Almost every employee got hired through a process of selection. Someone in the company makes a deliberate choice of an individual to fill a needed position. The same company also devotes a great deal of effort to choosing new equipment, which seldom turns out later to be unsuitable for its intended purpose. Can a similar statement be made about the people we hire, even for executive positions?

Substantial amounts of time and money go into recruiting and evaluating job candidates and selecting those who appear to be the best qualified to fill the positions in which they are placed. For example, the direct cost to U.S. companies just for interviewing applicants amounts to an estimated $3.6 billion per year. It has been calculated that about 160 million selection interviews are conducted annually. Nevertheless, despite such large expenditures and so much interviewing, the typical manager often finds that he or she must cope with newly hired or promoted employees who eventually turn out to be something less than satisfactory on the job. Consequently, the supervisors and the company suffer a variety of losses from poor investments in human resources. The unsuitable employees may face even more serious after-effects because this kind of experience can have an unfavorable impact on a person’s career for a long time.

Forecasting suitability

By definition, employee selection is the choosing of one individual in preference to others based on characteristics that the employer believes an employee should have in order to be successful in a specific job. The key question is: can we forecaset candidate’s suitability for a job? If available techniques cannot produce an accurate evaluation of a candidate that possesses the desired characteristics, then management is handicapped in achieving its objective to pick the applicant who is best qualified for the job.

The risk of a wrong prediction is always present in the selection process. With each applicant, we are dealing with a unique combination of a particular individual for a particular job. This is largely an unavoidable risk, but it is one that the employer can learn to live with and afford to take. However, this risk is compounded and unsatisfactory results may occur, when inadequate methods are used to gather and analyze the information on which the forecast is based. It is common to find that selection techniques, particularly those used in interviewing, are often applied at far less than the required level. Increased skill in the use of interview techniques, which can be learned readily, will certainly reduce the risk of making too many bad guesses.

The Job Interview

Interviewing job candidates is the single most popular technique for employee selection. Seldom do you find an instance in which a job is filled without some form of interview, except where short-term temporary positions are involved, requiring little or no experience and training, and where job termination is simple and swift. A face-to-face meeting with the applicant is the rule, even for jobs with such low skill requirements that the contact between applicant and company representative may consist of a minute or two of conversation and the handing in of a completed application form. Of course, the normal interview is usually far more extensive, and a series of several interviews is not uncommon for higher-level positions.

In any case, the point is that the interview is virtually a universal practice in the selection process.

A properly conducted interview provides significant information not otherwise attainable. We get a direct picture of the applicant, one that is based on actual observation and two-way communication. It is a view of the individual that can be considerably broader than the information obtained from application forms, resumes, references or tests. Furthermore, there is some information that can be obtained only in a face-to-face meeting. The interview offers an opportunity to observe the applicant’s behavior, attitudes, responses, appearance, and other personal qualities that frequently are crucial factors in successful job performance. It provides a setting in which the company’s representative can pull together all the previously available information on the candidate and fill in whatever may be missing so as to arrive at an accurate image.

For the applicant, the interview offers the surest means of getting genuine answers to questions about the company and the job. The alert individual can gain some insight into what it would be like to work for this particular employer. He or she stands a reasonably good chance of acquiring enough knowledge about the job environment to make an informed judgment as to whether the group would be pleasant. For both interviewer and applicant, the interview is a key factor in determining whether the applicant who has come this far in the selection process will end up working for the company or not.

For effective results, a variety of people in the organization must know how to interview. There is an essential need for supervisors and managers at all levels, not just personnel specialists, to acquire a truly respectable degree of proficiency in interviewing and to involve themselves in the process. Other tools used for evaluating job candidates, such as testing, often require a substantial amount of specialization before a useful level of expertise can be achieved.

Legal Obligations

People who are involved in selecting new employees have a special need to be aware of what “equal rights” means in the eyes of the law. Most of us have personal beliefs and attitudes that strongly affect our perception of equality as applied to members of defined groups such as gender, race, religion, ethnic background and disability. Whatever our individual views may be, the law in recent years has become a very important factor to all of us.

Today’s employer, whatever his or her personal views, must recognize that there is a large body of law, dealing with employment rights, that is risky to ignore or violate. Numerous federal and state laws spell out such rights of job applicants. Many contain effective enforcement provisions that may result, if violations are proved, in painful costs or other penalties. Particularly serious is the fact that the employer is directly liable for illegal statements or actions by any company representative, with an impact on civil rights, which occur during the employment process. Obviously, this points out the need for specific awareness, among all employees who may play any part in the employment procedures, of legal and illegal actions.

Numerous laws require federal departments and agencies to enforce nondiscrimination in employment when dealing with businesses and institutions that receive federal funds, grants and other forms of financial assistance under various arrangements. They prohibit various kinds of discrimination from the obvious race, color and sex to less familiar grounds such as political affiliation. Therefore, recipients of government funds need to be aware of any special Equal Employment Opportunity requirements attached to those funds and seek counsel if necessary.

J.D. McHenry is the president of Global Jet Services. He has been involved in numerous aviation maintenance and flight operation programs for more than 31 years. His background includes aircraft manufacturer, corporate flight operations, FAR 91 & 135 operations, aircraft management, repair stations, and fixed base operation. He holds and A&P, IA and Doctorate of Business Management. Global Jet Services goal is to lead the way in aviation maintenance training standards. Global Jet Services and FlightSafety International are business partners offering the “Shared Resources” program. For more information, visit www.GlobalJetServices.com.

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