Employers want to hire the right person for the job in the expectation that person will contribute substantially to the continuing growth of their organization. But such expectations are often dashed because of the way employers and candidates conduct themselves in the job search/hiring situation.

Many employers make bad hiring decisions because they are poor judges of what they really should be looking for in a candidate: predictable patterns of behavior rather than individuals associated with particular duties, responsibilities, and knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs).

Savvy employers know they have made hiring mistakes in the past. Indeed, hiring errors can be costly to an organization in terms of both direct replacement costs and lost opportunity costs. Such errors also affect the morale of others whose work is disrupted by such personnel changes.

In fact, turnover and retention studies report that it costs an employer anywhere from 100 to 200 percent of an employee's base salary to replace him/her. This means a $50,000-a-year employee can cost $100,000 or more to replace. Few employers can sustain such high replacement costs by repeating a pattern of bad hiring decisions.

As a result, many of them have changed the way they initially screen resumes, test candidates, conduct interviews, and extend offers. They increasingly look for more predictable behavioral clues in candidates by doing the following:
  1. Scrutinize resumes more closely for patterns of accomplishments and behavior. More and more employers scan resumes, use resume databases, and screen resumes by keywords that indicate accomplishments and patterns of behavior. Make sure your resume is behavior-based.

  2. Subject more and more candidates to achievement and psychological tests, behavioral profiling, and drug testing. These screening tests are often administered immediately before a candidate interviews for a position. The results may eliminate a candidate from the interview, or they may be used during the job interview for asking probing questions about an individual's behavior or psychological predispositions. As a job candidate, you need to look for positions that best fit your particular psychological and behavioral profile.

  3. Conduct more and more interviews with a single candidate. Rather than go to two or three interviews with a single employer, you can expect to encounter situations where you may go to five, six, or seven interviews, each being a new type of interview (one-on-one, sequential, serial, panel, group) and involving a different number and level of participants. If done right, each of these interviews may tell an employer something new about your behavior and provide important insights into your potential "fit" with the organization.

  4. Scrutinize references more carefully by asking probing behavioral questions of previous employers. Expect employers to ask your previous employer such questions as these:
  • What were her three most important achievements during the past two years?
  • Can you give me an example of how he took initiative in solving a major problem?
  • What were some of her major weaknesses that she managed to correct?
  • Can you give me an example of how she worked with her team members in meeting project deadlines?
  • What five words would you use to predict her future performance?
  • If you hired him again, what two changes would you like to see him make?

    In other words, more and more employers are taking reference checks seriously. They know they can gain valuable insights into a candidate's behavior - but only if they go beyond the superficial and ask the right behavioral questions.
  1. Negotiate lengthier probationary periods in order to see if the new hire indeed works out according to expectations. The true test of whether or not a candidate is a good fit is on-the-job performance. Expect employers to build in three- and six- month probationary periods in order to thoroughly review your performance prior to accepting you as a permanent employee. It's during that period when employers get to see the "real you" at work and identify what should be your long-term motivated patterns of work behavior.
In today's competitive economy, few employers can afford making hiring mistakes. They increasingly seek good indicators of employee behavior. Therefore, it's incumbent upon you to meet and hopefully exceed their expectations by starting with a savvy resume that is rich in behavioral content.

SOURCE: Adapted from Ron and Caryl Krannich, The Savvy Resume Writer: The Behavioral Advantage (Manassas Park, VA: Impact Publications, 2000), pp. 47-51. All rights reserved.