The following story was told by David Schwartz, president of organizational consulting firm Executive Confidential.
Client: A New York–based porcelain and ceramic tile importer.
Problem: The owner of the small, 60-employee company was a dynamic, intense, and bright CEO with a self-diagnosed organizational effectiveness weakness: He was doing a "lousy job" at hiring and was quite unhappy with the caliber of much of his senior staff.
Diagnosis: The CEO allowed instinct and emotion to lead his hiring practices. For example, when he advertised a position, he gave his direct phone number and asked job seekers to call and leave a voicemail. These messages acted as his first candidate screening: He chose callers based on the sound of their voices (tone, inflection, and so forth). He assigned an assistant to contact the "voices" he deemed acceptable for a phone interview. The assistant—who had no interview training or experience—whittled down the list of prospects to two or three, whom the CEO then interviewed over the phone. While the CEO had somewhat of a hiring process in place, it was largely illogical and poorly planned.
Methods: Schwartz applied discipline to the hiring practices and provided training. First, he created job descriptions to identify the behaviors and skills of people who would best fit the positions. He introduced behavioral interviewing using the Predictive Index System (PI), an assessment that helps employers identify people's motivations using the concept of stimulus-response in psychometrics—that is, triggering one's primitive, natural brain response to illuminate his true behaviors. In this situation, Schwartz taught the CEO to use PI to align leadership qualities with job prospects.
For example, while three candidates for a management position may look comparable on paper, they could be dramatically different on a behavioral level. One may be a strong, dominant, and assertive leader; another a collaborative team player; and the third a focused, stable cooperator. Depending on what type of leader the organization needs, choosing one of the three is integral to the new hire's success and business health.
During the course of a year, Schwartz implemented a behavioral interviewing process to guide the company's hiring and then trained the CEO to carry out the process himself. Over time, as the CEO learned which behaviors were most appropriate for which positions, he included those behaviors in the job descriptions.
Using PI as a base process for interviewing, Schwartz worked with the CEO to create a logical hiring process. He created job descriptions, collected résumés, and chose top candidates to assess using the PI survey. From the pool of best résumés, those job seekers whose behaviors most closely matched the job's success pattern were deemed a good fit. The CEO then interviewed these top contenders either by telephone or face-to-face. Schwartz trained the CEO in effective interviewing techniques, including the use of 24 standardized interview questions.
Results: The CEO's emotionally led, haphazard hiring practices were replaced by a robust and standardized process based on a scientifically proven and intelligent behavioral assessment. As a result, senior leader retention improved dramatically. Prior to the hiring overhaul, one out of two new hires left the company within three months, compared to one in 10 today.