This week, musician, producer and TV host Will.I.Am “shocked” the domestic TV world by saying that the best singer will not win the TV show “The Voice”. He went on to explain that the selection method combined with the criteria didn’t ensure that the best contestant won the prize. Interestingly, I had a similar conversation today with somebody who I had just told they had missed out on a role; he protested that the recruitment process was not fair and did not give rise to the most appropriate candidate being selected. So, what is the best method of selecting staff?
Well, the long and the short of this is that there is no singular ‘best” method. There are many components of selection that can suit different roles and businesses and it is often a combination of a few techniques that lead to the most valid and accurate selection decision. Let’s highlight just a few.
Firstly, we have the tried and tested interview. The interview is still be far and away the most commonly used selection technique and its supposed validity and effectiveness has been debated and examined for years (please feel free to see the many papers from Hunter and Schmidt where they dissect its effectiveness over a couple of decades of study). There are many types of interviews that we all use from time to time. These include:
- Telephone interview – this is often used to screen applicants but can be used as a selection technique. It certainly lacks real validity as you cannot assess non-verbal triggers and it can be extremely difficult to get somebody to relax and be honest.
- Informal meeting – catching up for a coffee is the new black when it comes to selection techniques. From my perspective, this is an exceptionally poor and ineffective and the environment can be distracting. I would only suggest this method for the final meeting and certainly not for the meaningful selection strategy.
- Structured interview – probably the best form of getting to know a resume and fully assess a candidate however it is not an environment that allows an interviewer to tailor a pitch to a candidate. Can be cold and overly formal.
A second and increasingly used selection technique is assessment centres. An assessment centre allows you to compare and contrast applicants with experiential tests against other applicants. Once again, it allows you to fully evaluate candidates against each other as well as seeing how people work in a team environment and how creative you can be. In theory, they are very good but they can be very confronting. Any hope of confidentiality is gone and this is a deterrent to applicants. Also, you don’t really have an opportunity to tailor a pitch to a candidate – it is all one way.
A third approach is selection criteria. In theory, selection criteria really flush out one’s experience and demonstrated achievements. In fact, they are very easy to manipulate and very hard to validate. I actually know an ex client who has set up a successful business in writing selection criteria for applicants with a guarantee of getting them through to the next stage. It just is no longer valid.
Work simulations are certainly becoming more prevalent in selection. I am now commonly asked to design a process that includes a form of work simulation in it. Whether it is a presentation of sorts, data to analyse and report back on or a group task, this form of selection is on the rise. The major drawbacks that I have encountered include who owns the intellectual property discussed at interview and the time it can and should take to prepare. All in all, this should become a more important component in selection as time goes on.
Finally, we have the good old psychological tests. For some unknown reason, these tests can strike fear into the heart of many. I have never used them as a pure selection tool – there are far too many variables that can impact the performance at any one time – however they are a wonderful tool when coupled with interviews to reinforce thoughts and get a deeper insight into prospective employees. Just ensure that you are using a reputable test is the best advice I could give.
So, there you have it; nearly every form of selection has their own strengths and weaknesses. In saying that, when techniques are combined, you have a better chance of getting the best selection of candidates, however when done just for “show” (like Will.I.Am and The Voice) it can be a lottery. Good luck with your selection going forward.
Brad McMahon – Managing Director