Focus on HR - Selecting Human Assets for Your Lab

By Hedley Larson
How many times have you heard someone say that they make employment selection decisions based on a firm handshake, or good eye contact, or the number of questions the candidate asks, or whether the candidate has done research on the company, or whether the candidate attended the ‘right’ college or university, or ……… Strange, but true, one of the most important business decisions---who is selected to work with a company---has been made based on one or more of the above subjective criteria.

This edition of Focus on HR will provide you with a broad strategy that can be far more objective, and have a much greater chance of predicting whether or not the candidate will be successful in their new job and with your lab.

Determine Who in Your Organization Will Participate in the Selection Process Identify the selection team members that you believe are best suited to participate in the process. There are different views as to what’s the minimum or maximum number of participants. My simple view is to not have a candidate run the proverbial gauntlet of your organization. Having said that, two to three actual interviewers, which includes your HR staff, should be more than sufficient. Any others who participate in the process should do so to inform the candidate about your lab, your culture, the history and background of the business, the market and your market segment or share, and related information.

Define The Job…And the Person That Would Be Most Successful in the Job It’s not uncommon for the actual responsibilities, competencies and educational requirements of a position to change over time. As the nature of the business changes, so does each position in your lab. As well, positions occasionally have the ability to change not due to your business requirements, but the strengths or shortcomings of the person who last occupied the job.

When you’re planning to add a new position, or replace a recently vacated position, your first step should be the development of a Position Profile. I’m not referring to a job description, but rather a more detailed and thorough look at the position and the successful person in the position.

Knowing all of these aspects of the job and what you believe to be the essential competencies for success will help you and others involved in the selection process to focus more objectively on the requirements of the job.

Determine the Specific Selection Process… Both Interviewing and Testing The customary strategy for most small companies is to conduct a personal interview only. And that may be perfectly suitable for your lab if it will provide sufficient, objective and factual information about a candidate’s achievements, accomplishments, behavioral attributes, competencies, and other job related information. If, however, other professionally developed, job related tests would provide you with more relevant and objective data or information about a candidate, such tests should be considered and researched for applicability to specific job competencies.

For example, a test of each final candidate to determine whether they can use specific software to develop sales forecasts, margin contribution, or product penetration given various scenarios would be appropriate for a person managing a marketing and sales organization. Remember, any test you administer must meet the legal standard of validity, job relatedness, and be consistent with business necessity. And lastly, the test must not have “adverse impact;” that is the test and its results do not unfairly advantage or disadvantage a protected group (gender, race, national origin, etc.).

Know What You’re Going to Ask Before You Ask It Preparation is key when interviewing prospective candidates for employment. This means developing questions specific to the requirements, competencies, behavioral attributes and skills necessary for successful job performance. In addition, you should develop a measurement or method to rate the completeness, accuracy and efficacy of each answer provided by the candidate. All too often, interviewers tend to ask questions randomly without a specific objective in mind or without having a direct relationship to the actual job requirements. And memory, as opposed to a written summary of each candidate’s answers, tends to be the mechanism to make a final selection decision.

Assessing Candidates’ Employment Applications and Resumes Using your Position Profile will allow you to more accurately assess the specific background of each candidate and the relationship of background data to your job content and requirements. A simple work sheet illustrating the key criteria and competencies of the position will better enable you to objectively assess each application or resume. As well, it works much more effectively than the less objective “this one looks pretty good” assessment some managers use in determining whether a candidate will be invited for a personal interview.

Assessing Candidate ‘Best Fit’ to your Position Profile In this phase, you are assessing the results of the application assessment and the results of your personal interview and any professionally developed tests in relation to your Position Profile. Remember, the Position Profile is your blueprint for determining the precise relationship of the candidate’s competencies, skills and experience to your position requirements. This is where the ‘best fit’ is achieved.

Before Considering an Offer of Employment, Finish the Process Your last phase in the selection process requires a thorough reference or background check. To assist you with gathering objective, job related information about a final candidate or candidates, consider including language in your Employment Application language that authorizes any former employer to release information that they may not otherwise release.

Before the New Colleague Joins Your Lab, Develop a Comprehensive Orientation Process Often overlooked or given less attention than is required is the initial orientation to your lab. The new colleague’s orientation should occur as early after joining you as is practicable. It should include, in addition to routine payroll withholding and HR policies and information, a historic overview of your business, the organization functions and accountabilities. As well, provide your new colleague with a list of people who work in each part of the organization, general business protocols, such as expense management and reporting, travel policies, your performance management process and expectations, and related information.

It has been said that too much information creates “information overload” for new colleagues. Another view is “information is power,” and the more information you can provide, the more informed and productive your new colleague will be. And the absence of information can create confusion and business disruption---both of which result in the loss of individual and team effectiveness, and can result in the new colleague feeling that they were not given the all tools necessary to do their job successfully.

And in the End If you start with the overriding objective to employ the ‘Best and Brightest’ and ‘Best Fit’ candidates for employment, following the steps outlined above will go a great distance in helping you achieve that objective. As noted, planning is the key to success. Once your plan is in place, everyone involved with the selection process has a clear vision of the objective, the tactics to achieve the objective, and their respective role. As well, each participant will know far more about the candidates and find consensus on the ‘Best Fit’ candidate more readily achieved. And, the firm handshake and good eye contact the new colleague brings to their new job will just add to the assets they bring to your lab.

Hedley Lawson, Jr. is the managing partner at Aligned Growth Partners, LLC

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Labtalk November/December 2018