Predict Each Candidate’s “Time To Turnover” Before Making A Hiring Decision (A checklist of the factors that predict both short and long retention)

With record-high turnover, it pays to predict which finalists will likely become early turnover.

Improve Your Hiring Results By Predicting Each Candidate’s “Time To Turnover”

Amazingly, some companies predict current employee turnover with a 95% accuracy rate. However, I suggest that it’s time to expand our turnover predictions to the candidate selection process. I have found that smart recruiters can accurately predict new-hire early turnover and above-average tenure with up to 70% accuracy.

Begin your tenure prediction process by discounting candidates that will likely become early turnover and elevate those likely to stay much longer than the average new hire. Before the final hiring decision is made, adding points to those that will likely have long tenure and deducting points from each candidate is likely to become early turnover. You can quickly use those turnover/retention ratings to improve your corporation’s overall new hire retention rate! That is especially important now that employee turnover is at a record high.

Of course, improving the retention of your new hires will reduce the number of times that you will have to repeat the expensive and time-consuming hiring process. You won’t waste the salary, training, and coaching that the company invested in the new-hire that departed prematurely.

There Are Two Turnover Goals To Meet

After spending nearly two decades researching the factors that reveal when a new hire is likely to quit. I’ve only discovered two corporations (Gate Gourmet and J.P. Morgan Chase) that have applied a formal data-driven approach toward identifying the factors that cause new hires to become “early flight risks.” However, during my research, I have discovered that there are nearly 20 factors that can predict in advance each candidate’s “time to turnover.” 

Time to turnover has two subgoals. The first is which finalist candidates are likely to become an early turnover. The second is which candidates will have an above-average tenure with the firm. This article addresses both of those goals. Part I highlights “the turnover indicator factors” that predict early new-hire turnover. While the Part II indicator factors predict which candidates will have a longer than average tenure.

Part I – A Checklist Of The Factors That Are Likely To Cause Early Turnover

The factors highlighted in the checklist section are the most accurate indicators of early turnover. If you need a benchmark passing score, decide that any candidate who meets at least three of the nine factors must be considered an early turnover risk that should not be hired under normal circumstances. The most powerful indicator factors appear first.

