Q. I have an internal position open and have two employees who have applied. I have interviewed both; however, I feel the one I need to hire is the one who has been here less time than the other. They both are very reliable, but the one I want to hire makes considerably fewer mistakes than the other. I just don’t know how to deliver the disappointing message to the longer-term employee.
A. Since there was an interview involved, we’ll assume that seniority isn’t the sole criterion for being hired into a new position. You identified accuracy as the key competency and, based on past performance, the employee with less seniority better displays that skill.
The ideal situation would be if each employee had a clear understanding of his or her strengths and his or her areas for development from having received prior feedback on performance.
It would then be easy to say: “You are a valued employee, and I appreciate the work you are doing. I have not selected you for this position at this time based on the need for greater accuracy in your work. As we have discussed, I’ll need to see an improvement with the number of mistakes you are making on the job. Work you do to develop your accuracy will help you to be considered for other positions in the future.”
Since most situations aren’t ideal, your conversation may need to add, “I know you have been here longer than your colleague, and that is important to me and to the company. We need the highest level of accuracy in this role, and I need to see that more fully developed in your work. We should talk about how to make that happen.”
The more closely you can identify the skill set you need and employees’ track records in using them, the more objective the decision can be. If there are other thoughts affecting your decision, identify what those might be, and discuss them with human resources or another manager to ensure you have a fair process.