Avoid Hiring Deficient Employees

By: Michael Mercer, Ph.d.

Sticky Problems & Great Hiring Solutions

Managers must hire job applicants who already possess key work-related talents. Unfortunately, many job applicants are deficient in crucial talents. Fortunately, you can use pre-employment tests, bio-data, work simulations, and interviews to hire job applicants who are ready and willing to be productive employees.


Managers get an eye-opening peek into job applicants' typical deficiencies in a research report, "Are They Really Ready to Work?" sponsored by four employment-related organizations


The report says high school, two-year and four-year college grads quite often have these shortcomings:
1. Math
2. Reading Comprehension
3. Written Communications
4. Problem-Solving
5. Work Ethic
6. Leadership


Don't worry! Here is a list of each common deficiency, along with hiring prediction methods managers can use to make sure they hire job applicants who do not possess those shortcomings. The hiring solutions are pre-employment tests, bio-data, interviews, and work simulations.

1st Problem = Math deficiency
Solutions = Assess job applicants on Math in two ways.

(A) Give an Arithmetic Test - and look for job applicants who score similar to your company's productive employees.

(B) Put applicants through a Work Simulation in which they need to do math problems similar to math problems they would need to do on-the-job in your company.

2nd & 3rd Problems = Reading Comprehension & Written Communications
Solutions = You get 'two birds with one stone' - by evaluating these two job skills together.

(A) During the Interview, have the applicant read job-related material aloud. Then, ask questions about what was read. Ask yourself if the applicant read the material o.k., and grasped it.

(B) Conduct a Work Simulation by giving the applicant written work materials from the job she is applying for. Give the applicant a few questions about the material, and tell the applicant to write answers. Review if the applicant comprehended the material plus wrote clear answers.

4th Problem = Problem-Solving
Solutions = You have two ways to assess this.

(A) Pre-Employment Tests give you the quickest method. Have the job applicant fill-out a Problem-Solving Ability pre-employment test. Then, see if the applicant earned scores similar to, or different than, your successful employees in the same job. If the applicant's scores match your superstars' scores, that is what you want. If the applicant's scores are different, then find someone with better Problem-Solving Ability.

(B) Use a Work Simulation. Tell the job applicant about a real work problem that employee must handle on-the-job. Give plenty of details. Leave the applicant alone for 15 - 60 minutes to (a) figure out a solution. Then, have the applicant present his or her problem-solving to you. Ask yourself, "Did the applicant correctly understand and solve the work problem?"

5th Problem = Work Ethic
Solutions. Managers can assess Work Ethic in three ways.

(A) Get Bio-data. My research on hiring the best repeatedly finds great employees worked while in high school and, if they went, college, too. Slackers typically did not work in high school nor college. Also, did the applicant have long tenure in jobs? People with poor work ethic jump from job to job.

(B) Give Pre-Employment Tests. Some tests predict Work Ethic. Another way is to benchmark a behavior test using your company's high-achievers who exhibit superb Work Ethic. Then, test applicants - and hope to find candidates whose test scores are similar to your high-achieving employees.

(C) Interview using Work Ethic questions. Ask the job candidate for tenure on each job. Also, ask the applicant for likes and dislikes on each job. Listen between the lines for person being (a) hard-worker or (b) someone whose favorite workday events are socializing, breaks, lunch, and quitting time.

6th Problem = Leadership
Solutions = Here, you have three hiring prediction methods at your disposal.

(A) Collect Bio-data. Past behavior is a great predictor of future behavior. So, see if the person held leadership positions.

(B) Pre-Employment Tests give you great insights. Benchmark test your company's best leaders on both behavior and mental abilities tests. Then, give the same Pre-Employment Tests to applicants. If the applicant's scores are like your company's best leaders' benchmark test scores, that is a good sign. If the applicant scored differently than your best leaders, then you can (a) see if the candidate is suitable for non-leadership jobs or (b) you can make a leadership development program to help the applicant learn key leadership skills in which your best leaders excel.

(C) Interview questions also can tap into leadership qualities. Ask about leadership positions the applicant has held. Also, see if the applicant has influenced co-workers actions despite not having a formal leader job title.


The large-scale research reported in "Are They Really Ready to Work?" shocks managers with scary prospects of vast numbers of job applicants horribly deficient in key job skills. But don't fret! Why? You readily can use hiring methods explained here - pre-employment tests, biodata, interviews, and work simulations - to
* avoid hiring deficient applicants
* assure you hire applicants who are ready, willing and able to succeed

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