Measuring Up

Measuring Up

The bad news in the employment market is that the current national unemployment rate is approaching nine percent. And, it may get worse.

You may not know that during the Clinton administration the federal government changed the reporting rules that resulted in making the unemployment rate look much lower than it actually is. They eliminated counting of over five million “discouraged” workers (those unemployed for more than a year who are willing and able to work, but gave up looking because there were no jobs). They also reduced the monthly household survey (includes farm workers, self-employed, and workers in private homes) from a sample of 60,000 to 50,000. Before the Bush administration took over they conveniently moved the household sample back to 60,000. If you also add back in the discouraged workers the unemployment rate today would be somewhere around 12.5 percent.

The good news is that a lot of really good and qualified workers are looking for work. Two years ago the layoffs started with the “C” players. Those who were mostly just filling slots, but whose contribution was at best questionable and who may have been in positions far beyond their abilities. The second wave of layoffs were the “B” players. Those whose contributions were significant, but for some reason they didn’t rise to the level of outstanding. For the last few months as businesses completely fail, many “A” players are finding themselves looking for jobs. This presents an opportunity to companies ready to hire or looking to improve the quality of their workforce.

The bad news is that with so many looking for jobs, most of which are completely unqualified, businesses are faced with the daunting task of wading through hundreds of applicants for a single position. Only two years ago an employment ad might generate only a few responses. Today that same ad might generate hundreds of responses. Using a professional HR consultant might help your business design better ads that eliminate many of the responses. A professional can also help design efficient processes for weeding through the applications and narrowing down the qualified candidates before any calls are actually made or interviews commence.

Hiring the right people is a key to business success. The hiring decision should consist of three equal parts including interviewing, reference checking, and assessments. Once again, a good HR consultant can help your business design an interviewing process that is meaningful and will help avoid hiring just because “I like him” or “she impressed me.” We need raw facts and data that a professional interview can provide and then we have to be determined to avoid the emotional hire and use the data to compare a candidate’s true qualifications against the needs of the job. Then, always require and call the references. Design probing questions that will enlist true opinions.

There are also hiring tools that, when used effectively, take much of the guesswork out of the process. Over the past few years I have worked with our local HR consulting company to design a suite of assessments and then train our managers on their application and evaluation during the hiring process. We even use certain products for employee coaching and management development. Products like “Interviewing Insights,” a DISC assessment by TTI Success Insights, is very helpful for hiring salespeople and managers. We use “Forecaster Tests” by Mercer Systems to benchmark positions like accounting, project managers, and customer service. We have three or four of our best people take the assessment from which a composite benchmark is created, allowing us to measure candidates against what we have determined is required for success in the job.

Recently we have added a pre-interview assessment called “Dependability Forecaster” by Mercer Systems, which measures four important attitudes including work ethic, acting before thinking, potential for theft/stealing, and possible substance abuse. “Workplace Motivators” by TTI Success Insights measures what motivates a person to succeed. For instance we have learned that a successful sales person needs to test as a “high utilitarian.” This indicates a person’s interest in money and what is useful. This type of person is thoroughly practical. They are unlikely to waste time on unproductive activities. In other words they understand ROI.

Mike Bradley ( is president of Safeguard Security and Communications, a security and communication systems integrator in Phoenix, AZ. Bradley is a past president and director on the board of the NSCA.