Hiring Best Practices

Step 1: Reviewing Resumes

Plum as a pre-employment assessment tool, has already identified the best and brightest in your applicant pool. Now, you need to answer one question: "Who are the least capable candidates on the shortlist?" It is very easy to get excited about a candidate for one reason or another: don't. There will be plenty of time for that later. It is far too early in the hiring process to start making emotional decisions. At this stage using your 'gut', 'spidey senses' or having a 'good feeling' is a statistical equivalent to flipping a coin.

Focus on job readiness. Plum screens for the best predictors: intelligence and work ethic. It is safe to assume each has a very high capacity to learn on the job, and if given enough time they could learn to do just about anything. Of course, short-term performance (the first 3 months) will largely be determined by a candidate's ability to hit the ground running. Candidates that have already mastered the tools needed for the position and completed similar projects will transition into the job quickly; their contributions will likely be felt in weeks, not months. Higher levels of openness reliably predict that a candidate will learn faster than others.

Best practice: Use a consistent rubric. Focus on enumerating the facts. A simple, effective, and fast technique is a 3 point rating system for three basic questions. The following takes no more than 5 minutes per applicant.

Do they have the _________ needed to be job-ready?



1 2 3


1 2 3


1 2 3
Total __ out of 9-points

NO They have no education in the subject, no experience, and no skills.
YES They have a degree, have worked in the field before, and have used the tools.
ABSOLUTELY They have studied this exact subject before, have done exactly what the job demands, and have mastered all the tools and skills needed.

The goal of this is to encapsulate a common standard so it is easy to compare and measure how the different candidates stack up.

Wrong: Ethan is "the PhD from MIT", and Molly is "the one from New York"

Correct: Ethan is a "3/9" and Molly is a "9/9"

Obviously, Molly is better than Ethan, even if Ethan went to MIT.

Prepare for the preliminary interviews. Most importantly, while reviewing the resumes, focus on specific questions to test the applicant's skill level. General interview questions get general answers, and reveal little about an applicant. Ask specific, personalized questions.

Step 2: Preliminary Interviews - Skype Video/Phone

By now you have a list of candidates that are highly intelligent, hardworking, organized, ambitious and job ready.

We advise using video chat. 5 - 10 minute Video Skype interviews are quickly becoming the norm. Being able to see the applicant is very advantageous. Think of it like speed dating. Promote conversation by asking pointed questions about the candidate's skill level including projects they worked on in school, previous experience, interests and hobbies. The goal is to get them talking.

"Can I work full-time alongside this person?" should be your primary question during the preliminary interviews. You already have strong indications that they can be successful. I.e. if someone irritates you in this short interview, that isn't a good sign for the future. This is a question of your comfort level and company culture.

Use the interview as an opportunity to dig into a person's history. How does their personality reflect in their past performance? How aware is the candidate of their weaknesses? How do they compensate for them?

Best practices: use a fixed set of questions and consistent numerical grading system. After 4 or 5 interviews it will be hard to remember who said what, and there won't be time to take detailed notes. Ideally, ask each candidate the same number of questions, and each question should be of an equivalent type. You'll need to tweak the questions, based on each one's scores and skills, to be relevant to each candidate.

The candidate's personality, behavior and background should match the Plum screening results and their resume. Knowing the extraversion and agreeableness scores of candidates will help to prepare you for the preliminary interviews.

For candidates with:

High Extraversion (Above 75)

Expect them to be very talkative, fluid in their interview and eager to sell you on their projects and themselves.

Be careful that they answer your questions directly. They are likely to be adept at controlling the flow and direction of the conversation.

Advantage strong social skills, group oriented, good for sales and managing large teams.

Low Extraversion (Below 25)

Expect them to not interview well or easily. They will likely be shy and nervous. Don't expect them to sell themselves.

Be patient listen carefully, and don't talk too much. Some interviewees find this hard. Get them talking about anything. When you ask a question, wait for a response. Use silence as a tool.

Advantage not status seeking, unlikely to prioritize socializing over valuable work.

High Agreeableness (Above 75)

Expect to like them a lot. They often speak in generalities and give safe answers. They will listen for clues to determine the right answers to your questions.

Be careful they can be highly adept at getting interviewers talking and regurgitating agreeable answers. Watch to see if they can be assertive and original in their answers.

