How Are You Responding to Candidate Expectations?

Especially in non-managerial hiring, the perceptions and expectations of job candidates are a major element of job fit and a major factor affecting turnover. In part this is attributable to age, because there is a direct correlation between age and job mobility.

With workers under the age of 26 at any point in time about 38% say they are likely to pull up stakes. In the next age bracket, up to age 35, the likelihood comes down a notch to 35%, and it falls a bit further to 31% with those under age 45.

But what really seems to fan the flames of movement is what we call mis-matched expectations. This occurs when a new employee perceives that the work experience does not meet the career or job expectations the person brought to the new role. Feeling frustrated, the person quits. It seems to be a very common happening today with younger workers.

The hiring process has been referred to as a psychological contract. Regardless of what may actually be said or written, each party develops expectations of what the other will deliver. The less that is explicit and the more that is assumed during the hiring process, the more quickly the contract will be a source of tension and dissatisfaction.

A lot has been written about the psychological contract of employment and the expectations that people bring to new roles. Judging from articles written over the past twenty-five years on the subject, we certainly know enough about it to realize that we can reduce turnover that is associated with mis-matched expectations if we conduct better interviews.

There are at least six primary areas where expectations seem to be critical. Three of the more apparent ones are expectations concerning the organization’s goals and set of values, expectations concerning how interesting the work will be, and expectations about how much conformity to the organization’s image the employer will require.

In studying hundreds of organizations, we have seen that those who hire effectively address these expectations directly and use them to help differentiate between people who will probably be quick to depart and those who will be likely to persevere. In organizations with less stability and with higher turnover we find that interviewers tend to oversell rather than deal with job realties, and in other instances critical attributes of the work experience are glossed over or even ignored for fear they will be barriers to hiring.

The competencies associated with lower level and entry level jobs are sufficiently broad in most cases as to accommodate more diversity among personalities, so when turnover is high, it generally indicates that factors other than pure performance are in play. In examining individual companies, we do in fact find that more people exit these positions within three months because of discontent than because of failure to perform. Turnover directly correlates with training expenses, so reducing it has a very healthy effect on expense control and profit margin.

The solution involves both analysis and developing appropriate interview questions. In particular, those doing the hiring at this level need to evaluate their positions through the eyes of prospective candidates. For example, in reviewing the goals and values, they need to consider questions like these:

• Does the organization have clear and identifiable goals that drive all the jobs in the organization?

• Are there particular values, which every employee is expected to buy into and personally assume?

• Does the specific job require the employee to take on values or pursue goals that might be contentious or difficult to accept?

• Is it appropriate to expect people at this level to align with these goals and values?

• What are the consequences if an employee does not fully align?

• What can we ask to recognize those who can from those who can’t?

It is important to analyze all the areas of potential mis-match in a similar way, and develop revealing interview questions.

To improve performance, to reduce unnecessary turnover, and to reduce costs, measuring and qualifying candidate perceptions and beliefs is every bit as important as assessing the other personality dimensions that are more visible. Every good interview should contain a series of questions that are intended to uncover the personal beliefs and expectations that will eventually lead to either job satisfaction or job discontent.

If your candidate evaluation process is lacking this valuable component, we can help with our OMS Behavioral Interviewing workshop. During this program participants learn to evaluate their organizations and develop critical questions to uncover candidate expectations and compare them to workplace realities.

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