Candidate Experience: The more we’re interested the better we treat you. Until we don’t.

Great Hires was a proud sponsor of the 2016 Talent Board North American Candidate Experience Awards Research Report.  In the report there are some excellent insights into the end-to-end candidate experience.

One of the areas that intrigued us here at Great Hires was the relative candidate experience of the selection/interview process compared to the other stages of the recruiting process.  Candidates were asked to rate their overall candidate experience from one to five stars and the same question for each individual phase of the process.

You can see from the chart below that candidates get treated better the further they move down each stage of the recruiting process with the negative ratings (1-star and 2-star ratings) going down each phase.

It shouldn’t be surprising that candidates get treated better as they progress down the recruiting funnel and the company gets more serious about wanting the candidate to join their organization.  What is a surprise is how much the negative ratings spike after either the company or the candidate decided they aren’t right for each other.   The report suggests candidates are looking for better ways to be told they aren’t moving forward when they are rejected.  In addition, candidates who are withdrawing cite their time being wasted for appointments/interviews and the process taking too long as their primary reasons for taking themselves out of consideration.

What is even more surprising is the self-perception gap between how companies think candidates rate their recruiting process vs. how candidates actually see the process. Across each stage of the recruiting process there is about a 10 point difference between the companies self-evaluation compares to the actual candidate feedback. By far the biggest disconnect is in how candidates rate their experience in being told they are no longer in consideration for the job: 23% negative via company self-assessed vs. 50% negative from actual candidate ratings.  The data suggests that most companies need a little reality check.


In our next posting, we will consider where talent acquisition teams are currently investing their resources/dollars in the candidate experience and why.  We’ll also propose how they might want to shift these allocations based on a holistic view on the impact of a bad candidate experience.

Should you have Bar Raisers at your company?

‘If each of us hires people who are smaller than we are, we shall become a company of dwarfs, but if each of us hires people who are bigger than we are, Ogilvy & Mather will become a company of giants.’

– David Ogilvy from “Ogilvy on Advertising”



Recently companies like Amazon and Google have challenged the traditional methods of giving full control of candidate offers to the hiring manager.  In order to remove hiring manager bias in the process (such as trying to solve a short-term hiring need), other hiring team members are given the power to either make offers or veto the hiring manager offer recommendation. At Amazon, these individuals are called Bar Raisers.

What are Bar Raisers?

Bar Raisers are involved in each step in the candidate selection process. They help with filtering and screening candidates.  They help the hiring manager and recruiter select interviewers with a range of experience for on-site interviews. Bar Raisers work with the hiring team to define the competencies and divide and conquer them across the team to ensure full coverage of the evaluation criteria.

The main raison d’être for Bar Raisers is to ensure that a new hire is accretive and not dilutive to the overall organization capacity.  Bar Raisers have the power to veto a hiring manager’s offer if they believe the candidate would not ‘raise the bar’ at Amazon.  Of course, they must have well-substantiated reasons for such a decision. Bar Raisers can also help find a different opportunity for a candidate elsewhere in the company even if they were rejected by the interview team or hiring manager.

At Amazon, Bar Raisers can spend 10-20 hours per week across several jobs on top of their daytime job. There is no explicit reward system for Bar Raisers in their performance management process, but it is considered a prestigious role earned by only to a select few.

Is your company ready for Bar Raisers?

First off, does you company have a problem with the quality of your hires?  Do you feel that you are making too many bad hires? If not, then there may not need to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

If you do have concerns with your quality of hires, what are the sources of the false-positive signal that led to the offer? Was it the wrong skills or a company fit issue?  If it was a skills issue, does your company have a structured interviewing process? Do your hiring teams define the skills or competencies required for the job ahead of candidates being interviewed? If it was an issue with fit, have you defined your company values and cultural traits that you are seeking? Once again, without some structure for the hiring team on what to evaluate, inconsistency is bound to permeate your hiring process. If your hiring process does not plan ahead with competency and culture/value fit evaluation, then your organization may have more fundamental issues that Bar Raisers alone would not be able to solve.


When it comes to interviewing, almost everyone thinks they are an above-average interviewer.  Most hiring managers and interviewers have an inflated view of their evaluation capabilities. Having candidate selection experts who are regular employees solves a real problem by bringing experience, best practices and consistency to every job req.

When hiring managers have an immediate need that needs to be filled, they are much more focused on their short-term goals than the overall health of the company.  Hiring someone that partially solves a near term problem for the hiring but then creates downstream organizational issues. Bar Raisers are specifically responsible for ensuring this short-term pressure is minimized.

