2018-12-24-hrexaminer-photo-img-cola-wars-pepsi-coke-mary-faulkner-article-cc2-via-flickr-by-Sh4rp_i-85638163-N00-7171046055-7171046055-33a167b846-o-544x363px.jpg

“I suspect most of us have experienced the challenge of a new hire who interviewed well but was a train wreck once they got into the job. Unfortunately, many organizations’ hiring processes are set up to enable this outcome. Think about it – an interview is basically a taste test.” – Mary FaulknerPhoto: “RC Coke Pepsi” by Sh4rp_i is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Back in the early ‘80s, the Cola Wars were in full swing.

You probably remember the commercials – two glasses of soda in front of a mystery box hiding the name of what the unsuspecting person was drinking. And lo and behold, the winner of the taste test was revealed – it was Pepsi! Shock and surprise follows as the person regrets every life choice that led them to believe they preferred Coke.

The Pepsi Challenge was a core component of Pepsi’s attempt to unseat Coke as the top cola in the United States. They wanted a public way to “prove” their cola was preferred, and based on the taste tests, it would seem that Pepsi won. (For a more in depth review of the Pepsi Challenge, check out Malcom Gladwell’s Blink or this article.)

Interestingly enough, the sales figures didn’t seem to support it. Coke was still the cola of choice when it came to what people wanted to have in their homes to drink in the long term. That’s because Pepsi was formulated to win the taste test – Coke was formulated to win the consume test. Or, in another way to look at it, Pepsi was the hare and Coke was the tortoise.

photo of Mary Faulkner, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor.

Mary Faulkner, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board Contributor.


So, what does all of this have to do with talent?

I suspect most of us have experienced the challenge of a new hire who interviewed well but was a train wreck once they got into the job. Unfortunately, many organizations’ hiring processes are set up to enable this outcome. Think about it – an interview is basically a taste test. Here’s a line of people to try out for a small amount of time; which one do you like the most? Who do you respond to positively? MAKE A QUICK DECISION BECAUSE YOU’RE GOING TO LOSE THAT CANDIDATE BECAUSE OF THE MARKET!!!!

The system is (typically) designed to favor the candidate who makes an immediate positive/fun impression. This is driven by the well-intentioned-yet-misdirected desire for “culture fit” which tends to push the interviewer to select the person they like rather than the person who is best for the job. It’s nice when that person is one and the same, but it’s not always the case.

The trick is to look beyond the taste test and find a way to determine whether you’ll want to keep this person around for the long-haul. This isn’t always easy – it takes up front work and a time commitment that not all organizations and industries feel they can make. And sometimes organizations skip important steps in the process when it’s an internal candidate because they make assumptions about that person, which can hurt both the selection process and the internal candidate.

Here are some suggestions on how you can move your organization away from a taste test process:

  • Really define what the job is and what it requires. Too often, organizations roll out the same tired job postings and change what that job actually is once someone is hired. Know what you need and what qualities and skills are needed to do that job well BEFORE you post it.
  • Embrace the structured interview. I know, I know…you’ve all hired people for years and you just “know it” when you talk to the right person. Guess what – your instincts aren’t exactly the best way to decide. Structured interviews force you to create questions that will get to the qualities and skills the job requires and help facilitate a better conversation than, “Tell me about yourself.”
  • Consider pre-hire assessment centers. This is not a pre-hire personality assessment (please don’t use those!). A pre-hire assessment center is a series of simulations that place the candidate in situations they will face on the job. They serve two purposes – you get to see how the candidate actually performs in real world situations, and the candidate gets a realistic job preview. If you can’t do a full assessment, build in some demonstration of skills – presentations, writing, spot and arc welding – whatever the job entails.

Above all, moving away from the talent taste test requires a serious shift in how organizations think about hiring. Remember the last time you tried to make a change to the hiring process? Yeah, this is like THAT…times a thousand. But it pays off in the end.

No matter what the job market looks like, having a solid foundation for your recruiting and selection process will help your organization make the best hiring decisions.

Remember – hire Coke, not Pepsi.
 



 
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