The Vetting Dilemma: Entry Level & Mid-Level Hires

As an active recruiter specializing in the tire industry, my team and I have relied on the traditional ways to find and vet candidates for years. Most of our client partners are desirable companies for employees and hire qualified candidates in the tire industry through us and other pipelines. But how heavily are they being vetted? There is still a void and high-turnover within many corporation’s 1-5 year experienced hires.

In the last year alone, I have heard stories of candidates quitting on their first day of work, candidates misleading employers about their experience and skill-set in their 1-2 hour interviews and still receiving offers, candidates being polished in interviews and then lacking the soft skills required to execute on Day One.

How do you separate “interview rockstars” from high-performers?

The answer is companies have to actually vet candidates. Most companies deeply vet for their executive positions (C-Suite, Senior VPs, etc.), but don’t apply that same level of scrutiny to arguably their most important employees: professionals with 1-5 years experience. The operational engine room of the business.

Entry and mid-level hires are expensive and require a lot of resources to train and support. A bad new hire in the tire industry could cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars until they are “managed out of the business”.

The Problem: Careless Vetting and a Shrinking Talent Pool

How does your process work? Resumes, interviews, and references... sound familiar? In all of my years doing this, I have never seen a resume that tells me a candidate's weaknesses, and I have never heard of a bad reference. Moreover, almost any candidate can be coached to shine for a one-hour interview. I would barely even classify these efforts as “vetting”; they are practically formalities.

To make matters worse, our industry is facing other issues. We are all aware of the tire talent shortage. Let's face the facts: tires aren’t very sexy and millennials today want to work at a startup or create iPhone applications. We have an aging employee base that struggles to attract or relate to millennials. As the talent pool shrinks, every company is fighting over the same talent. Many firms we work with seem hesitant to hire from outside the industry: meanwhile, we see CEOs jumping from industry to industry (Pepsi to Apple, Taco Bell to Chipotle, private equity to GM, etc.). So why are we so scared to take chances on a hire that is three years out of college?

There is one more issue in the hiring space: lack of patience. Companies don’t take their time to hire the right candidates. This creates a vicious turnover cycle that results in depreciating human capital returns. Put simply, putting band-aids on the holes in the dam instead of patching them. Six months later when that band-aid falls off, you run to a recruiter asking for a new band-aid to stick back on. We need to fix the dam!

The Solution: Proper Planning And Proper Vetting

What is proper vetting? There are some steps companies can implement into their interview and vetting process today:

  1. Focus more on candidates’ soft skills (learning agility, communication, collaboration), rather the hard skills. Dive into their critical thinking skills. Ask them how or why they arrived at their solution. Not just if they got the answer right.

  2. Fill your bench with diversity both from inside the industry and outside. High performers are high performers! If they have the right soft skills (i.e., learning agility), they will learn quickly and thrive in any task you give them.

  3. Don’t ask about hard skills, test for them. Don’t ask a candidate if they can do a VLOOKUP in Excel or if they are good with pivot tables; test them on it.

  4. Spend time to figure out if candidates are the right cultural fit for your organization. This is impossible to understand by reading a resume and conducting one or two hours of interviews. You have to put the time in.

The traditional hiring process is still limited. There is only so much we can learn about a person from a short interview and some lessons. Before NFL teams select players from the annual draft, they don't just read a stat-sheet and ask the players’ college coaches how well they performed. They watch dozens of hours of film on each player and hold the annual NFL Combine to confirm that prospects have the attributes that they are looking for. These teams then invite them to pre-season tryouts, weening down their roster from 90 players to 53 by the start of the regular season. But in our industry, we choose to search through stacks of hundreds of dishonest resumes hoping to do 3 interviews and hire the best of the 3.

How Can We Apply the NFL’s Methodology to the Tire Industry?

You can make interviews longer and more intense - almost more like a short internship than a long interview. This would give better insights into candidates skillsets, cultural suitability, and soft-skills. This could sound expensive and complicated for companies to go through such vigorous NFL style reviewing.  It doesn't need to be so complicated and it's worth the investment to get the right talent in the long-run.

Recruiters and interviewers also need to stress each candidate’s critical thinking and learning agility in interviews. Give the candidate a problem that doesn’t have a way they can easily answer with their given experience or knowledge. For example ask someone with no tire experience, “How many passenger car tires are there on the road in the USA today?” or “How would you explain a vending machine to someone who has never seen one before?”. With these questions, you are not only testing to see if they say the right answer (since there isn’t one) but really you are getting their ability to critically think. Was their answer logical? Did they apply automation or innovation? Did the candidate thrive or crumble when given an obscure task?

Get to Know the Person Behind the Resume

In my experience, the reason that the above steps in the vetting process do not happen is that the internal recruiting teams in our industry are under immense pressure to make quick hires. Therefore, they only hire people based on their resume, interview, and references. It's like choosing a spouse based solely on looks at a speed-dating event - it may work out but it probably won’t, because you didn’t take the time to know the person.

Tire Talent takes the time. Give us a call, we'd love to get to know you.