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The science of talent selection

The key is hiring people who are highly skilled and fi t the organizational culture. By Frederick P. Morgeson, Ph.D.


ealthcare organizations face numerous chal- lenges today, ranging from improving patient satisfaction and safety to keeping costs down and running lean. When hospitals and health-

care facilities can rely on highly qualifi ed employees, it becomes easier to accomplish all these goals. One of the biggest levers that healthcare organizations possess for improving the quality of hires is selection science. Behavioral assessment techniques refi ned through decades of research in academia are now practiced nationwide in the healthcare sector. Leading hospitals and healthcare facilities have adopted the science of selection to identify, source, qualify and hire individual employees that will be a good long-term fi t for their organization. To deliver greater customer satisfaction and higher-quality care, organizations should consider implementing the following four selection science best practices:

1. Use behavioral-based interviewing

In the healthcare environment, there is a direct relation- ship between quality of care and employee behaviors. Behav- ioral assessment techniques, such as pre-hire behavior-based interview questions, are an ideal way to identify potential new hires that will be most likely to conduct themselves in the right ways and demonstrate the right competencies. Behavior-based interview questions are important because they explore how applicants exhibited key job-related behav- iors in past work and academic situations. These questions are most effective when the interviewer obtains specifi c details about past behavior. For example, a hiring manager might ask an applicant to describe a time when he or she went “beyond the call of duty” to help someone else. Follow-up questions could include asking exactly what the individual did in this situation, what motivated their actions and what the outcome was.

2. Create hiring teams

One of the primary problems associated with conventional selection processes is making high-quality hiring decisions in

26 April 2012

a fair, consistent way. Traditional interviews follow a format where one person (e.g., the hiring manager) interviews an applicant. This can be an issue because the hiring manager may have his or her own preferences about the skills and personality traits that are desired for an open position. This can introduce bias into the hiring process, which is never desirable.

A good solution that reduces bias is creating an interview- ing team consisting of multiple interviewers. This approach works best when the team has between three to fi ve individu- als and includes those who are already in the job, as well as supervisors. Bringing peers into the hiring process is a good idea for two reasons. First, it makes employees feel that they have input into the development of the team. Second, new hires are more likely to be supported by their teammates if peers were involved in their selection.

Every member of the interviewing team should be knowl- edgeable about the position and bring varying perspectives that refl ect the diversity of views present in the unit. Although using multiple interviews may be more time consuming and costly than the traditional approach to interviewing, it results in better hiring decisions and greater buy-in from staff mem- bers on new employees.

3. Standardize processes to align the team Creating standardized hiring processes is another way to remove bias from the hiring process. Such standardization is similar to the way that healthcare organizations seek to provide care in a consistent, high-quality way. For example, a hospital would never use a different protocol and testing methodology each time an employee checked a patient’s blood pressure, in part because the readings would be highly variable and the correct result would be hard to identify. The same logic applies to employee evaluation and selection. A standardized hiring process means measuring the same applicant competencies in the same way every time. This requires a repeatable process that consists of asking the same questions from interview to interview, using higher-quality


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