HR MATTERS JACK BUCALOCredibilityin a company’s hiring and promotion-from-within policies for professional and managerial job openings is largely determined by how well the line and HR interviewers conduct their interviews and the eventual selection decision. If the interviews are general in nature or concentrate almost exclusively on interpersonal skills or behavioral traits, the outcome is obvious: poor performance, high turnover, and applicants and employees feeling like they have been unfairly evaluated; victims of a personality contest that easily can be dramatized on social media.

In spite of the importance of such interviews, most line and HR interviewers have had little or no meaningful training in conducting them and, more importantly, usually give little serious thought about what information they are seeking in the interview or how they will obtain it. Meanwhile, the almost exclusive emphasis on interpersonal skills or behavioral traits is both inappropriate and unfair because, with the exception of a few jobs in sales and public relations, most jobs require only a normal level of such skills and traits. Moreover, evaluating interpersonal or behavioral levels exhibited in an interview is based on a very small sample of the interviewee’s behavior while the interviewer is typically unqualified to properly interpret the interviewee’s responses.

To be successful, a company should utilize a balanced interviewing and weighted selection approach that covers an evaluation of the interviewee’s ability to meet all the job qualifications within the qualification areas of education, job knowledge, interpersonal skills and management skills, if appropriate.

Please reference the attached as a useful reference: BALANCED INTERVIEWING

Each qualification within each qualification area should be designated as either a must or preferred requirement to facilitate the eventual selection. This practical approach places primary emphasis on the interviewee’s ability perform the key job and managerial duties. However, the HR interviewer must go beyond the job description to understand the key job duties in greater depth, including the typical projects and technical problems associated with the job, and how it relates to the overall department objectives. Using such detailed job knowledge will provide a sound basis for developing the interview questions and evaluating the interviewee’s responses that will help lead to the eventual selection decision.

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Education. There is sometimes a natural tendency to overstate the educational qualifications of professional and managerial jobs. Generally, once the position requires over five years of experience, the educational requirement is of lesser importance than actual job knowledge. If there is any question, a thorough review of all the past job holders over the past two or three years will aid in determining whether the qualification is a bona-fide must requirement or just preferred. For example, if one-third of the past job holders did not have a college degree, any such qualification should be considered preferred and not required, unless there is a major change in the specific job duties that necessitate it. Also, a specific major in a college degree, such as a BS degree in Electrical Engineering, should not be included unless it is directly required for the job and is possessed by the majority of the past job holders.

Job Knowledge. Here, we should be stating what specific job knowledge is needed to actually perform the key job duties, rather than the number of years of experience. In turn, this knowledge should be the basis upon which both the line and HR interviewers develop the job-related interview questions, along with an acceptable range of responses for each one. The HR interviewer can ask the more fundamental questions in his/her screening interview and leave the more complex questions to the line interviewer. Exhibit A outlines the questions associated with an opening for a Manager, Production Planning & Scheduling position.

Interpersonal Skills. These skills should only be the ones that directly apply to the position. They might typically include some of these – decisiveness, innovative thinking, teamwork, aggressiveness, initiative, self-starting ability, drive, maturity, teamwork, among others. Any other applicable skills from the company culture should also be included, if applicable. However, whichever skills apply to the position, they should be evaluated primarily by reviewing the individual’s past performance results and what skills were utilized to achieve those results in the interview. Any other skills observed in the interview should be considered secondary.

Management Skills. Typically, any management qualification is stated in terms of the number of years of management experience, rather than concentrating on the particular management skills needed for the position. Management usually consists of the functions of planning, controlling, organizing, leading, motivating, delegating and communicating. At the lower levels of management, motivating and delegating tend to play a larger role whereas planning, controlling and organizing are generally emphasized at the middle and upper levels, while leading and communicating are usually needed at all levels. Exhibit B outlines the questions associated with the management skills required for the previously mentioned managerial position.

Question/Response Relationship. Here’s how the job-related interview questions for each qualification can be used. The HR interviewer can ask the more fundamental questions while the line interviewer can ask the more technically-complex ones. A range of possible responses for each question should be developed; moving from highly acceptable to acceptable to unacceptable. Along with the evaluation of the interviewee’s past performance results as they relate to each qualification, the interviewee’s responses will provide a factual basis for the eventual overall evaluation of her or his ability to do the entire job. Though this process may appear time-consuming, once it is completed for each key position in the company; it can be used over and over again which will save time in the future. Most importantly, it will lead to much fairer hiring and promotional decisions that management and employees can support wholeheartedly.

Weighted Selection Matrix. For each hiring or promotional decision, there are typically several applicants. Exhibit C illustrates the use of the matrix for the previously mentioned managerial position based on all of the position’s qualifications. Here the decision would be to select either Applicant A or Applicant B, depending upon whether Job Knowledge or Management Skills take on greater importance in the near and long term.[/message]

In conclusion, this balanced interviewing and the weighted selection approach is a more analytical, job-related method of making a selection decision that provides a more objective and fairer basis for promotional or hiring decisions which can much better withstand any management or employee scrutiny.


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Jack Bucalo
JACK has led the Global HR function for a Fortune 500 and 1000 international company and several other large international companies. With four years of line experience complementing his HR experience, he believes that the CHRO or HR Leader should play a more direct role in helping the CEO to achieve the company's business objectives and strategic goals, while effectively implementing its administrative duties. In doing so successfully, the CHRO or HR Leader can become an equal business partner with his/her line management peers while becoming more directly involved in the company's operational mainstream, rather than being just an administrative afterthought. As a pragmatic practitioner, Jack publishes detailed and actionable articles on a wide variety on critically-important HR issues on BIZCATALYST 360°. He is also on the advisory board for other web sites. Jack's over 20 years of executive-level HR experience for which he was responsible for company, executive and Board-related matters, form the basis for most of viewpoints.
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