Does The Source of Hire Matter?

Hint: It's Doubtful

Where do the best performers come from?  Is there a particular type of candidate that is more often successful and more often regarded as a high performer than other types?

Many writers and speakers on recruiting make a case for hiring only “A” players. In most cases, an “A” player is associated with being a passive job seeker –someone who is currently employed and presumably somewhat happy in his current position and company. All other candidates are considered less desirable.

They believe that happily employed people are most likely to be the best performers.  Some of the writers even make the case that those people who are the most difficult to convince to leave their current employer are the best of the best. According to their arguments, anyone unhappy in their current organization or with their boss and who starts to look for a job is less desirable than someone who is not looking.  Similarly, a person laid off because of his or her organizations’ economic performance or because of a decision to exit a particular product line or service or off-shoring to lower costs; would be much less desirable.  These people would argue that a really excellent employee would have been retained almost no matter what the circumstances.

Anecdotes abound amongst recruiters and hiring managers on what types of candidates make the best hire or employee.  According to many pundits, the table below gives a listing of candidates ranked in terms of descending quality.  Not everyone will rank these exactly the same, but for the most part, this represents how various candidates would be ranked.

But, the bottom line has to be the answer to this question: Does the source of the candidate really matter?

I am not convinced that the source the candidate comes from will consistently deliver any difference in performance.

Here are some of the reasons supporters give for either position.

Reasons FOR using a ranking of candidates by source:

1. Some make the case that statistically, you are more likely to find a good candidate among the employed than the unemployed because it is very difficult to know why someone left their previous employer.  Falsification of reasons is widespread, and most organizations will not release any specific information about why someone left.  Even in cases where the parting was not completely voluntary, the employee may negotiate an agreement with the employer to state that she left voluntarily.

3. Common sense says that employees who can navigate the corporate political environment and survive are better than those who cannot.

2. Even if the list is not absolutely accurate, experience shows that it is right more often than not. Case after case shows that.

Reason AGAINST using this type of ranking:

1. We see what we want to see.  When we make a good hire, we only notice those that fit our preconceived notions of quality.  If an active or unemployed candidate gets hired and is good, we tend to overlook and underreport it.

2. Why someone left an employer may speak as much or more about the quality of the employer than that of the employee.  Many very bad employers literally drive away good people. It is really the very best who choose to leave bad employers or bad bosses.

3. Frequently those who avoid layoffs or who are considered great employees may simply be politically astute and clever at keeping in the good graces of their boss, even when disagreeing would be best for the organization.  We all know the “PC” employees who never get laid off and, despite their performance, get good raises.

Whatever you or your hiring managers believe about ranking candidates, there are tools to really improve your chances of making a good selection. These tools include those that screen candidates based on skills and general ability. Accurate job previews and good information provided to candidates using chatbots or well-done videos, along with assessment tests, internships, and probationary employment terms, can all help.

By focusing on identifying employees who have the competencies and skills the organization needs, recruiters can expand their pool of candidates and avoid the prejudiced and highly suspect way of selecting candidates by source.  I hate to even think about how many wonderful potential employees have been lost because of this shoddy kind of thinking and how many organizations perform poorly because they really don’t have the “A” players.

Quantitative data based on solid assessments should be the foundation of your recruiting practice, not the voodoo and anecdotes of the past.

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