their job.
What’s Your Focus?
It is critical, therefore, to focus on the job that you will define accurately
and comprehensively in the job description (or some collateral document).
The questions you will subsequently develop for “the interview” (using
this concise, comprehensive document as your guide) must be behaviorally
based to elicit a reaction: How will the candidate respond/react in this
particular job? Does their reaction work for the job? Does it work for their
potential manager? Does it work for the company and its culture?
Job Fit IS the Key
I’ve spoken of job fit and defined it. Now let’s put it into practice.
From hereon when you think about a candidate, I want you to think JOB
not just for your current needs but for your future needs. Will Candidate A
be a great fit for this job—now as well as two years from now?
Or is Candidate B the best fit?
Hard Skills: Easy
to Assess and Judge—BUT
IS THAT ALL THERE IS?
The next questions you must ask when thinking job fit
relate to a candidate’s
hard skills. Do they have the education, technical acumen and job proficiency
that the job requires? Hard skills are the kind we can really put our hands
on and prove and for that reason, they make us feel comfortable. We also tend
to rely on them too much when making hiring decisions.
Hard skills relate to job proficiency, true, but let’s delve a little
deeper and ask if a candidate’s proficiency can be developed and learned—and
by when and how? Let’s say a woman qualifies for a brand manager’s
position except she has no marketing education or experience. If you hired
her as an assistant product manager who is supported, managed and coached by
an experienced brand manager, you have taken the first step to educate this
woman and give her the experience she needs to perhaps become an effective,
future brand manager (with further evaluation). Her education might also include
mentoring by a successful brand manager who sees this woman’s potential
and takes her under his/her wing.
Now let’s go a step further. During her tenure as assistant product manager,
you encourage her in terms of self-development which may include her enrollment
in local marketing courses at your nearby community college or university,
or in an executive program like Northwestern University’s Kellogg School
of Business (that offers, for example, a one-week program entitled, Business
Marketing Strategy). In conclusion, it’s up to you and this woman to
build your future—together.
Who Brings Home the Most Bacon?
I want to ask you a question, “Who in your company or organization is
responsible for creating your greatest productivity and revenue?” I would
venture to guess that it’s the top third of your employees—which
brings us back to Factor 66™. If the top third are doing the job, what
are the rest doing?
If your productivity is being carried by a third of your employees, I will
say, based on my experience and knowledge, that you are overlooking “people
skills”—the most crucial ingredient when it comes to job fit.
Next ask yourself, “When it comes to achieving job fit, who (initially)
is the key player?” I think you know the answer—and it may be YOU—if
you’re the one who makes the hiring decisions. Or, you may be BIG enough
to have an HR department who does it for you. But no matter, when it comes
to assessing those critical people skills, the person who interviews candidates
for employment is at the top of the chain.
Let’s next take a look at job fit in relation to people skills and see
how important the interviewer and his/her questions are to your company’s
success—and to the success of your employees. Many people are skilled
interviewers, but how well do they do when stacked up against the “professional
interviewer”—the one who will do anything to get a job, and has
interviewing down to a science?
People Skills (Soft
Behind the Looking Glass?
When it comes to job fit, people skills (also called
soft skills), or your future employees level of competence;
attributes; and their behaviors (including
motivating factors)—are equally, or even more important than are their
hard skills. When we look in a mirror we see an image, but it’s what’s
behind the image that counts. It was your mother who taught you that beauty
was only skin deep.
Well, it’s the same in business and maybe even more so because a poor
evaluation of a person’s soft skills—those that we can’t
easily put our hands on—the ones that lie deep within the looking glass—are
the ones that cause the most problems for employers and ultimately, employees.
Let’s get back to our previous example. If the brand manager’s
job description requires self management; teamwork; flexibility; resiliency;
the ability to influence others; a results and information oriented individual;
a desire to analyze data; and a versatile job environment… then it’s
up to the interviewer to ask the right questions that relate specifically to
the job to ensure that they have targeted the appropriate candidate. Their
questions will determine if the candidate meets the job description’s
Let’s say you’re the interviewer who’s trying to assess a
candidate’s ability to self-manage. In this case, you will ask behavioral
questions including, “Have you ever faced a day in which you couldn’t
finish the work you needed to complete? And “How did you handle it?” (You
will then note the answers: They started the next day with a plan… or,
They went home, took Prozac and went to bed… ”)
The interviewer, in the truest sense of the word, is a private investigator—one
who delves deep into a person’s psyche and work habits. How does this
candidate manage themselves?…their work?…their interactions with
those who would be inconvenienced by poor job performance? How do they plan
and when do they start to plan? Are they procrastinators or skilled schedulers?
Let’s again think of that job description. Once you do, you’ll
realize that people who exhibit strong people skills—those who are self-managed,
who are geared to obtain results, and who are flexible and resilient, etc.—are
the ones who define the qualities that are the keys to the job’s success.
People Skills: A Catch 22
People skills are very difficult to judge in an interview. Candidates are well
in “how to answer” every question imaginable (a.k.a. the professional
interviewer). The smart ones also know it’s just a matter of getting
you to like them—and if they do—they also know there’s a
95% chance that they’ll get the job if they meet basic requirements.
And then there are those who will take any job just to get a job. All of these
factors make testing with specialized assessments critical to effective, objective
decision making. Behavioral assessments - not even the ones I use - alone don’t
address the problem or provide enough comprehensive information.
Most companies, aware of these inconsistencies, will try to level the playing
field and attain a level of objectivity
1) by creating a benchmark (or standard
or yardstick to measure the job) to determine which personal skills are most
critical to being productive and result in the most job satisfaction and
by providing assessments (or evaluations) that finalist candidates (both
external and internal) complete—which are compared
to the benchmark—to determine
a candidate’s job compatibility, i.e. JOB FIT.
If a candidate is assessed and scores low on critical competencies, a huge,
red flag should go up, bells should ring, sirens should sound… even
if you, the interviewer, like the candidate and even if they’ve done
the same job elsewhere with apparent success.
A Final Thought
A well thought out and well-written job description is vital if you’re
going to come to grips with Factor “66”™ and ultimately beat
it. But it also takes a thorough understanding of job fit and its multiple
components. These factors are the ones that are critical to the hiring process
and to developing “success profiles” for your company.
Let me end on a light and positive note. Many of my clients, the ones from
my own, personal experience, the ones who gave those answers that give one
p a u s e, are now on the right track thanks to my advice and my company’s
intervention. They have implemented a disciplined employee selection process
resulting in decreased turnover and increased productivity. Who could ask for
The KENNA Company specializes in employee
selection and other ‘people-centric areas of
business such as communication skills training, executive
and team building. Reach Joe McKenna at 816-943-0868, email@example.com or
visit www.1039136.sites.myregisteredsite.com for
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