Dr. John Donovan will present two talks as part of Google's Science in Talent Speaker Series
Aimee LaBrie

The director of Rider University’s Executive MBA program, Dr. John Donovan, will offer two talks on June 17 at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. In the first talk, Donovan will focus on how to enhance and sustain employee motivation through goal-setting. In the second, he will offer his expertise and insight on dishonesty among job applicants and how that has a long-term negative impact on productivity.

The presentations are part of the distinguished Science in Talent Speaker Series offered by Google. Though the audiences differ somewhat for each presentation (the first will be offered to a general audience of Google employees and the second to those who work on talent management), both are topics that have wide appeal and value.  

Donovan, who is also an associate professor in the department of management in Rider’s College of Business Administration, was invited to speak because of his scholarly research and publications on the topics of work motivation and employee selection. At Rider, he teaches both undergraduate and graduate course focused on topics related to employee management and success. 

For employee goal setting, he recommends setting specific and challenging benchmarks for achievement. He also advises intermingling long and short term goals and offering direct feedback. “The kind of feedback you give to people, even how you phrase something, is important,” he says. “Supervisors should talk about what the employee did right, and then, for more negative comments, find a way to frame those criticisms as opportunities to improve rather than failures.”

His research on applicant dishonesty began when he started looking at hiring practices that utilized measures of personality to select applicants. “I found that the questions that were commonly asked in these measures were very transparent and had a clear ‘right’ answer,” he says. “For example, these measures might ask a candidate, ‘Are you a dedicated worker?’  and you’d have to be very foolish not to answer ‘yes’ to a question like that.”

Donovan’s subsequent research has found that a high percentage of candidates will exaggerate or outright fabricate job-relevant experiences or skills during the hiring process. For example, applicants who were asked if they were familiar with an fictitious sales system, responded in the affirmative 44 percent of the time, despite the fact that no such system existed. This kind of dishonesty can lead to hiring unqualified candidates, which can then lead to financial losses for the company. 

For Donovan, the opportunity to present at organizations such as Google remains one of the most enjoyable aspects of working in the field that he loves. “It’s rewarding to be able to share your knowledge and offer some concrete advice—information that can really have an impact on employee job satisfaction and successes and enhance the day to day hiring practices of organizations,” he says.