How to Avoid Hiring Failures

A bad hiring choice can have a negative effect on your staff and business. Top among the reasons new hires fail are poor interpersonal skills and lack of motivation. Asking the right questions during the job interview can help you find out whether your applicants possess interpersonal skills and attitude that the job requires.

A study performed by Leadership IQ, a leadership training and research company, 46% of newly-hired employees will fail within 18 months, and sadly only 19% will be real wins for their employers. What’s causing such a high new hire failure rate? The answer lies in something that employers – particularly smaller employers – don’t always pay enough attention to: emotional intelligence.

The two biggest causes of failure, the study found, were inability to accept feedback (26%), and the inability to understand and manage emotions (23%). 17% lacked the motivation to do a good job.

Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, asserts that “Hiring failures can be prevented.” He states that managers  focus more of their interviewing energy on “coachability, emotional intelligence, motivation and temperament.”

In a Wall Street Journal/Harris Interactive business-school ranking, M.B.A. recruiters considered interpersonal skills one of the things they cared about most when hiring M.B.A.’s; in fact, elite schools like Harvard and Stanford University suffered in the rankings from students who projected the wrong attitude and were described with words like “sense of entitlement,” “ego problems,” and “arrogant.” Business schools were rated top-notch where both technical aptitude and agreeable attitudes were evident in their students.

Assessing technical skills during an employment interview is often given top priority and is relatively easy to determine and evaluate. Interpersonal skills are frequently considered of less importance and are more difficult to appraise. The reality is that technical skills can be learned, but interpersonal work attitudes are usually the hardest things to change about an individual on the job. At the same time, these attitudes have a great impact on an employee’s performance and growth in a job. Learning about an applicant’s history of interpersonal attitudes and behaviors is a true compass of how that person is likely to behave with bosses and coworkers in the future.

How to assess key interpersonal skills and motivation level during employment interview

One of the ways to determine whether or not a job applicant has a history of positive attitudes in the workplace is to ask questions specifically targeting the four areas that have been identified as affecting hiring success.

Coachability: Does the applicant have the ability to take direction and feedback, and make necessary work changes?

Sample Interview Questions:

  • Tell me something a past supervisor told you needed improvement, and what did you do about it?
  • Give a specific example of a policy you conformed to with which you did not agree.
  • Tell me about a situation at your job where you had to take on new tasks or roles.  How successful do you think you were?

Emotional Intelligence:  Does the applicant have the ability and maturity to perceive, assess and positively affect their own and coworkers’ emotions?

Sample Interview Questions:

  • Tell me about a conflict you’ve had with a coworker. What was the cause of the conflict, and were you able to do anything to alleviate it?
  • Describe a time at work when you successfully used tact and diplomacy.
  • How do you go about building good work relationships?

Motivation:  Does the applicant have the desire and drive to put forth an optimal level of effort in order to excel at their job and reach their full potential?

Sample Interview Questions:

  • What are your short and long-term career goals?
  • Give me an example of when you set a demanding work goal, and how you overcame obstacles to achieve it.
  • Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.

Temperament:  Is the applicant’s attitude and personality a good match to the prospective job and work environment?

There is no such thing as one perfect personality when it comes to jobs in general. What is important is how well an individual’s personality matches the requirements of a particular job.

One way to determine this is to first conduct a job analysis audit. This means compiling objective data of what is required to be successful at a position. This may include particular styles and levels of the following:  problem-solving and decision-making; communication, interpersonal and leadership skills; motivation; planning and organization; team building and the ability to influence others.

Sample Interview Questions:

  • If the position requires a team player: Would you rather work on your own or on a team?
  • If the position requires a certain managerial style: Describe you managerial style, and what traits you feel are most important when supervising others.
  • If the position requires exemplary organization skills: What role do you think organization plays or should play in this position?

Related: Questions You Should and Shouldn’t Ask Job Applicants

When it comes to assessing a job applicant, interviewers should keep in mind to look at “the whole person.” This includes appearance, body language, professionalism, education, skills, experience, attitude, self-motivation, and interpersonal skills. And if you want to help ensure hiring success, seek out applicants who have a history of achieving positive work relationships and have the drive to attain company and personal-best goals.


Need more help in choosing the right employees for the job? 

The Business Know-How® guide, How To Find and Hire The Right Employees for Your Small Business gives you a step-by-step method to locate, choose and hire the right job candidates. It contains information on how to analyze job openings and write good job descriptions, a list of more than 100 questions to ask candidates, including questions to help determine their soft skills and motivation, and much more. The book is available in downloadable PDF format, or if you prefer, as an ebook from Kindle.

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