Dictionary.com says to make a Prediction is to “define the future.” Sounds about right to me. Every prediction you make when hiring is the definition of what your business or organization will become in the future, isn’t it?
So I guess the question is how do you make better predictions in something as subjective and tricky as hiring? To me it really comes down to a few simple actions that are fundamentally the same in any area of your business or life for that matter:
1.) Know the Target: This step gets missed … or misunderstood … A LOT. The target has to be about performance. Isn’t your goal to hire someone who can drive your business forward, maybe in ways you didn’t even consider? Or, is your goal to “avoid a bad hire”? I’m sure you said the former but we usually end up designing a recruiting process around the later and just try to avoid risk. Knowing what good (or maybe we can stretch to great?) performance looks like is the key. This means really understanding the metrics that are fundamental to the position and the competencies that will help this person achieve those metrics for the long run (we can all fake it for a while).
2.) Collect the Data: This means real, quantifiable data and not the random thoughts that often go into making a hiring decision (we will get to those in step 3). Set up your process to collect as many data points as reasonably possible. I say “reasonably” because you will need to make a decision quickly as well. Technology is going to be key here. Assessments on the front end that drive interview questions based on the test results, structured, job relevant (and pre-planned) interview questions targeted at the competencies required for success and structured, competency based reference checking to validate what you have discovered are a bare minimum. Then score each step. It honestly doesn’t matter how you score them as any method will be better than none. Again, look at technologies to drive these screening steps for you.
3.) Use Your Gut: Once you have narrowed down to a small group, use your gut. Yes, that much-maligned intuition can serve you well in hiring so long as you have narrowed the field to a small group based on the objective, quantitative steps in #2. Only you know your company and culture so don’t be afraid to maybe pick the long shot from the finalists that you just have “the feeling about” instead of the front runner. There is nothing wrong with gut feel so long as it’s used in the context of a solid process.
These steps are used in just about every area of decision-making but we just go careening off the rails in hiring for some reason. Give yourself the best chance of success and make sure that your process is aligned with these simple steps.