[IPAC-List] Mistakes in selection

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Sat Aug 6 17:21:37 EDT 2011

I was responding to a thread on another site, and it occurred to me that
I've never seen any research on "mistakes" in selection that examnes
such mistakes as subject matter. We discuss tests and other tools here
under the presumption that mistakes in selection are more likely when
suitable validated tools are not used or used properly, but I don't
think we look at those mistakes themselves very closely.

And by "mistake", I don't mean someone who is simply not as strong a
performer as you'd hope for, but someone that makes you regret not
hiring a different person. What sorts of clusters are there? (e.g.,
nutbar/trouble? all hat no cattle? s**t disturber? not a team player?
not really interested in THIS job?) Does category of hiring mistake
made show any systematic relationship to kinds of tests/tools used, or
*not* used? What role do interviews play in generating or catching
mistakes? What role do referrals play? (a good friend received a strong
reference for someone from a trusted source in a similar high-powered
job to his, and the referral turned out to be a nightmare)

How do managers come to the realization that they've made a hiring
mistake? What How long does it take them to decide that, what tips
them off, and how do they respond?

Now, as fascinating as all that might be, and as excited as I am
thinking about it, I'll be the first to admit that there are some
serious confounds to untangle. Performance is easily confounded with
disengagement, and disengagement can be precipitated by actions of the
very manager who decides that hire was a mistake. There are also
mistakes that are out of the manager's control for the most part. So a
manager might be told "You must select from this recruitment pool", and
find the validly-assessed people in the pool are a poor fit for the
particular role and position they have to offer. I know my wife's
micro-agency has but 46 or so positions, including the CEO and
receptionist, so folks interested in upward mobility tend not to stick
around very long. Obviously few policies would permit the hiring
manager to ask point blank "Are you REALLY serious about sticking
around, or are you basically passing through?"

But, failing all those sticky issues, I think there is something to
this. Has somebody already started looking at it?
Finally, I have to once again thank Ilene Gast for introducing me to the
phrase "30 year mistake" some time back (I believe it was SIOP 2000 in
New Orleans). We've all seen them. I want to know how they got there,
and how we recognize them.

Mark Hammer


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