Advantage compassionate, trusting, easy to work with

Low Agreeableness (Below 25)

Expect them to be upfront and to express contrasting opinions. They are less concerned with being 'likable' than being right.

Be careful Watch to see how they resolve conflicts in opinion. Are their conclusions rash or cut-and-dry? Ask them to explain the reasoning for their conclusions.

Advantage They are direct, unlikely to be taken advantage of, likely to enforce standards regardless of other's feelings.

Again, high extraversion and agreeableness are NOT predictors of performance. They are merely an indication of a candidate's sociability, empathy and communication methods.

Step 3: In-Person Final Interview

Assign a hiring project to each candidate and have them present their work at the in-person interview.

Use a real project that your company would work on, but doesn't have enough time, people or skills to explore. Not only will you gain fresh perspectives, you will also see how your candidates work, and the contributions they could make to your company.

Begin preparing your projects early. About the same time you start reading resumes. You will likely need to give the interviewees a very brief write-up of the project. The project should be open-ended, without a clear or pre-defined answer. There should be "many ways to skin the cat" so you you can see which one they choose, where their creativity takes them, and how they get to a final result.

During the interview, focus your questions on why they made the choices they did.

Example Project:

One of our clients was eager to determine the best way to penetrate the prison/corrections market. We recommended that they assign this as a hiring project. Every candidate was required to research, develop and present a sales strategy on entering that market. The hired candidate was chosen for her innovative and well-developed strategy, which she then began to work on immediately. This offered both an onboarding experience for the employee and a quick ROI for the company.

Another client needed a web designer/developer. The company desparately needed plans for a total website redesign. They instituted the website overhaul as their hiring project. The selected candidate received the go-ahead to begin the redesign on the first day.

Your Plum Success Manager is available to help you draft interview questions, develop rubrics and answer all of your questions.

Know the Statistics

Ignore any spelling errors, formatting, or issues about the 'beauty' of their applications. They have no predictive value.

r=0.09 Education* Ignore where candidates went to school, also ignore the finer points of their academic performance. Education is a terrible predictor of performance. Tip: stick to the facts.

r=0.12 Training and Experience Ratings* Academic performance, performance during training courses, and employee reviews aren't predictive, including SAT scores and GPAs. Plum's instruments are proven to be better predictors of academic grades.

r=0.18 Experience* While experience is the most predictive of typical hiring processes; it is still a poor correlation. Obviously, not having a particular skill can be a deal breaker: e.g. welding, electrical, SolidWorks. But, having worked at NASA or a competing company doesn't make a candidate inherently valuable. Years of experience are not a good predictor of success, either. Many years of experience can mean bad habits that are harder to break than having less experience and a clean slate.

r=0.09 Applicant Interest* Ignore lengthy speeches professing passion for a position/career. All the applicants have studied the subject for years and have demonstrated a commitment to their field. While passion and enthusiasm are infectious and stimulating, they simply do not predict performance.

Most company's hire and remunerate based on education and experience, despite that there is little correlation to performance. Because they are seeking the wrong characteristics, it is possible to hire two candidates with extraordinarily intelligence and conscientiousness for about the cost of one experienced employee.

*The correlation statistics above are from: Hunter J., and Hunter, R.F. (1984). Validity and utility of alternative predictors of job performance. Psychological Bulletin,96, 72-98)

Know the Statistics

r=0.15 Interview* "How likable are they?" This doesn't really matter in terms of their performance.

r=0.25 Reference Checks* Not very predictive, but are worth doing. Given they have already been shortlisted the references are only going to confirm the obvious. Plus your candidates are smart enough to only give you the names and numbers of people that will give glowing reviews.

r=0.38 Biographical Inventory* This is a good predictor. Past behavior is a good predictor of future behavior.

Know the Statistics

r=0.47 Job Tryouts* This is very predictive. Not surprisingly, if someone proves to be good at the job in the first week, then it is more likely that they will be performing well in the job long-term.

You could entirely ignore education, experience, references and the preliminary interviews and still have remarkable predictive accuracy using job tryouts alone.

*The correlation statistics above are from: Hunter J., and Hunter, R.F. (1984). Validity and utility of alternative predictors of job performance. Psychological Bulletin, 96, 72-98.

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