Reducing Employee Turnover: Why the Art of Recruiting Candidates Should Be a Science

Losing an employee is financially and logistically costly. High employee turnover places added pressure on recruiters to find the “ideal candidate” who will remain and prosper with the company. Herein lies the HR challenge: recruiting management employees and reducing turnover.

The Challenge Presented by the Status Quo

The problem of turnover is linked to societal conventions: The usual methodology for recruiting involves collecting resumes and cover letters from candidates, screening (by a human or a computer), short-listing for interview, rounds of interviews and final candidate selection. Of course, it would be unthinkable to hire a candidate without interviewing them. But according to the research reported in a recent NY Times article, interviews are flawed and can even hinder the hiring process.

Candidates rehearse answers to anticipated questions, preparing responses that they know the employer wants to hear. Candidates also lie about their experience (because they can get away with it) and knowledge. Richard Branson is famously quoted for saying, “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!” The problem is, future employers don’t want candidates who say they know how to do something when in fact they don’t.

Naturally, this qualification gap is felt more strongly in certain roles than in others. A graphic designer, for example, may have to produce a sample piece as part of their interview process, but it’s rare that a management employee, for example, would be tested on their skills. But the question is: why aren’t they? Wouldn’t this address so many of the competency and knowledge – and to some degree – cultural mismatches that are a large contributing factor to high employee turnover?

The Opportunity to Change the Future

Authentic assessments, where candidates are tested on real-life scenarios specific to a particular role, may be the future of recruitment. Much like testing cars on the road before choosing the one you buy, testing candidates before offering them a job would ensure greater compatibility between the role and employee.

Those who have used authentic assessments for training and evaluations have been impressed by the results. The level of knowledge and experience in subject matter quickly becomes evident. But, interestingly, these assessments also are also capable of detecting nuances and “power skills” that a particular employer might be looking for in a candidate. For example, stricter/more lenient decision-making, or prioritizing one particular detail over another can reveal skills like judgement and critical thinking. Especially in managerial positions, these subtle differences can differentiate between a competent candidate and a great one. Differentiating between good candidates and great ones using only interviews and a resume involves an undefined level of risk: people (yes, even professional recruiters!) are often misled or influenced by factors which are irrelevant to the job and, surely enough, mistakes are made. Some people can certainly “talk the talk”, but when it comes time to “walk the walk”, they fall behind.

The Power of Power Skills

Research carried out by LinkedIn suggests that close to 60% of companies struggle to find people with the skills they need. Power skills like critical thinking and problem solving (chief concerns of employers who hire millennials), communication, conflict resolution, teamwork, and adaptability are regarded by many employers as just as crucial to long-term success as job-specific knowledge or skills. On paper, a candidate may appear to have all the right knowledge, but an interview can’t tell you for sure whether they will be able to collaborate with team members, or work efficiently to get the job done. Essentially, will the candidate fit in to the company culture? The more confident, motivated and satisfied an employee feels in their role, the less likely they are to leave. Authentic assessments provide insight into power skills like critical thinking and adaptability: how well a candidate can assess or adapt to a situation, how they choose to use available information to do so, and how that compares to benchmarks of expertise in the field or even other candidates.

So, while employers should seek employees with the necessary technical knowledge to do a job, they shouldn’t underestimate the importance of power skills when it comes to big-picture goals like employee retention and satisfaction. The particular duties within any job, especially in management positions, are bound to change and evolve; power skills are what enable the necessary flexibility and adaptability for long-term success.

If training and evaluating management employees were treated less like an art (learning about someone through a back-and-forth Q&A session) and more like a science (backed by algorithms and AI), the world would undoubtedly be filled with more competent and satisfied employees, fewer financial losses for companies, and more assured recruiters.