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PICK THE RIGHT NUMBER The author, ERIC ALAGAN, contributed this article, which first appeared in the Straits Times on 14 May 2011

The following copyrighted article first appeared in the STRAITS TIMES on Saturday 14th May 2011

Pick the right number Take the guesswork out of hiring people. Use a customised approach in assessing a candidate’s capability

How do you employ the best people? For micro enterprises that cannot afford the services of a HR manager, let alone the expertise of HR consultants, the challenges multiply. Perhaps we ought to step back and define ‘best’. One definition of ‘best’ is someone who is better or at least equal to the current staff doing similar work. We identify a person’s capability factor by the numbers one (1) to twenty-one (21) with one being the lowest and twenty-one being the highest or ‘best’. These are arbitrary numbers dependent on the number of criteria and weights assigned to these criteria. Let us assume there are five people in the Team and each have the following capability factors: - 16, 10, 14, 12 & 8. The simple average capability will be a factor 12. To maintain the same overall capability factor, you need to employ someone who is at least a 12. A new employee with a factor of 8 pulls down the average (16+10+14+12+8+8 = 68/6 = 11.33). However, an employee with a factor 16, improves the overall Team factor (16+10+14+12+8+16 = 76/6 = 12.7). This is what you should strive to achieve. Let us consider a typical position as an example.

The hiring manager lists the criteria and assigns scores that reflects his unique situation and beliefs: Customer Service Executive (CSE) - Hard Skills & Simple Weighting Max Mid 1 Minimum Diploma in Business/Sales/Engineering Recognised mainstream institutions (RMI) 2 Other institutions Business/Sales Diploma (BSD) 2 Engineering Diploma Maximum possible (RMI + BSD) 4 2 Language Proficiency - English (Major/official languages - Mandarin, Malay, Tamil) English & One other Major language 4 English & One other Minor language 3 English alone Maximum possible (2 x 4 Major languages) 8 3 Computer Literacy 5 and more years 3 Between 2 to 4 years 2 Less than 2 years Maximum possible score 3 4 Prior Experience in same/related industry 5 and more years 3 Between 2 to 4 years 2 Less than 2 years Max possible - same industry double the score 6


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The maximum possible score is 21 (our definition of ‘best’). The recruiter reviews the job applications and assigns the scores for the four criteria he has decided are important. The results for ten candidates, A to J, are shown below. Customer Service Executive (CSE) - Weighted Approach Criteria\Candidates A 1 Minimum Diploma in Business/Sales/Engineering 4 2 Proficient in English 3 3 Computer Literate 1 4 Prior Experience in same/relate industry 6 Weighted Score 14

B 4 2 2 5 13

C 3 1 2 4 10

D 2 1 3 3 9

E 4 3 2 4 13

F 3 2 3 5 13

G 3 2 1 6 12

H 2 2 1 6 11

I 2 3 2 2 9

J 4 2 3 3 12

Using 12 as a cut-off point, you can immediately shortlist candidates A, B, E, F, G & J for further consideration. This ensures that the team capability factor of 12 is maintained or even enhanced. You can use similar tools to determine soft skills, using criteria and assigning weights to suit your unique situation and requirements. This simple tool ensures that even micro enterprises can use Consistent Criteria & Weights, to maintain, or better still, improve overall Team Capability Factor.

Article written by Eric Alagan, principal consultant of LCA Consultants. He is also the author of Staff Selection, which suggests similar simple tools as a guide for micro enterprises and business managers who do not have the services of HR experts. For more information, visit

Pick the Right Number  

Straits Times article by Eric Alagan

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