Best Practices in Employee Selection

employee selectionLeaders Question: Can you please explain best practices in employee selection?

Bonnie’s Answer:

Well, since you are asking me, I’m going to assume you are asking about selecting leaders versus broad-based selection but much of my answer will apply to both.

Staffing and selection are both about choosing the right candidates out of the pool and getting them through the recruiting funnel and into the leadership pipeline. That part of the process called staffing. Selection is when you have your final three to five qualified candidates. You can think of this process as supply and demand. First you establish the need (demand). Then you conduct an outreach to established the right mix of demographically diverse candidates (supply). Then you narrow the pool down to three to five qualified leaders for a position,

And it is time to make your quality selection (purchasing) and put the new hire into his or her position (production).

Every part of the process will ideally align with the Human Capital Strategy and, ultimately, the vision and strategy of the overall organization. When it comes to selecting leaders, there are tools that each organization can tap to greatly assist in the process.

The most obvious selection tool and the one most organizations use is the interview. We are strong believers in the behavioral‐based interview and believe a face‐to‐face meeting is imperative at this stage of the process. Meeting with the candidate face‐to‐face provides significant and valuable information about the candidate’s nonverbal behavior, presence, interpersonal skills, and how he or she is perceived by others in general. The interview consists of questions related to professional skills as well as personal preferences, choices, and attitude. There is so much more to a good hire than just evaluating technical qualifications.


When it comes to demographics, if you’re hiring an over 55 leader, you’ll want to know that they seem healthy enough to carry out the responsibilities of the position. Just as candidates for the president of the United States have their health evaluated by voters before the election, leaders must also be deemed healthy enough to carry out the duties with excellence. Whether we like it or not, image does matter, and evaluating whether the person carries the personal presence needed for the role is necessary. It is a great time to start evaluating “fit” on both sides. Just remember, if the talent pool includes Gen Y, they may show up at the interview with their parents, so try to keep your jaw off the floor and don’t throw them out. Just because it’s not the way of the Boomers and the Gen Xers doesn’t necessarily make it wrong. They are bringing their trusted “counselors” to the process. So, why not talk to the parents, too? If the potential candidates interview well, and they should once they make it to this point, it is time to look under the hood.

You are making a potentially expensive “purchase,” and you’ll want to know as much as possible about each candidate regardless of his or her generation. Selection assessment or, at high levels called executive assessment, is a great way to look under the hood. This is a good time to bring in selection assessment. This involves a comprehensive process designed to align with the organization’s strategy, culture, and development initiatives. The person doing the assessment typically begins with a telephone meeting with key stakeholders to gain an understanding of the position requirements, strategy of the organization and culture in order to appropriately analyze for fit. The next step is to meet each potential candidate face‐to-face for an in‐depth assessment which may include role play, situation analysis and response, and other such tactics. Standardized tests and personality inventories are also used to provide normative data.

Once the process is complete, telephone feedback is typically provided to the hiring executive and the HR business partner. This feedback focuses on each candidate’s strengths, developmental needs, and potential limitations relative to the position in question. The end result is a written report that focuses on conceptual skills, emotional makeup, motivational factors, interpersonal skills, and leadership style.

On top of selection, the standard processes of background checks, while always important, become crucial if the organization is using some of the out‐of‐the‐box recruiting methods.

Doing these steps is just part of looking under the hood. Remember, reference checks are easier than ever, especially for the Gen Yers because their “stuff” is posted all over the Internet. The Boomers and many Gen Xers are a lot less likely to post their “stuff,” so you’ll need more traditional routes for their reference checks. Just don’t miss the “casual” references. “Casual” references are when you call a friend‐of‐a‐friend who knows the candidate or worked with them or knows someone who did. These are often very telling as the references people post on their résumés are obviously going to be good references. Okay, it’s time to make your (purchase) decision and hire your new leader, and regardless of the chosen demographic, the organization needs to be well‐prepared to onboard the new leader, but that’s a whole other topic.