It goes without saying that it costs a great deal of time and money to recruit, hire and train a new employee. And, while it’s nearly impossible to pin down the actual cost of turnover, there is universal agreement that whenever an employee walks (or is booted) out the door, it always costs a great deal in terms of time, money, lost opportunities and aggravation. This is why many employers focus on trying to manage employee turnover. Unfortunately, analyzing turnover and trying to control it seldom leads to an improved bottom line.

What does work is to reframe the problem so that it is an opportunity. Rather than try to reduce turnover, focus instead on hiring only top-quality people.

The one thing all successful businesses have in common (and that you can easily emulate) is setting high hiring standards and sticking to them. This is what Sam Walton was alluding to when he said, “The most important decision you make each day is who you let in the doors to take care of your customers.”

Employers who have high hiring standards make all applicants jump through a series of increasingly difficult hoops in order to get the job. (I’ve dubbed the process “Hire Tough, Manage Easy” because top-quality people need little, if any, managing.)

The “Hire Tough” part works because people who take pride in their work and abilities will work hard to get the job. People who don’t will deselect themselves by dropping out or performing poorly. When your jobs are tough to get, only the very best people will be screened in, even when the job is as seemingly simple as mowing lawns.

Is “the very best” worth it?

What is “the very best” worth? The link between productivity and profits is well-established and the following chart shows the difference hiring the best makes. Whereas an average employee is considered 100 percent productive, just one person of the highest quality outperforms an average worker by nearly 100 percent.

So, how do you hire tough and screen in the best? The most successful hiring systems include the steps below. Each step is an increasingly difficult test.

1. Application blanks: The completed application is the first test to be passed. Did the applicant follow your exact instructions and is it correct and complete?

2. Telephone pre-screen: This step ensures the applicant meets your minimum requirements before you invest any more time and money in this person as well as minimizing your legal exposure against charges of discrimination.

3. Pre-employment testing: The most successful predictor of success on the job is testing. If you need specific skills, physical or mental abilities, attitudes or personality traits, test for them.

When it comes to applicant screening, we find most employers are proficient at identifying applicants with the requisite skills, experience, training, mental and physical abilities, as well as the personality types that best fit the job at hand. The stumbling block in the screening and selection process, however, has always been attitudes. It’s nearly impossible to uncover applicants’ real attitudes when they are determined to convince you they are the perfect fit.

It only follows that the number one reason new hires fail is not because they cannot do the job, but because they won’t. While personality testing has long been the applicant screening “gold standard,” savvy employers now realize that attitude trumps personality every time.

This is because people with good attitudes manage their personalities to get whatever needs doing done, whether they like doing it or not. People with good attitudes embody the difference between “having a job” and “having responsibilities.” This is why it’s always smart to hire for attitude and train for skills.

4. Interviews: A structured interview question set is the only way to ensure that “what you see is what you get.” Unfortunately, most hiring managers ad lib questions and make decisions based on fleeting first impressions.

5. Reference, drug and background checks: If you don’t fact check what the applicant tells you on paper and in person, the only one you’ll have to blame is yourself when the person you saw in the interview is not the person who shows up for work.

I will be sharing more information on each of these steps and showing you how you how you can easily and inexpensively set up a hiring system that selects the top quality people you need to boost profits and sales and take your organization to the next level.

For more information about pre-employment testing, email with PET in the subject line.