Harvard Business Review is Wrong About Hiring

A recent HBR article, Experience Does Not Predict a New Hire’s Success, is misleading at best and dead wrong at worst. It’s based on flawed research from Florida State University. Unfortunately the Harvard Business Review author just interviewed the FSU researchers and obviously did not have the business experience to probe the researchers enough to conclude what should have been the title of the article: Experience alone does not predict performance, but a verified pattern of high performance is an outstanding predictor of high performance in the next job.

You can read the full HBR article here.

The short version is this, with quotes from HBR and my opinions:

“Chad H. Van Iddekinge of Florida State University and his colleagues reviewed 81 studies to investigate the link between an employee’s prior work experience and his or her performance in a new organization. They found no significant correlation between the two. Even when people had completed tasks, held roles, or worked in functions or industries relevant to their current ones, it did not translate into better performance. The conclusion: Experience doesn’t predict a new hire’s success.”

FSU: “The (jobs) most represented were protective services (police, firefighters) and then sales and customer service jobs. Study participants mainly worked in frontline positions, though some were managers. None were at the senior executive level.” Hmm… Topgrading most dramatically improves company performance when hiring produces almost all A Players at the executive level. The FSU researchers or the HBR author might have mentioned that if you are hiring a Chief Financial Officer, having zero experience might result in poor performance.

FSU: “One possibility (why experience doesn’t predict success) is that many measures of experience are pretty basic: the number of jobs you’ve held, tenure at your previous employers, years of total work, whether or not you’ve previously worked in a similar role. Those metrics tell us whether a candidate possesses experience but not about the quality or significance of that experience, which would probably have more bearing on performance.

“One of the basic premises in our area of research is that past behavior predicts future behavior. But prehire experience isn’t a measure of behavior. The person might have failed or stagnated in previous jobs. So we should take experience into account but maybe do a better job of delving into prehire performance.”

Ya think? “Maybe” do a better job of delving into prehire performance?

Topgrading professionals have conducted tens of thousands of executive interviews, and we know from experience that extrapolation from experience is the BEST predictor. But as the article pointed out, studies did not include executives.

By the way, high levels of previous performance are necessary for us to recommend hiring people, but many other factors are important too, like whether a high performing candidate would fit with the organization culture.

Thousands of Topgraders know this: Your chances of hiring high performers, at all levels of an organization, are very good when you 1) motivate candidates to tell the whole truth, which Topgrading does, 2) conduct chronological interviews and discern patterns of HIGH performance, which Topgrading does, and 3) get rave reviews from managers they reported to (and with no phone tag because the candidates arrange the calls), which Topgrading does.

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