In fast growing organizations that are hiring thousands of new employees each year, it is very common for a relatively new hiring manager to be less familiar with the company culture and organization work norms.  Bar Raisers ensure that new hires will fit in well with the company’s values and adapt well to their new environment.


What is average? In a company with thousands of employees, determining if a candidate would be in the top 47% vs the top  53% is very subjective.  Given a natural bell curve distribution, being able to make that kind of judgment call with such accuracy is very difficult even for someone who is familiar with hundreds of employees. This leads to the next concern…

Are bar raisers really above average at picking winners?  Another large high-tech company is testing their modified version of the Bar Raiser program, but will not give Bar Raisers veto power until they have collected statistically significant data which proves that a Bar Raiser has shown to have a better hiring recommendation-to-good-hire batting average than hiring managers and regular interviewers.  While it is nice to assume that Bar Raisers are better at drafting great team members, each Bar Raiser will be different and you may find that not all Bar Raisers have the golden touch.

One additional item to consider is to ensure the proper context of the specific functional role and business team.  Google now has over 50,000 employees.  It is very difficult to see how an ad support specialist in their customer operations group is raising the bar for the company compared to a software engineer working on the next big idea. In large companies sometimes you just need someone who wants to come to work and do their job really well without bigger aspirations or greater organizational impact. This is good for both the company and the employee, even if the role does not require someone to be an above average contributor when compared to the entire organization.  Not every role requires demonstrated leadership and creativity skills in order to be successful.


Introducing a Bar Raiser program is a big investment for both the company and the Bar Raisers.  The key to hiring great employees is ensuring consistency in how the job-specific competencies and cultural fit attributes are evaluated. This can be done in many ways. At Procter & Gamble, a ‘promote from within’ company, all managers are expected to be able to have these abilities – so the responsibility is shared amongst the hiring team. Picking the best practices that are right for your company’s stage in its lifecycle and your specific culture is most important.   What is probably most important is senior level commitment to a structured candidate selection process and ensuring that there is a data-driven system in place to continually improve your hiring capability.

About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Selection platform for both candidates and hiring team success. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Don’t hire bad hires

In my last article I wrote about four causes of bad hires that I’ve encountered in my career.  Now I will discuss a few ways to avoid making a poor hiring choice during the candidate selection process by addressing each of the causes one by one. While many of the recommendations might seem obvious, it is amazing how many large companies we work with do not employ any of them. Many talent acquisition organizations just let the hiring manager use an unstructured process which relies heavily on personal choice and entropy to evaluate a candidate.

  1. Try before you buy: To address “Lack of technical/functional expertise”

Anyone can claim they are an expert in something and stick it on their resume or LinkedIn profile, but how do you really know they have the specific skills needed for your role.  If it is a deep technical skill requirement there are many assessment tools available from a variety of online and offline companies.  My preference is to have a test drive with the candidate where you create a simulated experience to the actual job they would perform. Ideally it would be an actual task or problem that currently needs solving (or was recently solved).  It is uncanny how this type of exercise can quickly separate the wheat from the chaff.  For someone who is really an expert, the simulation should be a breeze – and it should also quickly expose the fakers. The challenge with these trials is that they take time and (many times) money.  Depending on the situation, paying people for their time is quite valuable and makes them feel that they are being compensated for the ‘work’ they are performing.  In the end, investing a few hundred dollars up front to see if someone really has the technical chops for the role, can save you thousands of dollars down the road.


  1. Pattern recognition: To address “Inability to develop domain expertise”

When you hire someone from a different industry, market or customer segment, there is risk that they are a hammer who thinks everything is a nail.  Therefore, it is important to assess how good they are at pattern recognition and if they notice the differences between industries, markets and customers for the job compared to their past experience.    For more junior level positions you can have a candidate take a pattern recognitions test like Procter & Gamble does for all their entry level positions.  For experience roles it is important to spend the time seeing if the prospect grasps the differences and has the business acumen to appreciate the situation.  How much research has the candidate done into the market, customers, company & job?  Can they articulate the similarities and differences between their past roles and this one?  Do they have the intellectual curiosity to dive deep and appreciate the different dynamics? Without the ability to articulate both the strategic and tactical contrasts, then you risk hiring someone who won’t adapt well to their new situation.

  1. STAR methodology:  To address “Can’t deliver results”

Past experience and results are usually the best predictors of future success.  Even though past roles may not be the same level of responsibility or challenge as your job opening, seeing that someone has succeeded in similar situations or has shown a trajectory of results and expanded responsibility are pretty telling.

