Job Previews Can Help Boost Retention

By Theresa Minton-Eversole May 2, 2012

Companies can purchase myriad assessments to test whether job applicants are qualified to do a job and how well. But you can’t buy a test to measure whether they will enjoy doing it enough to stay, said Richard Finnegan, CEO of C-Suite Analytics, during one of the April 30 sessions that kicked off the 2012 Talent Management Conference & Exposition being held near Washington, D.C., through May 2.

Finnegan said in his session, “The Secret Is Out: How Realistic Job Previews Impact Turnover,” that the only way to determine candidates’ staying power well is to present them with realistic job previews that “smack their senses.”

“Realistic job previews are representations of jobs that show their attractive and less attractive parts,” said Finnegan, who is the author of the book Rethinking Retention in Good Times and Bad (Davies-Black; 2010). “The trick is to determine how we develop job experiences that smack their senses of smell, sight, hearing, touch and taste instead of job descriptions.”

There are a number of job attributes that candidates can be exposed to in realistic job previews, noted Finnegan, including:

  • Amount of standing, sitting, heavy lifting.
  • Equipment, technology use.
  • Amount of customer interaction.
  • Speed, pace and volume of work.
  • Starting, ongoing pay; benefits; learning potential.
  • Extreme environments (e.g., wet or dry conditions, hot or cold temperatures).
  • Schedule potential; potential for schedule changes.

“They must display the highest reasons for [the job’s] turnover, bluntly, and they should encourage some otherwise qualified applicants to drop out or show you indications of concern so you don’t hire them,” he said. “After walking through a realistic job preview, candidates who are wrong for the job should say, ‘There is no way in the world I’m going to do this.’ ”

Seven Steps to Success

Finnegan walked through several industry examples of job previews to describe a seven-step design flow chart that companies can follow to create effective, realistic job previews.

First, he said, learn the grittiest job aspects from the subject matter experts—the employees who do the jobs. Next, research reasons why employees quit or get terminated. But he cautioned, “think beyond just the high-turnover jobs,” which often are “not a company’s high-cost jobs,” when developing job previews.

Identify the best presentation methods that impact the senses, then develop realistic job previews with clear instructions and scripted messages. Also, design follow-up interview questions and a discussion guide that can be used by certified facilitators to learn candidates’ real reactions to the preview.

“When you ask candidates the follow-up questions, key in on the nonverbal cues that reveal their true job impression,” he said. “If you can’t do this, you are relying on them to screen themselves out rather than the company screening them out.”

Finally, track the percentage of applicants screened out by job previews.

“You should know your turnover rates,” Finnegan said. Realistic job previews are instant turnover-cutters, so credit yourself with having saved your company the exit price for the job each time a candidate you would have hired drops out, he advised.

To learn more about retention from Richard Finnegan, visit SHRM Online to listen to a rebroadcast of his webcast, Onboarding + Stay Interviews: Involving Managers to Reduce Early Turnover.”

Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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