From my friends at Sports Intelligence Analysts. An important case study: the recent publicity about the University of Pittsburgh surrounding the allegations against their head coach clearly demonstrates the need for effective screening of potential employees in any organization.
Although some might disagree, we at Sports Intelligence Analysts are fans of the age-old adage that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. After learning of the arrest of Mike Haywood, the University of Pittsburgh’s new head football coach, we can almost hear the telephone call from Pitt Chancellor Mark Nordenberg to Athletic Director Steve Pederson: “Tell me again, why’d we hire this guy?”
Surely both the chancellor and the athletic director are scratching their heads and wondering where they went wrong in their selection of Haywood, who was arrested yesterday on charges of domestic violence. The answer to that question is actually pretty simple: effective screening, or lack thereof. We’re betting that this is a classic case in which both Nordenberg and Pederson forgot the admonition that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
We will state at the outset that Haywood is entitled to the presumption of innocence in his case that the Constitution guarantees to all people. However, the case can be used as a great object lesson for the flaws in hiring that happen every day around the world and that can cause horrific PR consequences for any employer.
If Haywood did, in fact, assault the woman who filed the report against him, it’s quite probable that indications either of this type of behavior, or of the potential for anger management related issues, could have been spotted through the use of a more effective screening process. With our years of experience in conducting screening for a range of entities, including the CIA and some of the wealthiest families around the globe, we suspect that several screening mistakes were likely made.
First, it is highly probable that those doing the reference checks were not adequately trained in detection of deception techniques. Second, the scope of references checked was very likely inadequate, and may not have included a significant number of developed references (people who know Haywood well but weren’t ones he listed as references). Third, a traditional or standard checklist mentality, covering the routine list of issues and questions, was most likely followed. This type of approach rarely identifies existing problem areas in job candidates. The more effective approach involves addressing a comprehensive list of character and behavioral issues that are tailored to the candidate under consideration.
The final, and perhaps biggest, flaw in this, or any hiring process, was likely to have been that the candidate was not subjected to a personal interview, or what Sports Intelligence Analysts refer to as a “subject interview.” This type of screening interview is unfortunately a rarity in the screening processes of most organizations. Subject interviews should be an additional step in the screening process, the results of which should be evaluated along with the information gleaned from the usual "getting to know you" and the "functional" interviews, which focus almost exclusively on how the candidate will perform on the job.
The subject interview is designed to answer the questions, “Who is this person?” and “What is this person really about?” Also, this interview is conducted by expert screeners, who are well trained and highly experienced in the core competencies of detection of deception and elicitation. These experts quite possibly would have identified traits in Haywood that could have enabled University of Pittsburgh officials to make a more informed hiring decision.
Nordenberg and Pederson can take some solace in the fact that faulty screening is rampant throughout corporate America, and not just in the sports world. As a result, they won’t be in the spotlight long before this sordid tale is replaced by another one. Hopefully, it won't be about the guy who's hired to replace Haywood.