Written by Joseph D. Abraham, PhD, Vice President, Assessment Solutions
In the beginning of 2023, a US jobs report showed a surprising 517,000 jobs added. At the same time, the US unemployment rate sat at 3.4%. These numbers signify that while some economic progress has been made, there continues to be scarcity in the labor pool as employers struggle to fill jobs.
Tight labor market issues linger
We continue to hear from many employers about this struggle. There is great concern over barriers to fulfilling job requisitions, as well as an understandable focus on avoiding processes that might deter potential job seekers from pursuing opportunities. Without a doubt, the pendulum has swung to a position of “let’s give the candidate a chance” rather than “let’s only hire if we are 100% sure about our decision.” And that pendulum seems to have been frozen for a long time in that spot.
Businesses are being rational of course in leaning toward giving candidates a chance in a tight labor market. There is a risk, however, of looking at human capital as a commodity rather than unique, specialized resources that define the character of an organization. But as Ben Schneider’s influential 1987 book conveyed succinctly by its title, ‘The People Make the Place.’ It remains true today that organizations discard standards and ignore valid information about job fit at their own peril. People have different talents and traits – they are not interchangeable widgets to be slotted into the company at will.
Structured vs. unstructured interviews
So, what is an organization to do in this situation? First and foremost, nearly every business will interview job candidates before hiring. With that in mind, organizations must transition to using structured interviews instead of informal interviews in the selection process. A recent 2022 analysis by Dr. Paul Sackett and colleagues illustrates that structured interviews provide 4.9 times as much information about job performance than their unstructured counterparts (based on job performance variance explained). Measuring candidates using a common, job-related, and structured measuring stick is a must. It represents a wasted opportunity if not leveraged.
Along the same lines, Dr. Sackett’s research also reiterates the usefulness of a wide variety of selection assessments in predicting job performance including:
- Job knowledge tests
- Personality inventories
- Work samples
- Cognitive ability tests
Use effective hiring practices
We have noticed a trend among some employers to shy away from utilizing the information these types of tools provide in favor of rolling the dice with a hire – with the false assumption that removing such ‘barriers’ will lead to better outcomes. Unfortunately, the inevitable consequence of these decisions in many cases is increased failures among new hires.
Even if your organization must take more chances when making employment decisions, it is important to understand your candidates’ unique qualities to make fully informed decisions. Remember, your people are what define your culture and differentiate you from your competitors.