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Does 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 any?

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 Door Fitness™, 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.

FACTOR “66”™
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 hire, we make two mistakes or at least could have done a lot better".

Who’s Riding 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 Accountabilities: 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 interviewers” can 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 successful.

Job Descriptions: The Proof Is in the Pudding…
Here’s an exercise that I think you will find most enlightening. Before beginning,
retrieve three to five job descriptions for current positions within your company including your own. If there’s an “open” position, grab it too.

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?

How’s 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 woefully short. 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 effectively
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 titles and other 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 his own.

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!
• Other clients have told me their job descriptions are “OK.”
What does that mean?

Well, 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 trip. 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 it’s 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 FIT, 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 Skills): What’s 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 requirements.

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 versed
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
2) 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 more?

The KENNA Company specializes in employee selection and other ‘people-centric areas of business such as communication skills training, executive coaching and team building. Reach Joe McKenna at 816-943-0868, joe@1039136.sites.myregisteredsite.com or visit www.1039136.sites.myregisteredsite.com for more information.

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This site is the Copyright Property of The KENNA Company Our newsletter - Promoting Excellence - provides our clients and other subscribers with articles and 'how to' suggestions in areas such as motivating employees, hiring the best candidate, self-management, sales tips, manager essentials, leadership and more. A company's privacy policy is critical if you plan to provide them with any of your personal information.  Please read ours.  In essesnce, we won't share it with anyone. Please let us know how we can better meet your needs - on this site, in our newsletter or at your business. Joe McKenna is Founder of The KENNA Company.  Read about his background.  If you choose to sign up with us for Executive Coaching, Joe will be your coach. The KENNA Company - helping leaders select and engage high impact employees. Proud partner of Target Training International and Innermetrix.