Using the STAR interviewing methodology is the most common behavior-focused method to understand what results the candidate was able to deliver.  The key to this approach is making sure the candidate talks specifically about what they themselves did, not the team or the company.  Teasing out the specific results that were directly tied to the candidate’s efforts is not always easy and without peeling back the onion on the unique contributions they made is what’s most important.

Implementing the STAR method takes time and effort to prepare before candidates ever come in the door.  How much time do you spend with the hiring team discussing what to look for when during their interviews?  We have a client who has the entire interview team get together for at least one hour to holistically discuss what success looks like for the role, get alignment on the competencies to evaluate for the job and then divides and conquers the competencies/ questions amongst the team.   This is a big up-front investment, but it is uncanny how it pays off for them.

One of my favorite pieces of advice I received about ensuring someone can deliver results is to show them exactly the results they would be expected to deliver for the role. Yes, the actual targets. And then have a collaborative discussion the strategies and tactics that they would employ to deliver the results. It’s amazing how this can both help the candidate self-select if this is the right role for them and also set expectation & motivation for the a new employee – since they knew exactly what they were signing up for when they took the job.


  1. Self-Awareness triangulation: To address “Lack of self-awareness”

A lack of self-awareness is a killer trait for a bad hire. Someone who is self aware will pro-actively make adjustments to address gaps in the performance and typically will also be open to feedback.  Without self awareness, the opposite holds true. But how do you measure self-awareness?  This isn’t as simple as asking ‘What is your biggest weakness?’.  I recommend using a combination of techniques to triangulate information collected from the candidate, the hiring team and references.


During the interview process, asking probing self-awareness questions about specific projects can be very revealing about a candidate.  Here are some of my favorites:

“Looking back what would you have differently for this project?” –Note: this question can be used for both successful and unsuccessful situations.

“’What skills are you lacking?’

“If I called the past manager that has liked you the least, and what would they tell me about you?”

“What would you do if you realized you were failing in this job?”


References are another way to learn about a candidate’s abilities and development areas.  Asking a reference to compare the former direct report to the best person for the same role they held and understanding the gaps is very telling.

Taking the candidates responses, your hiring team’s probing questions , triangulating them with the candidate’s professional references and your own observations can be a powerful way to assess self- awareness.

If you’ve ever made a bad hire you know that there was likely at least one piece of data captured during the selection process that signaled a red flag for a candidate.  But for whatever reason it was ignored and eventually came back to haunt you.  Being able to recognize the sources of a bad hire and how to spend the extra time, effort and money to tackle them head-on before an offer is essential.  Hopefully these methods will help you learn from the mistakes of others and avoid making a bad hire.


About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Four Sources of Bad Hires

Making a bad hire sucks. And usually you have no one to blame but yourself.  In hindsight, 99% of the time, you could have figured it out before making the offer. So why does it happen?

A lot has already been writing about how expensive a bad hire is to an organization when you add up the hard costs of salary, sunk recruiting & training costs plus the lost productivity and/or revenue.  And it is easy to place the blame on needing to fill the role quickly.  But when you look at the underlying causes of a bad hire, it has more to do with what you are looking for than making a hasty decision.

No one ever plans to make a bad hire. In fact, at the time of the offer most people feel like they are making a well thought-out decision.  However, within a short period of time (2-6 weeks) you realize that you made a bad choice.  Surprisingly, more times than not, there was a voice of dissension to making an offer to the candidate which you had ignored. Whether it was that little voice in the back of your head that you didn’t listen to, or a member of the interviewing team that raised flags that were either trivialized or not sufficiently followed-up on…now that voice you either ignored or rationalized starts telling you ‘I tried to warn you’.

When you have a bad hire, there isn’t usually a single item that is wrong with a hire unless the role is very technical and the person clearly does not have the technical chops for the job.  While it typically comes down to ‘skills’ or ‘company fit’ as the cause, that is too general a classification to be very helpful. Instead, by peeling the onion on the most common ways a bad hire fails, you can then adapt your candidate selection process to address the issues at their core.

