Human Resources Kit For Dummies
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Here are some of the factors on which different Human Resources managers base their hiring decisions and what you need to keep in mind as you’re considering each one.

Past experience

The best indicator of a candidate’s future potential is past performance. If a candidate was hardworking, highly motivated, and team oriented in his last job, the same is likely to hold true in the new job. Similarly, the candidate who consistently lacked enthusiasm and drive in his last position isn’t likely to turn things around in his next one. People do change, of course, but often not that significantly.

The only caveat to this usually reliable principle: The conditions that prevailed in the candidate’s last job need to closely parallel the conditions in the job she’s seeking. Otherwise, you have no real basis for comparison. No two business environments are identical. Certain systems or people in the candidate’s previous job may have been instrumental in her success (or failure) — and you can rarely replicate such factors in your company.

Interview impressions

Impressions you pick up during an interview almost always carry a great deal of weight in hiring decisions — and understandably. Managers naturally place more trust in what they actually see and hear than in information from third-party sources. The problem with interview impressions is that they’re just that — impressions. You’re listening to answers and observing behavior, but your own preconceived perceptions and experiences almost always influence your judgments.

This doesn’t mean that you should disregard your interview impressions — only that you keep them in their proper perspective with test results, references, and other information you’ve collected to evaluate a prospective hire.

Test results

Some people regard test results as the only truly reliable predictor of future success. The argument goes as follows: Test results are quantifiable. In most tests, results aren’t subject to personal interpretation. With a large enough sample, you can compare test scores to job performance ratings and, eventually, use test scores as a predictor of future performance.

The only problem: Some candidates simply don’t test well. They freeze up, which affects their ultimate scores. Other candidates may be clever enough to figure out what most tests are actually testing for and tailor their responses accordingly. So, if you’re going to use test results in your decision-making process, ensure the validity of the tests and their legality.

Firsthand observation

Call it the proof-in-the-pudding principle. Watching candidates actually perform some of the tasks for which you’re considering hiring them is clearly the most reliable way to judge their competence. That’s why more and more companies these days start out an applicant as a contingent, or temporary, worker, with the idea that, if the person works out, he may eventually become a full-time employee.

In the past, some companies have instituted probationary periods to gain firsthand knowledge about candidates. Today, firms should stay away from the term probation because it may create an implied contract of employment. Some courts assume that after a worker is no longer on probation, the employer must have good cause to terminate her.

About This Article

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Max Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, the world's largest specialized staffing firm. He is one of the leading experts on human resources and employment issues.

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