Miss-hires are expensive. When combined with the cost of the initial recruitment, relocation, orientation, losses from mistakes, lost economic opportunity as well as the cost of replacement, the tab for the miss-hire can range from 25 to 200 percent or more of a departing executive’s base salary.

As hospitals and other healthcare providers work to reduce costs ahead of shrinking reimbursement, this is an expense they can ill-afford.

Then there is the human toll that a bad hire takes. Most senior leaders hate to fire people. Many will prolong the organization’s misery until there is no other option, thereby, in all likelihood, increasing the cost of hiring the wrong person.

One of the most frequently asked questions I get during my lectures is how JohnGSelf Associates can avoid or significantly reduce the number of miss-hires for clients when compared against the market. Structurally, it is not hard, but any recruitment process that consistently delivers exceptional results is not cheap. There are three keys to avoiding a miss-hire.

In a previous post, I focused on two of the three of the elements.

  1. Hiring the right recruiters — an outside firm or internal staff
  2. Holding them accountable for the results, not just for process performance, but for the results and value that their candidates deliver. This includes full disclosure and transparency throughout the recruiting process

In this post, I want to focus on the third critical component: the candidate screening process. You can have talented recruiters but without a comprehensive approach to screening, you will not realize maximum value for the investment. This tool, when paired with our in-depth due diligence visit and comprehensive Position Prospectus, is central to our record of performance.

At JGSA we use a version of Topgrading , a comprehensive chronological and behavior and values screening tool that Dr. Brad Smart and his colleagues developed in the early 1980s. They used it to help Jack Welch, then the new Chairman and CEO of GE Corporation, to build a leadership team that transformed that company into one of the most successful and admired for more than 20 years. For JGSA it is at the core of one of the most successful “stick rates” (tenure) in the search industry. In more than 15 years conducting C-suite and senior leadership searches, less than 10 of our placements did not completed their 24 or 36-month placement guarantees. Compare that with some major firms who report a stick rate of only 50 to 60 percent after 24 months.

Topgrading is a four to five hour interview process. We have broken it down into two parts: the chronological or job history review, focusing on a candidate’s education, experiences and the jobs that they have held, including those that may not be listed on the resume, and a face-to-face interview with the engagement partner. The chronological interview, which also addresses other critical issues, takes about 90 minutes and is conducted on the telephone, via Skype or Face Time. The face-to-face interview is exactly that. The engagement partner, who presumably should know more about the client than a junior associate, sits across the table from each semi-finalist for approximately four hours and explores a candidate’s leadership values, style, successes and failures, etc. The partner also delves into client-specific issues to assess how each candidate will respond to those challenges. Part of this interview is videotaped and is included in the candidate presentation we provide the client.

We find this prolonged interview session is useful in opening a window into a candidate’s true nature and who they are as a person and a leader.

While we may use Skype or some other form of video conferencing system to conduct interviews of candidates for interim positions, we never use them for our major engagement projects. You simply cannot get the true measure of a candidate’s personality or style through the filter of a television screen. Time limitations also result in key information being overlooked. In some cases, a strength-based assessment may be required with websites like Tilt 365 being used to carry this out so that managers can see how candidates are at their core and get a better idea of who they are.

In addition to the in-depth interviewing process, we conduct background investigations, including credit, civil and criminal court records in each jurisdiction in which the candidate has lived or worked for up to 15 years, the CMS/OIG list, prior employment, and several other key elements of the candidate’s background.

In executive and C-suite search engagements, we will review up to eight primary and secondary references. Secondary references are those the search team has identified in the screening interviews that were not on the candidate’s primary list. This is particularly useful in developing a 360 -review of the candidate’s style and performance.

Finally, we require our candidates to complete the DiSC assessment, a personality profiling system, and complete answers in writing to five relevant questions. These are typically completed before the face-to-face interview and the information is incorporated into the Partner’s face-to-face questions.

This process is not ground-breaking innovation but it is one of the most effective screening systems to understand a candidate’s skills and leadership style.

2012 John Gregory Self