Looking for Behaviors When Hiring

Dr. Purushothaman
October 7, 2013

William E. Miller

Identifying the “Behavioral Requirements” of the job is probably the most important assignment for your hiring team because candidate behavior is the best predictor of job success. Our behaviors are a reflection of who we are and the way others would describe us. They have a lot to do with the way we relate to and treat other people. The way we have behaved in the past is the best predictor of how we will behave in the future.
Some behaviors are better suited for some jobs than others. Think of a Sales Representative for example. How would you describe him? Words like excited, extroverted, competitive, and risk taking might come to mind.
Now picture an Accountant â€" how would you describe him? I think of someone who is analytical, introverted, cautious, and concerned with details. These are generalizations of course, but it’s fair to say that if we hired an introverted, cautious analytical candidate for a direct sales position, we would be headed for trouble and have probably set the candidate up for failure. On the contrary, hiring the outgoing, competitive risk taker to handle the end of month closing and the bank account might predictably end in disaster as well.
Without taking behaviors into account in your hiring process, you run an enormous risk of hiring “misfits”… hiring people best suited for analyzing financial trends to sell your services and products; or hiring people who love socializing, competing, and risk taking to guard the finances of your company. Understanding the human behavior and traits required for success should be one of the most important components of your hiring system.
Behaviors are a reflection of personality. Psychologists tell us that personality is a product of genetics and early childhood environment. We are a product of nature and nurture they say. Our personalities are formed and fairly well set by the time we are six years old. Think about that a moment. There’s a valuable lesson here. It means that managers have nothing to do with a candidate’s basic talents and behaviors that the job requires- unless you’re hiring six year olds or your own children. It’s a scary thought.
I give students in my classroom a personal challenge to illustrate. “Suppose I give you $50,000”, which usually gets their attention. “Suppose I ask you to take the money and drive to Tennessee and purchase the finest registered Tennessee Blue Nosed Mule that you can find. Transport that mule to Lexington, Kentucky. I’ll make arrangements for boarding space at the best thoroughbred horse farm in the area. I’ll arrange for the best training with the best trainer in the racing business and provide our mule with the best medical care and healthiest diet. I’ll contract with the best jockey in the racing industry to ride our mule in the Kentucky Derby.”
Then I ask the class, “How do you think our mule will perform? Where will he finish in the big race?”
“Dead last!” someone shouts from the back row.
“Why?” I ask.
With assurance and confidence he answers, “Because he’s a mule, not a racehorse”.
The story not only drives home one of the most valuable lessons in horse racing, but in hiring as well; you can’t make a racehorse out of mule! You can’t pay enough to win; care enough to win; or train enough to win. Why…? A mule isn’t a racehorse. He’s a mule and will always be a mule.
Businesses are hiring mules for race horses everyday. They may be doing it out of desperation to fill some open post. They may be doing it under the false illusion that they’re saving money. They may be doing it because of overconfidence in their ability to train, develop, and coach mules into racehorses. I believe that many of them are doing it because they don’t know any better. They don’t understand and practice some common sense fundamentals of good hiring.
The first lesson in effective hiring and leadership is learning that managers don’t create the raw talent and behaviors that the job requires. They were created long before the candidate filled out a job application. They are the product of genetic birthright and early childhood upbringing. And once raw talent and behaviors are formed, they make up who we are. They’re not subject to change, barring some major life changing event. We are who we were - who we are - and who we will be. The way we behave in the past is the way we will behave in the future. This is such an important principle, I call it “The Golden Rule of Hiring … Past Behavior Predicts Future Behavior”.
When you identify and define the behaviors that the job requires, and hire candidates that possess those behaviors, the odds of a successful hire increases dramatically. You and I are not Psychiatrists. Changing fundamental behavior is beyond the scope of daily management and business leadership. It’s much easier, less painful, and much less expensive to know the behaviors you are looking for â€" and hire them.

William E. Miller
Performance Leadership, LLC
About the Author

Bill Miller enoyed a successful career spanning 35 years with a well known fortune 500 corporation. He played a significant role in growing a small family owned company to the multi-billion dollar corporation it is today.


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