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Linda Brenner on Improving Quality of Hire

by Joseph Murphy

Linda Brenner, founder of Designs on Talent and Skillsify and I had a chance to talk about staffing process improvement at HRTech13 in Las Vegas.  She offered a few thoughts on what can be done to improve quality of hire.  Click PLAY to hear what she has to say.  Then scroll down to read my reflections and additions to her suggestions.

Linda offers excellent advice for staffing process improvement.  Her key points are:

  • Define the performance criteria or demands of the job.
  • Isolate and describe ‘home run’ or exceptional degrees of performance
  • Link candidate evaluation methods to the job criteria

Define Performance Criteria

Job analysis is a structured approach to observing, capturing and defining the performance requirements of a job.  It is an evidence-based approach to documenting job content through examination of what knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAO) are required in a job.

A common error in selection process design is looking first at people in the job versus looking at the job.  There is a difference between defining the job content and looking at people doing the job.   It is important to have exceptional performers describe what they do, but it is important to have a job-first methodology.

To truly explore the range of performance demands in a job, a multi-method approach to job analysis is essential.  In our work with clients we deploy the various types of data gathering methods in the diagram below to ensure a robust and rigorous examination and documentation of the performance drivers in a job.


Define Exceptional Performance

Competencies have become the language of performance.  Proper job analysis captures and documents the examples and descriptions of exceptional or superior performance and the results are often summarized as a competency model.  The models are a collection of behaviors that together deliver superior on-the-job results.  Competency models are used to create behaviorally anchored rating scales (BARS).

BARS can be organized various ways to describe differences in performance.  One method is simple task statements such as: Engages others in decision making.  This can be used to rate an individual by adding an effectiveness rating scale offering a range from high to low.  Another format is a proficiency scale that documents observable differences ranging from novice, to proficient, to expert such as: contributes to team decision making process, facilitates team decision making process, designs and manages team decisions making processes.

Comprehensive rating methods can then be used to evaluate and document new hire performance at various stages along their learning curve.  This periodic evaluation documents time to proficiency.

Link Candidate Evaluation Methods to the Job Criteria

Employment law states candidate evaluation methods should be job relevant and consistent with business necessity.  These standards hold true for criteria used to sort resumes, content of telephone screening interviews, content of interviews and the content of any form of test or assessment.

With a well developed and rigorous competency model clear criteria can be established for each level or step of candidate evaluation.  Scorable applications can be created that place weight on various KSAOs.  Phone and in-person interviews can be organized by competency and scored with BARS.  And objective and job relevant assessment and pre-employment simulation methods can be designed or selected and administered.  Each of these methods adds a level of job relevant evidence to determine the degree of candidate-job fit.


Every leader knows the quality of a decision is dependent upon the quality of information used to make that decision.  Improving quality of hire – or the outcome of a hiring decision – requires a great quality of hiring process.  Staffing process improvement can be driven by increasing the quality of evidence obtained on candidate-job fit.  Linda offered a good spring board to raising the quality of the hiring process.

Free Book on Evidence-Based Hiring

To learn more about evidence-based hiring ask for a free copy of our e-book: Practical Rigor.  Go to our Contact form and write Rigor into the text box. We will send you a copy.  Read it, share it with your colleagues, call us to talk about your reactions to our suggestions.  Together, we can help raise the skills and methods needed to improve quality of hire across the profession.