Improving the quality of your hires (Toughest HR Question)

Focus shouldn't simply be on filling the position
By Brian Kreissl and Yaseen Hemeda
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 05/15/2015

Question: How do we improve the quality of our hires?

Answer: Many organizations these days are justifiably concerned with improving the quality of hires with respect to employee retention, performance and cultural, organizational and role fit. Many employers believe it is becoming harder to find good people, and it can be extremely expensive and wasteful to recruit, onboard and hire a new employee, only to have her leave the organization a few months later.

Nevertheless, many employers have unrealistic expectations and are unwilling to provide adequate training and development to new employees. Employers sometimes set themselves up for failure by thinking they’ll find that elusive “purple squirrel” candidate.

Rather than demanding that candidates have previously held the exact same job title and have more than 10 years of experience working in the same industry, it is much more helpful to hire for transferrable skills, competencies, attitude and cultural, organizational and role fit.

It is also important to understand we’re talking about human beings here. While some candidates are better-qualified than others, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. For that reason, it’s important to remember that discussions about “quality of hire” don’t necessarily mean those who didn’t make the cut are bad people — only that, for whatever reason, they aren’t a fit for that role or the organization at this point in time.

If the goal is to improve quality of hires, the focus shouldn’t simply be on filling a vacancy with a warm body either. Taking shortcuts and making common hiring mistakes will inevitably lead to higher turnover rates. Part of the solution is ensuring the recruitment process is as objective and bias-free as possible, which will help to widen the pool of potential applicants and improve their overall quality.

Panel interviews

One suggestion for improving the quality of hires is incorporating panel interviews into the recruitment process. These typically involve three to five interviewers, with one individual — typically the hiring manager — leading the interview. But the other panel members play an important role in asking their own questions, observing and making notes about how the candidate responds to specific questions.

The problem with one-on-one interviews is they leave the process open to conscious and subconscious bias. A best practice in recruitment is to ensure decision-making is not left in the hands of just one individual.

Even though panel interviews are effective, there should be a trained human resources practitioner present to oversee the process and ensure fairness and objectivity. HR should not just stand on the sidelines but ensure all managers and supervisors are properly trained on how to source candidates, conduct interviews and make a fair and final selection decision.

Behavioural interviews

Care must also be taken to avoid relying too much on behavioural interviewing techniques. Based on the premise past behaviour is an accurate predictor of future behaviours, the approach is generally quite effective but there is such thing as “behavioural interviewing overkill.”

Behavioural interviews are tough on candidates, and many people have a difficult time coming up with specific real-life examples from their past. It is also true many candidates rehearse scripted responses to common behavioural interview questions and may be somewhat untruthful in their answers.

While behavioural interviewing does have its place, another effective way of improving quality of hires involves giving each candidate a brief work-related assignment they can complete to assess their skills and abilities. Asking candidates to submit a written sample of previous work or complete a short test or assignment brings greater objectivity into the hiring process and undoubtedly improves the quality of hires.

Other suggestions

• Ensure you are tracking relevant, appropriate and accurate metrics throughout the recruitment process, including retention rates, performance ratings of new hires and satisfaction rates of hiring managers and new employees.

• Provide proper onboarding, training, development and socialization to new employees.

• Ensure you are hiring for core competencies, potential and cultural fit, as opposed to simply looking for someone who can hit the ground running right away.

• Ensure the total remuneration package for each job is externally competitive and internally equitable.

• Provide each candidate with a realistic job preview (RJP) so they have a good idea of what it is really like to perform the job and work for the organization.

• Perform an audit of your organization’s existing employer branding and develop appropriate branding strategies to attract and retain quality candidates.

• Conduct an audit of recruitment policies and selection tools to ensure quality candidates are not being screened out.

• Consider diverse and non-traditional candidates with unusual backgrounds.

• Don’t rely solely on job boards or the “post and pray” method of sourcing — use multiple channels to source candidates.

• Set up employee referral programs and get your employees working on your behalf to help you find top-notch candidates who may not necessarily be actively pounding the pavement looking for work.

• Attend industry events and trade shows. Get to know all the well-known players in the industry or profession.

• Join user groups and online forums, and follow influential bloggers and people who are active on online forums and are thought leaders in their fields.

• Don’t forget internal candidates or people already in your applicant tracking system’s database.

• Consider direct sourcing one or two candidates from your competitors — either on your own or through a headhunter.

• Use social media to establish genuine conversations with job applicants, search for candidates and post jobs.

• Set up an employee alumni network of former employees and keep them apprised of new vacancies and what is going on in the organization generally.

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Carswell’s human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions. He can be reached at Yaseen Hemeda is a product developer at Carswell. He can be reached at For more information, visit

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