Imagine that you are filling a vacant position by making either a lateral transfer or a promotion. You have advertised the vacancy throughout your organization, and have eight internal candidates. How can you choose the best candidate in the best way? Try this well tested process. It:
• Guarantees a good decision, i.e. a highly qualified candidate.
• Gives all the applicants feedback on their strengths and weaknesses.
• Clarifies to everybody what is required to do the job.
• Leaves all the applicants satisfied with the process, whether or not they were selected.
• Develops the company culture, by demonstrating good values.
• Ensures the person selected will be supported, i.e. it builds success into the position.
Begin by Announcing The Selection Process
Tell the candidates that you want them to be involved in the selection process. Schedule a meeting with the eight candidates and the people who would traditionally make the selection, e.g. the Superintendents, Department Manager, and HR manager. At the start of the meeting, describe the selection process, e.g. “We will ask you to develop the selection criteria for the job. Then we will ask you to secretly rank yourselves, and any of the other candidates that you know well, against your criteria. Then we will look at the results and decide what the next step should be.”
Agree On The Selection Criteria
First ask the candidates. Using a flip chart or whiteboard, go around the group and ask the candidates to brainstorm selection criteria, “What should be considered when judging applicants for the position. What qualities should the successful candidate have?” Allow one criteria from each person. Write down just what the person says. Number each item and do not allow discussion. Go around and around the group, until everyone is finished. (You will probably have between ten and twenty items.)
Now ask the managers, “Are there any criteria you would like to add? Any significantly different criteria that aren’t on the chart?” If they have any, add them to the list.
Ask the applicants to group similar items. Do this by starting with the first item and saying, “Are there any other items similar to this one?” Mark similar items with a color, symbol, or letter. Go to the next unmarked item and repeat the process. This step will generate discussion, and build a common understanding of the criteria. The list will now be reduced to between five and twelve criteria. Ask the group to give a descriptive word, or name, for each group of criteria. This will probably mean highlighting one or two words that are already in each criteria group.
Rank Order The Criteria
Now ask the applicants to rank order the grouped criteria. You might begin this by writing the new grouped criteria “titles” on a fresh sheet. “Which of these is the most important?” Allow discussion. It will help build consensus. Rewrite the criteria in the new rank order.
“Now we you have the criteria rank ordered let’s give each a percentage that will total 100%. What percentage, goes to the first? . . . . . and the second?” The total should be 100%. Again, allow discussion. You want consensus.
Now ask the managers, “Any comments on this list? Does it look OK to you? Can you go along with this as the basis for the selection?”
Prepare a Criteria/Candidates Matrix
Take a piece of notepaper. Write the ranked criteria in a wide column down the left side. Draw a horizontal line across the page separating each criterion. Draw narrow vertical columns to the right of the criteria, one for each candidate. Put candidates initials at the top of each narrow column. Write “Criteria” at the top of the wide criteria column. You now have a grid, or matrix, with criteria as rows, and candidates as columns. If any of the criteria have factual or answers, e.g.”EE Degree”, or “Years on the job.” ask each candidate to say what is the correct answer or number for their name. Now make a copy of this page for everyone in the room.
Rank Order The Candidates
Hand a copy to everyone in the room and say, “For the people you know well, rank order them, 1 high through 8 lowest, by how you see them on each of the criteria. Take your time. We will tally the results. This is a secret ranking. Your individual rankings will not be discussed. The tally will not necessarily be a decision. After we tally the results, we will all decide the next step.”
Make a separate tally for the applicants, and for the “management” group. Because people may not know everyone well enough to have ranked them on every item, you will have to decide how to fairly tally the results. This may take several minutes.
Take the two scores and draw each on the easel pad so everyone can see. Say, “Look at the results and see what you make of them. Take your time.” . . . “When you are ready I would like to hear from each of the applicants and after that, from each manager. Then we will have a general discussion.”
The Group Agrees On The Final Action
Perhaps one or two candidates are obvious leaders, or something else appears. Wherever the group seems to be headed, encourage them to discuss where to go with the results. There may be an obvious decision, they may wish to pass the results to managers to decide, or something else may emerge. You are seeking a consensus from everyone on an appropriate next step. This is somewhat like step four of the Four Step Decision Process.
Do a “Plus/Delta” on the meeting. Thank everyone for participating.
Getting the Customer Involved
If the customer for your team’s work is another person or another department you can ask their opinion on selection criteria. For example, in manufacturing the customer for Maintenance is Operations. At one Texas chemical plant the maintenance manager decided to ask the operators for their opinion on what was important in a maintenance supervisor. To the maintenance manager’s surprise the operators did not rank technical maintenance skills highly at all. What the operators valued was a person who could quickly bring together the right people to solve the problem. When the maintenance manager used this new criterion it caused the selection and promotion of the first female mechanic to supervisor. She was a great success in what until then had been an all male supervisor group.
cc 328 — © Barry Phegan, Ph.D.