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    Jun 17, 2020    |   Psychometrics Canada

Hiring Squirrels Not Turkeys

Written by Shawn Bakker, Lead Psychologist

Methods for Evaluating and Hiring Job Candidates

When it comes to hiring people one of my favourite lines is “You can teach a turkey to climb a tree, but it’s easier to hire a squirrel.” It does a great job of capturing the key requirement of selection – knowing what you need and then using valid methods to find it. While easy to describe, it is not as easy to do. Data from our recent People Trends Report indicate that about 75% of organizations struggle with identifying, developing and retaining high potential individuals.

These broad struggles show up in specific areas such as talent shortages, high turnover, slow recruitment processes and an inability to identify the best candidates. But in the face of these difficulties organizations appear to be staying with their current methods.

Methods for evaluating job candidates

Evaluating job candidates

The methods used most frequently remain the Big 3 – resumes, interviews and reference checks. So in spite of the on-going challenges related to hiring the right people, most organizations continue to use the same under-performing recruitment practices that have been around for more than a century. Sticking with the same processes and hoping for a different outcome is not a recipe for success. Some might even call it crazy.

Improvements in selection come with better methods of evaluation – techniques that are better able to identify whether someone is a squirrel or a turkey. For almost all jobs it is possible to measure the characteristics necessary for success in that job – it just cannot be done with interviews and reference checks. By starting with a clear list of requirements, valid assessment methods can be incorporated into the selection process and enhance your ability to better predict person-job fit.

The steps for improving your ability to find good employees are as follows:

  1. Identify what matters – take time to determine the skills, characteristics, abilities and knowledge that are required for someone to be successful in the job. Beware of assumptions!
  2. Measure what matters – select the appropriate assessments and methods that will accurately measure the requirements you identified in Step 1. Once again, most of these are not measured very well with the Big 3 – in many cases the interview, resume and reference check may tell you little to nothing. In our People Trends Survey the two lowest rated methods in terms of effectiveness were reference checks and resumes! And yet their use still remains universal.

Research consistently shows that there is a better way – work samples, ability assessments, and personality inventories, when chosen appropriately, can increase your ability to hiring squirrels and avoid turkeys. The data shows it, and when asked, HR people know it to. These methods are consistently ranked higher in effectiveness by HR professionals. It appears that we just need a bit more courage to move beyond what we are comfortable with, to what we know works.


Additional Resources


Report on candidate evaluation practices in organizations

Research Report on Human Resource Trends 2020

Click here: to download our People Trends report

Filed under: Selection

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