Breaking News Bar
posted: 6/19/2019 1:00 AM

Hiring for behavior vs. skills in a tight labor market

Success - Article sent! close
  • Nicole Martin

    Nicole Martin

  • Getty Image


Everyone is hiring these days! With record lows on unemployment and skills shortages taking the forefront in conversation with employers, there is no question you know someone who is seeking to hire someone. Yet, with so many job openings and so few qualified candidates applying, what are employers to do? I propose hiring managers hire for behaviors vs. skills.

For over 100 years, the approach has been to hire for attitude/motivation or hire for hard skills/experience or education. Sourcing the candidate that had both was ideal, but often employers would make hiring decisions based on one or the other. Hiring this way has been based on assumptions and we all know what they say about assumptions. In time, the hire plays out and, in some cases, it's a match and in others, it ends with a negative impact on the bottom line.

In the mid 90's the field of psychology published new research that can revolutionize the way we evaluate talent.

The findings led to a better way to assess job performance and talent. It is a fact that our cognitive strengths become our values expressed through behavior in the workplace. If you talk to an industrial organizational psychologist or a psychometrician they will tell you, they cannot statistically tease this fact apart.

Any person's behaviors explain job performance and each of our behaviors explain how everyone can best contribute to a team.

Behaviors explain conflicts, miscues in communication and glitches in perception that often occur in working relationships. The most subjective form of candidate evaluation is the interview. And many of you already know the cost of a bad hire is minimally 30% of base pay. Furthermore, with 50% of the workforce now comprising Millennials: Born 1981-1996 (22-37 years old), many will seek to be hired to develop their skills.

It makes sense to know the six behaviors that are innate hard-wired traits. Essentially a person's baseline intelligence before investments in emotional intelligence. (1) Assertiveness (2) Rules. This is the reasoning intelligence developed in our youth. (3) Details. This trait speaks to the level of detail a person NEEDS before getting to work. (4) Emotional sensitivity is a scale that measures how someone FEELS inside. (5) People. Those who are low on this scale can like people and relate to others, it just means they don't need people the way a high people person does. In fact, it is more about the cost of energy. (6) Team. Low in team people are individually competitive and may very well be the best at what they do. They need to be affirmed with personalized affirmation from their managers, but the internal motivation helps them achieve. Every top sales person will score low in team as they must drive to do well. At the other end of the spectrum you have those that seek to help others and don't rock the boat. They are in the middle and seek win/win outcomes.

With cognitive assessments you can see the abilities a person or team has and before you hire and determine what strategic hire your team needs in order to be optimized. More importantly, you can align a candidate's strengths to the critical factors in a role, thus ensuring you are hiring for behavior and investing in skill development with a person that is a match for the role. Consider the benefits or hiring for behavior vs. skill and if you source a pre-employment assessment be sure to vet best practices from the EEOC, ask the vendor if the assessment is cognitive as ask for their validity results. There are only a few in a big pond that do this well on both accounts.

• Nicole Martin is Chief Empowerment Officer of HRBoost LLC in Libertyville.