  • Early turnover predictor factor #1 – Their commute time will be long – almost everyone is surprised to learn that commute time has such a large impact on all forms of turnover. The commute time is critical, and research reveals that a commute time of more than 45 minutes will increase the likelihood of quitting. The impact is larger in lower-paying jobs and when gas prices are high. Gate Gourmet found that a long commute time was their #1 new-hire early turnover predictor.
  • Early turnover predictor factor #2 – The discovery of the stark differences between the job posting and the real job – overselling or exaggerating the elements of a job is a common problem among desperate recruiters and hiring managers. Unfortunately, this happens frequently. 72% of the employees surveyed said the position or company was “very different” from what they were led to believe during the hiring process. When the new hire almost immediately experiences the stark difference from what they were promised. They may instantly decide that they have no interest in doing the real job. Also, if they begin to feel that they were lied to, they may no longer want to work with this manager. In either case, the new hire’s frustration may cause them to quit immediately. Or to resume their job search and quit after a month or two.
  • Early turnover predictor factor #3 – Weak onboarding may instantly frustrate a new hire – if your company postpones onboarding. Or if it has a weak onboarding process (as many do). It will be the new hires’ first hands-on experience with the company. The new hire may immediately think that this weak process is an early indication of the many other bad processes that they will soon encounter at the company. Weak onboarding won’t adequately prepare them to perform well. Their sluggish initial performance may cause them to decide to leave literally during their first week. 33% of new hires will decide if they will stay long-term after their first week. This uncertainty is unnecessary because Glassdoor research found that strong onboarding can improve new hire retention by 82%. If the new hire also experiences weak support from their new manager, the chances of the new-hire walking out the door during their first month will increase dramatically.
  • Predictor factor #4 – A lack of initial training – most new hires want to learn quickly. And that means that they will get frustrated when the new hire’s promised initial training is postponed, inadequate, or not offered at all. If this lack of initial training impacts their performance, they will likely begin thinking about their early turnover even sooner
  • Predictor factor #5 – Their manager has a history of high turnover – when a new hire joins a manager with a historically high turnover rate. If their manager’s problems are not resolved quickly, expect the new hire to consider quitting immediately after learning about more than two of their manager’s serious retention shortcomings.
  • Factor #6 – You witnessed bad candidate behavior during hiring – if, in the hiring process, the recruiter or manager witnessed bad candidate behavior. Which might include long periods of being unresponsive or ghosting. Or they were reluctant to accept interviews (or even canceled one or more of them). Finally, if the finalist had unexplained delays while pondering your offer. You should take these behaviors as a likely indicator of low candidate interest. And that low interest may mean that the finalist will continue looking. Of course, that may lead to early turnover without warning.
  • Factor #7 – Their previous turnover causes are likely to occur again – you should directly ask each candidate why they left their last two jobs. If those same turnover causes are often given during past employee post-exit interviews from members of this team. You should expect early turnover if one of these causes should repeat itself during the new hire’s first six months. You should additionally ask them to list any new turnover reasons that would likely cause them to leave this job. And then discount their candidacy if they frequently occur at your company.
  • Factor #8 – The candidate puts money first – it’s important to identify what motivates each candidate. Start by asking finalists to rank order their criteria for accepting their next job. Pay special attention to those that rank compensation among the top three. When a finalist makes money a primary motivator. They are likely to be highly frustrated and disappointed if they don’t get a salary offer close to their expectations. They are likely to be even more disappointed if they failed to renegotiate and get higher compensation. Even top candidates will have to wait the entire year until they know if they will get raises or significant bonuses. Subsequently, they may have to assume at this early point that they may never be satisfied with the compensation that you offer. And that stark realization may cause them to quit immediately and start a new job search. Of course, that will also happen if the job doesn’t offer any of their top motivators.
  • Factor #9 – Their peers predict an early departure – in many cases, those who make the most accurate predictions of both early turnover and above-average long tenure are the candidate’s future team members. So, I recommend that you require the top finalists to participate in a “peer interview .” This is a group interview where only current team members are present to make the conversation more candid and two-way. After the interview, ask the teammates to (without consultation with each other) evaluate whether the candidate has a high probability of an early departure. A few individual recruiters (but almost no managers) will also excel at forecasting early turnover.

Part II – The Top Predictors Of A Longer Than Average New-Hire Tenure

Even if the new hire doesn’t become an early turnover statistic. It is still important to predict which candidates will be more likely to stay longer than the average new hire. The five factors in the section are the best predictors of longer than average tenure in individual candidates. To quantify the impact of these five long tenure factors, assume that the average tenure is 30 months (2 ½ years). Meaning that the presence of each of these top long tenure predictors in a candidate will increase the new hire’s employment tenure by 10 % or three months. The indicator factors are listed, with the most powerful ones appearing first.

  • Long tenure predictor #1 – The candidate was a referral – this is the most accurate of all predictors. Research reveals that referred candidates stay up to 30% longer. A longer tenure is because the referring employee will likely coach the new hire and help persuade them to stay (because their leaving would affect the referrer’s reputation). Other research found that referrals are more likely to “accept an offer and perform better.”
  • Predictor #2 – The candidate specifically targeted your organization – expect a longer than average tenure from candidates that specifically targeted your firm as their employer of choice during their job search. That deep interest can be revealed first by the extensive hard-to-find background research they compiled on your company. You can also assume a deep interest if they own your company’s stock or use and love your product. Also, look for candidates who have continuously reapplied after not being hired.
  • Predictor #3 – A best friend works here – as part of its 12 questions, Gallup found that having a best friend at work increases retention and attraction. So, ask the candidates if they have a close friend, colleague, or mentor working at your organization. And if they do, expect a longer than average tenure because the friend will likely resist them when they begin talking about looking for a new job.
  • Predictor #4 – Your internal movement speed is faster than their past movement speed – a slower than anticipated rate of internal movement over time will cause many ambitious new hires that expect rapid growth to quit eventually. Therefore, in their resume, track the candidate’s previous speed of internal movement and promotions during their last job (record the number of movements and the average time between movements). And when your company’s average internal movement rate in this job family exceeds their expectations and previous internal movement speed. Expect an above-average tenure for them.
  • Predictor #5 – the candidate is at a later stage in their career – realize upfront that the average employee’s tenure increases as individuals move from early to middle and to the later stages in their career. Also, if you have a strong retirement program. Take it as a positive sign of long tenure whenever a candidate asks about your retirement or your stock options program.

