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Fire them before you hire them

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in Firing,FMLA Guidelines,Hiring,Human Resources

Karl Alrichs believes hiring managers spend too much time interviewing candidates—and asking them the wrong questions to boot. Then they’re surprised to find themselves having to fire those same candidates a few months later, after discovering that good interview skills don’t necessarily signal a great fit on the job.

“We hire for hard skills, but we fire for soft skills,” the consultant for Hiring Smart, an Indiana firm specializing in employee selection, told participants at the 2007 SHRM Annual Conference. “Our new slogan should be ‘Fire them before we hire them.’”

Culling through stacks of resumes and conducting two or three rounds of interviews isn’t particularly effective, Alrichs contended. It’s too time consuming, too subjective and too often results in bad hires.

Instead, he advocates a streamlined system that frontloads the hiring process by placing more responsibility on job seekers. It relies heavily on automating the job application process using web-based applications and tests to capture much of the information traditionally covered in face-to-face interviews. In fact, Alrichs said a four-step process can provide richer information than four traditional interviews.

Here are Alrichs’ four steps to making smarter hiring decisions:

1. Exhaustive application: Have candidates fill out a meticulously detailed initial job application. Alrichs advocates a four-page online application that covers all the usual application questions—and then some. In addition to job experience, it asks applicants to explain why they left jobs and provide their supervisors’ names and phone numbers (along with permission to contact them).

It also asks a series of open-ended questions designed to reveal applicants’ perspectives on supervision, teamwork, customer service—whatever is most important to the employer. It can ask something like “What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you at work?” to get a feel for how candidates approach work.

“This is a filter that weeds out about 40% of applicants,” Alrichs said, “the tire-kickers who can’t be bothered with so much work.” The application effectively functions as a good first interview for most positions, he said. “You may not even need to see a resume.” Click here to see an example of this kind of application.

2. Five-minute phone screen: Call the best prospects from your now much smaller pile of applications. Use their applications as the basis to gain a basic feel for fit. Not all will make the cut following this “second interview.”

3. Online assessment: Here’s your “third interview.” Have applicants still in the running complete an online survey that measures values, attitudes, sense of responsibility and other intangibles that separate good employees from bad. Several such instruments are available online. Do a Google search for “online employment assessments.”

4. Face-to-face interviews: Only now are you ready to meet the best candidates. Hiring managers who have gone through the process come armed with all the information gleaned from the first three steps. “By now, applicants are really committed,” Alrichs said. “They’ve put a lot of work into the process—and they’ve already had four opportunities to opt out.”

Alrichs said companies using this process have seen 50% reductions in both new-hire resignations and firings. New-hire absenteeism has fallen as much as 75%.

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