Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Leadership

Talent Selection: Part One

Any person who has been in management more than a few months has had the frustrating experience of...

  1. carefully reviewing and sorting through the internal and external applications;
  2. following up on the (often vague) references;
  3. conducting the interviews, sometimes involving several staff and team members in the process, and;
  4. selecting the person who appears to be the best candidate for the job...

Only to discover...

  1. you can't judge a book by its cover;
  2. people no longer tell the whole truth when giving references;
  3. a great interview does not a great employee make;
  4. a bad hiring decision costs both the organization and the person in poor performance, low morale, mistakes and failure experiences, diminished team relationships, and wasted time and talents.

How Do We Make Such Mistakes?

Diligent, well-intentioned executives and managers make such costly mistakes in selection for several reasons:

1. Promotion of those who do their jobs well. It seems logical. If people perform well in their current job, reward them with advancement, usually to a management position. However, the new job often calls for very different competencies. The very talents that made the person technically outstanding may not fit at all in a job that calls for the complex interpersonal skills of leadership.

2. Hiring of clones. We human types often have the narcissistic tendency to believe that our way is the best way. Furthermore, we tend to feel a connection with those who are similar to us. For those reasons, we may hire those with whom we feel a kindred spirit because they resemble us in some way. This can be a big mistake, as the job the person will fill may require very different strengths than our own.

3. Hiring on "gut feel". This error is similar to the hiring of clones in that there is some kind of "emotional recognition" of the applicant. The attraction of "chemistry," however, is often based on our own biases, past experiences, or personal emotions, and these may be unrelated to the actual requirements of the job. Decisions on "gut feel" have produced many a job disaster.

4. Hiring for personality Just because someone has a "good personality" (whatever that is), this does not mean that his or her personality will fit with the emotional and interpersonal tasks of a particular job. For instance, research shows that many outgoing people make very poor salespeople because they do not have the type of motivation that allows them to actually close the sale. Here's another example. You might be inclined not to hire a person who is quiet in the interview. However, if that person is applying for a job that requires concentration and detail work, you may be interviewing the person who will be outstanding in that job. The desirability of certain personality characteristics is very situational; it depends on the job.

5. Failure to analyze the real job requirements. Good hiring decisions must be based on solid information about the competencies needed for the job. This goes beyond a standard job description or a list of the technical skills needed (though these are necessary). Before you can select someone who will fit, you must have a clear understanding of all of the aspects of the job, including both interpersonal and self-mastery skills.

6. Lack of valid measurements for the "emotional intelligence" aspects of the job. No wonder it is hard to assess these critical skill areas. In addition to the complexities of the first five reasons we've discussed, before now we've lacked valid, easily-administered, reasonably-priced assessments to add to our standard processes of applicant review and interviewing. The good news is, we now have them.

The attitudes and behaviors that make up "emotional intelligence" are critical in determining the success of a leader or employee. Simply stated, emotional intelligence is effectively relating with others and skillfully managing yourself. Research has demonstrated that approximately 66 percent of job success is related to emotional intelligence, over technical ability, education, or even work experience.


Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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