Part IIa. – Still Important But Lower Impact Indicators Of Longer Than Average New-Hire Tenure

In addition to the most powerful long-term retention predictor factors discussed above. There are five other important (but lower impact) long-term tenure predictor factors. Assume that these important additional long tenure factors will increase the new hire’s employment tenure by 5 %. And that means that if the average tenure of the new hire is 30 months, the presence of each of these additional factors will increase the new hire’s tenure to 45 days. Once again, the most powerful indicators of above-average tenure appear first.

  • Long tenure predictor factor #6 – Assuming that job jumpers will continue “jumping” – most intuitively assume that job jumping is the top predictor of early turnover. However, previous job jumping isn’t always an accurate predictor of future job jumping. First, because some job-jumping factors will eventually fade. For example, job jumping is often high among recent college grads, women with young children, members of military families, and gig workers. Mostly because they are in a phase of their careers where external factors can often push them to leave (even a job they like). However, many of those reasons are temporary. It would help if you probed their reasons for leaving and only count off those departures where their reason was illogical or whimsical. Reduce your overall long-term job jumping concerns when the candidate’s average job tenure increases with each new job. Or when they have stayed in one job for at least three years. Also, remember that some don’t initiate job jumping. And they only leave because their ever-increasing skills make them highly desirable to poaching recruiters.
  • Long tenure predictor factor #7 – They state that they intend to stay – it’s good to ask each finalist about their intentions to stay in their new job. Start by reviewing their recent social media postings to see if the candidate has revealed their level of excitement about this new company and job. Next, ask them directly how long they intend to stay. Raise their projected tenure length if they answer quickly, without hesitation. Or if they answer within four years or more. Some candidates consider their answer to be a promise.
  • Predictor factor #8 – Their references predict a long tenure – expect a longer tenure. When each of their references (that have recently spoken to the candidate about this job). Forecast a longer than average tenure for them if they take it. Also, consider asking any close friends that work at your company, your employee who referred them, and their mentors the same question.
  • Predictor factor #9 – An extremely high-rated finalist won’t be allowed to fail – just like a first-round draft pick in the NFL. The failure of a candidate with an exceptionally high rating would be embarrassing to the manager and the team because everyone will be expecting them to succeed. They will likely get a significant amount of help and support from their manager and teammates. That added support and help would make it extremely unlikely that they will fail in their job, at least for their first year. And that support will lengthen their expected tenure.
  • Predictor factor #10 – Some candidate traits will increase long tenure – some candidates will possess traits that will impact their tenure. For example, candidates that haven’t ever plateaued in their career and highly adaptive new hires. Both simply won’t get frustrated and leave, even when they encounter serious roadblocks. In addition, a self-motivated and purpose-driven employee will stay a long time, even if their manager isn’t a good motivator. Finally, even though an individual manager should focus on keeping diverse new hires that they fought so hard to acquire. Be aware that research reveals that employees of color and women normally have higher turnover rates.
If you can only do one thing – because you can’t afford any additional preventable turnover in these high turnover times. Assess each of your top three finalists on their probability of early turnover. Make the assessment simple by assigning bonus points to each of the final candidates that were an employee referral or candidates that conducted exceptional research on your company. Also, add points if the candidate exhibited no bad behaviors during the hiring process or if they didn’t list money among their top three motivators. Then, use these four information bits to modify your recommendation for the top candidate.

Final Thoughts

At some point in the not-too-distant future. Those that have transitioned from a recruiter to becoming a Talent Advisor will be forecasting the complete future trajectory of each finalist candidate. That “trajectory forecast” will include their projected years of tenure, how many levels they will likely rise, their adaptability, and their likely performance level. However, at least for the time being. Traditional recruiters should be satisfied with limiting their predictions to which candidates will likely become early turnover and which ones will have a longer than average tenure. And obviously, your organization should eventually conduct its own correlation study. To statistically determine which of your predictor factors accurately predict new-hire early turnover and long tenure in each major job family.

Author’s Note

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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