From my experience, the reasons someone does not work out falls into four buckets.  In some cases, multiple buckets are at the root of the person not being right for the role. Here they are:

1.       Lack of technical/functional expertise:  Yes, I’ve kinda done that before, ahem.

Unless a new employee is brought in at an entry-level position and is expected to be trained for the functional role they were hired for, they are expected to have some basic technical knowledge required for the job. Whether they are a sales person who has sold before, a developer who has coded before or a designer who knows how to design, there is a repertoire the hire brings with them in their competency portfolio.  But each specific role has a different emphasis on specific functional skills. For example someone who is considered a consumer marketer may know search-engine marketing and display ads, but that is very different from television advertising and market research.  A Rails developer may know how to write decent code, but also needs to know how to write tests and make sure their code fits the architecture of the entire system – which can be different for every product. While some of the principles for a function are transferable, the differences and nuances of a specific role may cause an experience worker to struggle to be proficient in areas they have had limited past hands-on experience. The good news is that this could be the case of ‘right person, wrong role’ if the organization is big enough. But the key is that every functional job is different and being able to prioritize the specific traits for that job are critical to ensuring the right alignment of experience and skills.

2.       Inability to develop  domain expertise:  The hammer who thinks everything is a nail

It is very common to hire someone with functional expertise in one industry and expect them to be able to apply them in another industry.  But many times it can be a struggle to adapt to these differences.  In my career, it is amazing how often I have seen someone who comes from a different industry who does not have the ability to recognize difference between markets and customers and blindly tries to re-apply practices from their previous industry to their new one.   This is where an individual’s ability to take the initiative to understand the nuances between domain and industries is important. They must also have the analytical skills, patience and perseverance to figure out why something seems to work in one industry but not the other.  The awareness to go back to first principles to compare and contrast company- or industry-specific models are not skills everyone has.  In my experience, people who have demonstrated the ability to adapt well to a new domain typically have had at least two completely different career experiences, which made them adept at being ‘multi-lingual’.  People who have had a past life in moving between two industries, working in different countries or roles in very different functions, tend to be able to mentally wear different hats. This gives them an appreciation to better diagnose a situation before prescribing a thoughtful solution instead of the generic ‘this is how we did it at X’ statement.


3.       Can’t deliver results – Look at all the effort I put in!

Let’s begin with the end in mind. If someone can’t deliver results, they are a bad hire. If someone doesn’t have the drive to focus on the achieving their goals and working a project from beginning to end they aren’t going to be successful.  But knowing the ‘how’ to deliver the ‘what’ is critical. At most companies, this involves teamwork, influence, tenacity, and some form or leadership or functional excellence to play nice with the rest of the organization. This is where fit, adapting to the cultural norms and using soft skills to get stuff done make a big difference.  If someone doesn’t play nice with other or doesn’t have the talent to figure out how to leverage existing company systems and practices, they will struggle to be successful. It is very much like sports where an athlete’s statistics look good on paper, but when you are looking for them to perform on the field, they disappoint.  Despite all the activities and energy they may (or may not) put towards the inputs, the output isn’t there.    Evaluating passion, ownership and drive are not always part of candidate evaluation feedback forms, but it is an intangible worth measuring.

4.       Lack of self-awareness – {silence}

If there is one trait I have seen in nearly every bad hire I have made, is that the person was        mostly unaware of the cause of their ineffectiveness. While several of them knew things weren’t  going great, there was a lack of inward analysis and curiosity to try and discover why. They did  not have the ability to look retrospectively on themselves and reflect at what is transpiring. If  they did seek guidance, they simply didn’t (or weren’t able to) apply the feedback.  Instead they       just keep repeating the same methods over and over and seeing the same outcomes.  Not being            able to self-identify the problem or apply feedback is one of the most frustrating aspects for the     hiring manager, because now you have two problems to solve. The first is the competency gap      between the new hire and the job and the second is expending a large amount of energy      preparing and delivering the reality check to the person. This is a big time and emotional           investment.  Ugh. There is nothing more draining than having a conversation with someone who             is oblivious to their performance.

If you’ve made a bad hire before, at least one of these items probably crossed your mind (or was pointed out to you by a hiring team interviewer) before you made the offer.  It is perfectly reasonable to ignore a flag that was raised if it can be fully dissected and weighted against the role’s critical success factors.  But if a debate about the qualities of candidate is identified by a single voice of dissension, you may be missing a potential bad hire’s Achilles Heel even before making the offer.

In my next post, I will discuss how to address each of these buckets/ issues during the candidate selection process so you can catch bad hires before the offer is made.

About the Author: Ray Tenenbaum is the founder of Great Hires, a recruiting technology startup offering a mobile-first Candidate Experience platform for both candidates and hiring teams. Ray has previously spent half of his career building Silicon Valley startups such as Red Answers and Adify (later sold to Cox Media); the other half of his career was spent in marketing and leadership roles at enterprise organizations including Procter & Gamble, Kraft, Booz & Co. and Intuit. Ray holds an MBA from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from McGill University.

Follow Ray on Twitter @rayten or connect with him on LinkedIn.