Monday, November 20, 2006

Job tenure part deux


Remember a few posts ago I wrote about thinking carefully about job tenure when evaluating candidates?

Well, a new survey out from Robert Half International shows many managers are stuck in the old days.

87% of 1,400 CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies said length of time a candidate spent with previous employers was very or somewhat important important when evaluating that candidate.

Now those you that like to poke holes in numbers will sagely point out that this 87% figure is actually made up of 42% who said "Very important" and 45% "Somewhat important" and because no one knows what "somewhat" means, the 87% figure is probably inflated in importance.

But even still. Almost half of respondents are obviously paying attention to previous job tenure. And in so doing, making many incorrect judgments.

Predicting job performance is hard enough, even with a rigorously conducted job analysis and a sophisticated assessment center. Whenever you get human judgment involved sans data to back it up, trouble ensues.

Paying attention to job tenure rather than possession of critical competencies is like choosing a house based on the exterior paint color. Remember, we know that amount of job experience correlates weakly with job performance. In fact where it does the best job is in the first five years--meaning anything after five years likely gets you zip. And that's for medium complexity jobs--for low-complexity jobs five years is overestimating.

To make matters worse, more job experience, at the same employer, may indicate a lack of will or ability to promote. And that's what you're rewarding?

This is the problem with resumes. And snap judgments. Take interviews, for example. Research shows interviewers make judgments within seconds about the quality of candidates. But that doesn't necessary mean they're right. Allow me to quote from Malcolm Gladwell's recent book, Blink: "The first impression becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: we hear what we expect to hear. The interview is hopelessly biased in favor of the nice."

When it comes to sound assessment, there are no short cuts. Time must be spent--at the front end (determining job competencies) and during the hiring process. Good results take time and effort--it's that simple, and that challenging.

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