Why Trusting Your Gut Can Go Badly – A Sheriff’s Tale

Once upon a time, there was a lowly HR assistant, newly tasked with hiring several manual laborers for a factory. The factory was located in a poor neighborhood with not many good jobs available. Most of the people in this neighborhood were semi-literate, under or improperly nourished, and all were affected in one way or another by the neighborhood’s high crime rate.

climbing-resume-stackThe only thing good about this scenario for our lowly HR assistant is that on the rare occasions she did have jobs open, she had many applicants for them — so many, in fact, that she often had stacks and stacks of applications on her desk without having spoken to the applicant or without being able to put a name to a face.

Such was the case with Billy. She happened upon his application one day and, on paper, at least, he seemed okay. The job was packing and lifting boxes. No one needed a neuroscience degree and it was clear Billy didn’t have one, but his app looked like he’d had steady work and could do the job. At the bottom of the application was a section marked “For Employer Use Only” and it listed out the various positions available. The site had off-duty sheriffs providing security virtually round-the-clock, but the big qualification there was that you had to BE a sheriff. Billy, like many applicants, didn’t understand that this bottom portion of the application was for the lowly HR assistant to mark on when sending his info to payroll. That’s how she’d let them know that he worked in the factory and made $8 an hour. A lot of applicants, semi-literate, mixed up this part and put what they wanted to make at what position. Billy had put down that he wanted to be the sheriff for $9.00/hr.jiFfM

That should’ve been my first clue, but I’m naive and try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Plus we needed bodies — not geniuses, just bodies. I lined up about 6 interviews and one was Billy. He came in and when I saw him, I immediately called the interviewing manager and apologized. Billy looked ready to collapse from malnutrition. The one tooth remaining in his mouth was on its last legs. When I asked him what he was applying for, he actually said he wanted to be sheriff. He thought we’d give him a gun maybe?! I have no idea. I’m all for helping out someone who is hungry and willing to work, but Billy just had this air of “WTF?” around him that I couldn’t shake. He was NOTHING like he seemed on paper. It was like he floated into the office on a leaf, just going wherever the wind blew him. He was a ‘no’ vote from this judge immediately, but we did the interview anyway.

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I have no idea what kind of voodoo Billy worked on that hiring manager, but he must’ve made a good case for himself or appeared even more needy than he did to me, because he was hired. And apart from the 3 heart attacks he faked at work, even having ambulances called only to tell him he had a “pulled muscle” (the medical equivalent of ‘quit wasting my effin’ time’), he kept plugging along. He was eventually fired and I think it was because he kept up these incidents and it was decided the work was too strenuous for him. I think. I have kind of blocked it out. That took place within my first 2 months at this particular job, and Billy was nicknamed “the Sheriff” from that very first day. I was judged for inviting him in for an interview despite NOT being responsible for hiring him. On paper he looked good. On paper, my gut really liked him. Even when I told his manager not to hire him, he went with HIS gut and his gut overruled mine. We all like to think we know people but we don’t. We’re guessing and flying blind. Sometimes it goes well. Sometimes the ambulance pulls up to yell at Billy to quit wasting their effin’ time and all you can do is roll your eyes.

If we’d had a way to test Billy beforehand, that might not have happened. Granted, for such a blue-collar situation, not all tests will be applicable, but an emotional maturity assessment sure would have been nice for Billy and for the guy who told all the older black ladies they wore too much makeup and he’d like to…do things to them, but only with a bag over their heads. A better way of weeding out the undesirables would have saved us some turnover, some training costs, lots of paperwork on both those fellas (and a few others) and made work much more boring…in a good way.

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SmartRecruiters has developed an Assessment Center that would’ve been a big help back in the day. It lets you check an applicant’s skills, references and behaviors. For my particular company back then, behavior would’ve been my biggest need. Today it would be skills. New position, new company…new needs. These are all available at the assessment center and can lead to vastly improved hiring over just a resume. From an article on SmartRecruiters’ Talent Assessments page: ¬†”In fact, academic research (Schmidt and Hunter 1998) shows resumes are one of the worst ways to select candidates. Combining interviews with assessments improves accuracy of hire by over 3x (.63 correlation with work performance vs. .18 correlation without testing).” Imagine that! Three times better hiring through basic skills and behavioral testing before hiring.

SmartRecruitersLogo“We are adding science to the art of recruiting,” said SmartRecruiters’ Founder & CEO Jerome Ternynck. “Our Assessment Center recommendation¬†engine will encapsulate the performance and review of every assessment to present the best test for each position and company type.” And that’s what they can do for companies that recruit. Imagine what they could do for companies that are bombarded with applications all day long whether they have openings or not! You could really hire THE ABSOLUTE BEST. It wouldn’t matter if you could put a face with a name before you called each applicant. The applicant would self-select from the pack in the testing. You could avoid being the lowly HR assistant (or manager, director, recruiter) who hired “The Sheriff” and avoid that shame and embarrassment for years to come!

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