Magazine article Personnel Journal

Value-Based Hiring Builds Commitment

Magazine article Personnel Journal

Value-Based Hiring Builds Commitment

Article excerpt

We've seen that the time to start building commitment is before, not after employee are hired. Thus, high-commitment firm's use value-based hiring practices. They don't just look at an applicant's job-related skills. They try to get a sense of the person and his or her personal qualities and values. These firms identify common experiences and values that may flag the applicant's fit with the firm. They give their applicants realistic previews of what to expect, and they usually end up rejecting large numbers of applicants. In short, they put enormous effort into interviewing and screening to find the best people.

As Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc. Senior Vice President Alex Warren puts it, "You might be surprised, but our selection or hiring process is an exhaustive, painstaking system designed not to fill positions quickly, but to find the right people for those positions. What are we looking for? First, these people must be able to think for themselves, be problem solvers...and second, work in a team atmosphere. Simply put, we need strong minds, not strong backs. We consider the selection of a team member as a long-term investment decision. Why go to the trouble of hiring a questionable employee only to have to fire him or her later?"

At Toyota, hiring top-quality people is vital. The Toyota mission states that the interests of the firm and its employees are best served by producing high-quality cars as efficiently as possible. This kind of production depends on employee commitment to Kaizen, the firm's philosophy of continuous improvement. This kind of production depends, in turn, on a work force of highly qualified people who are capable of cooperative teamwork, flexibility problem solving and continual learning. As the Toyota Team Member Handbook says, "People are our most important resource and are the most important factor in the success of our organization." The firm is well aware that "hiring a 30-year employee who will earn $30,000 to $40,000 a year is really a million-dollar-plus decision for us. That's why Toyota puts as much or more time and effort into hiring as it does into buying machinery."

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, U.S.A., is located in Georgetown, Kentucky (not far from Lexington), and it recruits almost exclusively from within Kentucky. Because the Kentucky work force has virtually no auto-manufacturing experience (infact, little manufacturing experience of any kind), this has meant that most of the people Toyota has hired have come with no background skills in car building. From the day that it was announced in 1985 that Toyota would build an automobile-manufacturing plant, the Kentucky Department of Employment Services has recorded inquiries from more than 200,000 people.


Toyota's hiring process has two distinguishing features: its exhaustiveness and the extent to which it identifies not just candidates who have technical skills, but rather candidates whose intelligence, interpersonal skills, flexibility, desire to learn and problem-solving skills are compatible with the basic values of the firm.

Toyota's head of personnel, Sam Heltman, says that the firm's hiring process is "the most exhaustive I've ever seen." He says, "If we can find someone who has potential, we can teach him or her the technical skills. A candidate for a production job at Toyota will undergo 20 hours of testing and interviewing before selection. We seek team members who have the aptitude to absorb the considerable training that inexperienced people will need to absorb to do their jobs, and especially to analyze their work and suggest improvements."

The exhaustiveness of the screening process has three effects. First, it allows the firm to use a much more comprehensive package of selection interviews, exercises and tests. Second, the process, entailing as it does 20 hours of tests, exercises and interviews over five or more days, gives candidates a realistic preview of what working in Toyota will be like. …

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