Why Some People Almost Always Hire the Right Person

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This year, in preparing to go to "cottage country" for my summer vacation, I brought our vehicle in for servicing (which included an oil change) to make certain we're all set for the trip.

It's been a few years since I dealt with this service center. When I got my bill and paid it, I only checked the total because in the past, they've always been very good to me and never performed work that I didn't authorize. I had a pleasant surprise when I initially looked at the bill because it was about $40 cheaper than I had estimated.

But that "pleasant surprise" didn't last long. Once I got home, I looked the bill over in more detail. That's when I saw that I had not been charged for the oil filter. Since the service center is only a few blocks away, I drove down there to discuss the bill with them. When I queried about the lack of an oil filter on the bill, they apologized and said they forgot to change the oil.

When I look back on that experience, it strikes me that this is a good example of how important "Conscientiousness" is to performance in virtually any job.

It also shows what an impact it has on performance. If only the person servicing my vehicle had been more detail oriented, organized and more of a planner, the oil change would have been done properly.

Now I'm not sure that being proactive or not had any bearing on this job, but if he decided to leave everything to the last minute and rushed through the job, that would definitely have been a contributing factor.

In case you haven't guessed yet, the single best predictor of many aspects of job and performance training is  the personality characteristic:


1. Here's why it's so important

Conscientiousness measures if the individual is detail oriented or not, organized or disorganized, a planner or is spontaneous and whether he/she is proactive or a procrastinator.

Combining these characteristics in one form or another tells you about the person's self-discipline, carefulness, thoroughness, organization, and deliberation (the tendency to think carefully before acting).

These are all characteristics that employers and franchisors want in their employees or franchisees. I'll grant you that some of these characteristics are more important than others depending on the job, but in every job it's important to to rate high on at least one of these characteristics.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, people low on Conscientiousness tend to be more disorganized, don't care about details, dislike planning and will only tackle tasks when it's absolutely necessary.

It's these differences that make Conscientiousness effective in determining performance in so many jobs.

2. Improving on a good thing

No matter how good something is, it's always possible to improve on it.

As I've mentioned before, there have been countless studies over the years that show that Conscientiousness alone has a significant relationship with performance in most jobs. It turns out though that by pairing the ratings of Conscientiousness and Cognitive Ability it is possible to improve the odds of predicting performance.

Let's explore Cognitive Ability a little.

Cognitive Ability, also known as "General Mental Ability", measures "Thought Processes" and "information Processing". In other words, the mental skills necessary for a successful life. 

A lot of research has shown that Cognitive Ability without measuring job specific needs has only a weak to moderate relationship to job performance across a variety of jobs.

For instance, i.e. if job needs concentration, then it's important to avoid applicants that have short attention spans.

Or, in the case of someone working with numbers, you would need a different type of cognitive ability from someone that works almost exclusively with words.

Simple measures of general cognitive ability are thought to account for about 20-25% of the variance in job performance (Schmidt & Hunter, 1998). If a job is more complex and the cognitive ability being measured is job specific, the figure is likely higher.

Here's why Conscientiousness and Cognitive ability work so well together:

Someone can have very high levels of Conscientiousness, but unless they also have the right mental skills (Cognitive Ability) for a particular job, the chances of being successful are slim.

The same applies in reverse with one major difference. Cognitive Ability is trainable. Conscientiousness is not.

Therefore, if you have the time and resouces available, in all cases it's far better to look for people with high Conscientiousness levels. You could look at Cognitive Ability as a "nice-to-have" while Conscientiousness is the "must-have" part of the selection decision.

Summing up

Conscientiousness has the greatest relationship to performance of any other single personality characteristic. It's the "must-have" factor in selecting franchisees and employees.

1. Cognitive Ability is the "nice-to-have" aspect if you can afford the time and resources of training the individual.

2. Combining Conscientiousness and Cognitive Ability may be more predictive in some jobs but not in others.

If you want to know more about how to effectively test your pre-hires, current staff or prospective franchisees for their conscientiousness level, connect with me on LinkedIn and let's talk.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Fred Berni published on October 28, 2013 12:44 PM.

How to Be an Island of Excellence was the previous entry in this blog.

Do You Make These 2 Costly Mistakes When Interviewing? is the next entry in this blog.

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