If You’re Not Measuring Quality of Hire, You’re Not Hiring the Best People

July 1, 2014

The big idea behind developing a quality of hire metric is to compare the candidate’s actual past performance to some predefined level of great performance.

Few would argue that measuring Quality of Hire (QoH) is of critical importance for determining if a company’s hiring programs are effective. Unfortunately, most HR and recruiting leaders believe that this can only be done after the person is hired. I’d like to use this post to suggest that measuring pre- and post- hire candidate quality is not difficult. All it takes is a big dose of out-of-the-box rethinking.

Here’s a realistic approach I suggest:

Step 1: Make hiring managers responsible for the quality of the people they hire.

Since most managers are not rewarded on how well they hire and build their teams, they are more interested in getting the work done. This means hiring more experienced people, rather than high-potential people. If hiring stronger people is a strategic objective, those that do the hiring need to be held accountable.

Step 2: Define what the person needs to accomplish to earn a high ranking, rather than using personal attributes or depth of skills and experiences as the measure of quality.

Strong academic credentials, years of identical experiences, a deep set of matching skills and and the possession of generic competencies do not determine, nor predict, quality of hire. To start developing a QoH metric, have the hiring manager define what the person actually needs to do in the job to be successful. For a marketing manager a performance-based task like this could be, “Lead the launch of the iPhone6 apps line to meet a very tight four month schedule.”

Step 3: Identify critical tipping points in the job that drive success.

Every job has one or two aspects that differentiate between great and good performance. For an engineering position if might be, “Design systems that meet tight cost targets while without compromising performance.” For an accounting position it might be, “Develop a user-friendly reporting system that provides management real time insight into better managing operations.”

Step 4: Benchmark the best people already in the role.

As I prepared a job profile for a business development  position in the medical device industry, I asked the VP what the best do differently than average performers. He originally thought it was product knowledge and technical brilliance. It turned out to be arranging more two-hour presentations with the decision-makers than any other factor.

Step 5: Put all of the performance-based objectives in priority order.

It’s impossible to put a generic list of skills, experience, academics and competencies into some list based on importance. It’s relatively easy when the work is defined as tasks and deliverables. This prioritized list, referred to as a performance-based job description then becomes the standard used to compare each candidate against.

Step 6: Conduct a pre-hire performance review instead of a typical interview.

I wrote a book on how to do this, but the short version is to ask candidates to give you detailed examples of the best work they’ve done for each of the performance objectives listed in the performance-based job description. Here’s a post on how to ask the question and how to ensure you’re getting the right answer.

Step 7: Use a Talent Scorecard to determine pre-hire Quality of Hire.

This scorecard converts the candidate’s answers in Step 6 into a pre-hire Quality of Hire metric. The big idea behind developing a quality of hire metric is to compare the candidate’s actual past performance to some predefined level of great performance. This is why preparing a performance-based job description is an essential first step.

Step 8: Compare the new hire’s actual performance to the performance-based job description and to the person’s predicted performance.

Differences in actual to predicted performance will typically be due to changes in job content, not conducting a proper interview, or some circumstances in the job not fully disclosed (like a bad boss). Regardless, understanding these differences allows for the implementation of a continuous improvement program to determine which factors best predict new hire quality and what needs to be done to improve it.

Regardless of the aspirations, the hiring processes most companies use are designed to hire people just like the people that have always been hired. So while developing a Quality of Hire metric like the one described here will allow a company to accurately measure quality of hire and better predict on-the-job performance, it won’t necessarily help hire stronger people. Nonetheless, if a company wants to raise it’s quality of hire, it needs to first know how to measure it.

Job description tricks