Why is Hiring the Right Employee so Difficult?

Why Is Hiring the Right Employee So Difficult?

A guest post from our friends over at Backgroundchecks.com

Finding the right hire is a tough task for any organization. Here are a few of the reasons why great hires feel out-of-reach for many modern businesses.

“Shouldn’t this be easier?”

That question is one that countless hiring managers have surely asked over the years—if not to colleagues, bosses, recruiters, or friends, then at least to themselves. By all accounts, hiring is an extremely difficult process. It takes an average of almost 23 days to hire a new employee according to employment site Glassdoor. Some jobs take even longer to fill. The worst part is that filling the position isn’t any guarantee of success: according to Leadership IQ, nearly half (46%) of all new hires fall through within 18 months.

That statistic shows that all employers struggle with finding good hires—not just you. Even some of the biggest companies in the world have yet to crack the code for a great hire. Speaking to LinkedIn influencer Adam Bryant in 2013, Google’s then-Senior Vice President of People Operations Laszlo Bock recounted a study that Google conducted to try to find the company’s best hires. “It’s a complete random mess,” Bock said.

Despite Google’s commitment to the study—they looked back at “tens of thousands of interviews,” trying to find connections between interviewers and employees who went on perform well at their jobs—it yielded nothing but a giant question mark. No one in the organization had a better track record of hiring than anyone else—“except for one guy,” Bock explained, who hired employees in a specialized area “where he happened to be the world’s leading expert.”

There are some small, specific challenges that may be standing between your team and the perfect hire. Here are a few of them.

  • It’s a buyer’s market: During the recession, employers got used to having hundreds of applicants for every job opening. This dearth of supply compared to demand posed its own challenges—how could hiring managers efficiently sort through applications and resumes and find qualified people to interview? Now, the job market has swung back in favor of the job seeker. Since fall 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics has put the job-seekers ratio between 1.2 and 1.5. (For reference, the ratio was 6.9 at the peak of the recession in July 2009.) With so many job openings, attracting qualified candidates is a feat. Finding the perfect hire requires both careful screening and a little bit of good luck.
  • Job applicants aren’t always truthful: When it comes to finding the right employee, hiring managers put an awful lot of stock into the information they get from their candidates. In job applications, cover letters, resumes, and interviews, applicants have plenty of opportunities to present themselves as they want to be seen by potential employers. The problem is that who candidates are and who they present themselves to be aren’t always the same. A 2015 survey conducted by CareerBuilder found that 56% of hiring managers have caught applicants lying on their resumes. These resume lies ran the gamut from candidates embellishing their knowledge and skills to other applicants who fabricate employment or education experience entirely. Luckily, employers can use criminal background checks to protect themselves here by verifying work history, education, and professional licenses or certifications. Consider using skills tests or sample work assignments as part of your candidate screening process to get a sense of what applicants can do and how well they can do it.
  • Many candidates lack key skills: A study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management found that employers may be struggling to find good hires because so many job searchers lack certain basic skills. The biggest problem areas were “writing in English” and “basic computer skills,” though HR professionals also identified “speaking in English,” “reading comprehension,” and “mathematics” as key skills that some of their applicants were missing. Basic skills weren’t the only deficits identified in the SHRM survey. Applied skills were a problem as well: 45% of HR professionals said they had trouble finding candidates with critical thinking and problem-solving skills, while 43% struggled to attract applicants who exhibited professionalism and work ethic. In other words, one of the reasons that finding the perfect hire is so difficult is because such a significant percentage of applicants lack the fundamental skills necessary to be professionally valuable.
  • Skills, experience, and education aren’t everything: Hiring managers often judge candidates based on metrics of experience, success, or knowledge. Degrees from respected colleges, high GPAs, impressive work experience, strong technical skills: these are the kinds of bullet points that attract employer attention. The problem is that an applicant can have all these ingredients and still fall short as a hire. There’s an X-factor to a good employee that is tough to screen for in an interview. Someone with this X-factor might not even look like the best hire on paper. They may have fewer than five years of professional experience. They may be missing a key skill or two listed in the job description. They may have a college GPA that is only so-so. The things that make a great employee—character, demeanour, cultural fit, passion and engagement, willingness to learn—aren’t always traceable on a resume.

Collectively, these roadblocks create a major challenge for employers. If job seekers have all the power if applicants are lying to you if 30 to 50% of your candidates lack fundamental skills, and if you can’t always screen for the qualities that make for the best employees, how can you possibly hope to hire the right person? The answer might be to de-emphasize the resume. Always verify key factors like employment, education, and skills. Then, try focusing more on the person—how they act, how they answer open-ended behavioural questions, what questions they ask you in return—and you will have a better chance of learning who your candidates are.

Michael Klazema has been developing products for a criminal background check and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.