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7 Ways To Predict A Good IT Project Hire. But First, Ignore Education

Predicting job performance is vital, after all, that’s the whole point of recruitment.

You want to hire someone who will stick around! So, you read what a candidate has written in their CV and you try to make an objective assessment, creating an “identikit” picture in your head based on what they’ve written. That can be hard when, as a hirer or a recruiter, you are bombarded with a lot of, often quite subjective, data about a candidate.

I have been thinking about this lately after I had an interesting conversation with a prospective new client about how they select the right person to hire and what they look for first and foremost. The usual criteria were reeled off, employment history, depth of experience (scale of projects handled), how well the candidate would match the culture of the business, and so on. Scanning over the notes, I remarked that education was nowhere on the list.

“Educational achievements and performance in exams never correlate with on the job delivery,” I was told.

Interesting. Take a look at job ads and most specify a level of required education. Also, fairly recent an “eye-tracking” study (by The Ladders) showed that “education” gets a disproportionate amount of attention from professional recruiters when they scan a CV. Of six data points demonstrated by a heat map of where a recruiter’s gaze lands on a CV, education was among, if not, the hottest area.

Yet, this employer dismisses it. He’s not alone.

According to a rather grandly titled study, “The Validity and Utility of Selection Methods in Personnel Psychology: Practical and Theoretical Implications of 100 Years of Research Findings”, education performance is a poor indicator of job performance. Put in numbers, education provides only 1% predictive ability, the study says. 1%!

So if education is a bad indicator of future on the job performance, what should you look for?

Cognitive Ability and psychological testing of candidates can help. US workforce assessments company Predictive Index, claims that measuring cognitive ability (together with behavioural assessments and structured interviews) delivers a predictive ability of a candidate’s job performance of 58%!

While that is better than the 1% your candidate’s education history might provide there is still a lot of room to make a bad hire based on the data. We are currently investing a lot of time and energy in this field but would expect a greater predictive ability as a return on that investment. Watch this space …

In the meantime … here are 7 ways that you can boost your powers of prediction.

1 – Specialist Recruiters For Specialist Roles. 


The rule of thumb is the more specialist a role is, the more you need a specialist recruitment partner to fill it. General recruiters are brilliant at filling general roles but if you need an IT Project Manager or a Business Analyst you need a recruiter with a track record of placing such talent.

2 – Proper Role Understanding. 


We put a massive effort into this. It’s crucial that you know exactly what you need. At Access Talent we have subject matter experts who know most IT and IT Project roles. More than that though, we get to know what you (uniquely) want out of the hire before entering the market on your behalf. One firm’s needs from hiring a PM might be different from the next, it’s crucial to know what yours are before you even place your job ad.

3 – Subject Matter Expertise. 


Interviews should be carried out by Subject Matter Experts. It’s logical! If you have an IT Project management vacancy and you want to hire someone who will fit the role and stick around, ensure that you have someone who has performed that role involved in the interview process.

4 – Get Access To Top-Notch CVs. 


We meet every single candidate before we agree to represent them, to make sure we get to know them as people before delving into their experience and formal qualifications. Then we keep things simple for you by being extremely selective, we do this by peer profiling every candidate before we put them in front of you. That means candidates are profiled by subject matter experts, people who performed the IT or project role you are looking to fill. We also undertake Skype interviews, it’s amazing how much more you get from a candidate in this exclusive environment than, for example, a two-minute telephone call.

5 – Shared risk. 


When you use a recruitment partner ask them how much of the risk they are willing to share? Commercially, we believe in shared risk. What does that mean? Well, for us it means no retainers and no upfront costs and fees that are spread over the first nine months of the candidate’s employment. If the candidate leaves, the payments stop. No questions asked. Hiring new people is a risk. Your partner needs to understand that and share that risk with you.

6 – Cultural Fit. 


We put a lot of work into this. We get to know your company culture and then we go out to market on your behalf to source, not just the best people, but the best fit. By this point we are acting like an extension of your business, handling the initial response in the way you would, treating all candidates with respect and taking great care to protect your reputation. We write bespoke adverts focused on candidate attraction to match your business or company culture, selling your business as a great place to work.

7 – Competency Profiling.


Our assessment process is unusually robust. We carry out a competency profile on each candidate which tells you much more than you would typically know, including how well they will fit into your company and how you can get the best out of them. It’s a rare level of insight in today’s fast-paced environment!

So, rather than sticking to the false belief that education (and other subjective factors) may be good predictors of job performance, get a clearer idea by using objective, job or role-related, data points. Specialist and strategic roles deserve the greatest possible attention and, in increasingly competitive times, you need the greatest possible return on your recruitment investment.

 Find out more about Access Talent’s recruitment services

About Adam Morrell

Adam Morrell CIPD, PRINCE II, is Head of Recruitment Operations at Access Talent Ltd. Adam is currently responsible for leading Programme and Project talent acquisition services. Access Talent specialise in IT recruitment across the UK, combining recruitment search capabilities, with the selection skills of Project Management experts to provide only the very best candidates and using a simple, low risk flexible commercial model. www.accesstalent.co.uk

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