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Tim Fulton

Employee selection. No two words frighten small business owners more
than these two.

Why is this ? Maybe it's because the selection process can be so
time consuming. Maybe it's because the process can be so costly.
Maybe it's because we are never quite sure we know how to select the
right person for the position.

I believe that the main reason so many small business owners and
managers dread the thought of hiring new personnel is that they have
made bad decisions in the past and the thought of duplicating such
decisions brings terror to their eyes.

Why is it that despite our good intentions, we still make bad
decisions in selecting new employees ?

The reason is simple. We usually base our decision on the wrong set
of information. This fact became very evident to me recently in
talking to a small business owner. Bill had just about sworn off
hiring any more new employees as a result of the horrible experiences
he had had recently in trying to fill several vacant positions.

Bill had owned this small retail business for five years and had
always struggled in hiring new employees. I asked Bill on what basis
he made a hiring decision. His response included such common factors
as appearance, communication skills, and past experience. He than
shared with me that his most important factor in hiring a new
employee was his ability to predict their future behavior and
performance in that particular position.

I was glad to hear that Bill used such a criteria for hiring. Experts
tell us predicting future performance is quite normal and a good
practice in the selection process.

I than asked Bill on what basis he was able to predict such future
performance. He responded that he would often times ask hypothetical
questions such as , "If you were getting ready to close the store and
a customer entered and demanded that you stay open for the next
thirty minutes while she browsed for a future purchase, what would
you do ?"
Bill also suggested that he tried to discover applicant's work
attitudes and moral values during the interview. That information, he
felt, was important in trying to predict future work habits.

Bill felt that despite getting great information asking such
questions, for some reason many of his new hires did not perform the
way he had imagined during the interview. In fact, several of his
newly hired employees turned out just the opposite of what he had
predicted during the selection process.

In talking to Bill, I also found out that he was a huge sports fan.
He loved college football and confided to me that he was known to
place a wager on one or two games a week. In fact, he bragged to me
that he had earned enough money last year from betting on football
games to pay for a recent week-long vacation to Florida for his

I asked Bill what he contributed his betting success to ?

He responded that he had become very good at predicting the outcomes
of games almost to the exact point spread. He was able to do this by
studying each team's past performance in close detail. He would watch
replays of their last games, he would scrutinize their statistics, he
would research how the teams had played under like circumstances in
past years.

In simple terms, Bill had created a science of predicting football
game outcomes by looking at past performance.

I asked Bill if it was possible to draw a parallel between predicting
winning football teams and predicting the future behavior of a
potential employee.

At first Bill had a confused look on his face. He was having a
difficult time correlating the process of picking football game
winners with the selection of productive employees. Slowly, a grin
emerged on his face as he realized the connection between the two

"Are you saying that I should pick my employees the same way that I
pick my football games ?", he asked.
"Absolutely." I responded.

All of a sudden a Bill experienced a huge awakening. He considered
that he would never bet on a football team just because the coach
talked of winning such a game. He would never pick a team to win just
because of their apparent work attitude or values. In picking his
teams, he predicted future performance based on past behavior under
similar circumstances. It had always worked. Why wouldn't it work in
selecting new

Of course it would.

Not only will it work for Bill, but it will work for any business,
large or small. Research has conclusively shown that the only way
that we can accurately predict an employee's future behavior is by
looking at their past behavior under similar circumstances.

Why is this so ? Because behavior can be measured, it can be
evaluated, and it can be changed. To the contrary, attitude is
difficult to measure, evaluate, or change. Which one would you want
to use to predict future performance ?

If an employee has a history of satisfying customers in similar
situations as your workplace would require, you can bet that that
same employee would continue at that same level of performance under
your supervision. Likewise, if an applicant has had negative
experiences in the past, you can rest assured that he or she will
repeat that behavior in a future position.

So the formula is simple: we select employees on the basis of
predicting their future performance as a result of their past
behavior under similar circumstances. This formula has been tested
many times in many different situations and has always provided the
best means to acquiring great employees.

I received a call from Bill last week. He had hired his first new
employee using this new philosophy and he was certain that this young
lady was going to be a star employee. In fact, in just a week's time
she was setting a new standard for outstanding customer service for
the other employees.

Bill was ecstatic. He couldn't wait to hire his next employee. He
also can't wait for football season to start. He was certain that
this would be a profitable season.

Tim Fulton is a nationally recognized small business consultant. He
has helped hundreds of entreprenuers start and grow their business
start-ups. He can be contacted at timfulton@....

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