Do your best to hire the best!
When you are interviewing a candidate for a position, have you ever considered what information you seek to know about that candidate? Here is your list: Cognitive ability, knowledge, skills, abilities, experience, values, beliefs, interest in the work, physical health, mental health (emotional maturity), behavioral drives, and motivating needs. Plus, when obtaining such information, you must match all of it to what you want accomplished in the job and how the job is to be performed. Most business owners and managers do quite well when assessing whether an individual can do a specific job. Where they often fail, and sometimes miserably, is determining whether the candidate will do the job.
So, looking at the list above, which areas are “can do the job” and which are “will do the job”? The can-do part is determined by a candidate’s ability to discuss or present their knowledge, skills, abilities and where they gained the relevant experience. If a manager understands the job, she will know if the candidate knows what he is talking about. So, the manager might conclude any one of the following: The candidate has a high/moderate/low level of relevant knowledge, skills, abilities and experience appropriate for the job. Easy! I rarely see managers misfiring in this area of candidate evaluation.
The difficult part is the will-do area. This area is nearly all related to behaviors. Examples of behavioral concerns are things like being on time for work, possessing a good work ethic, acting in a mature manner, handling details correctly, working cooperatively with others, working at a fast pace, multitasking, being proactive, collaborating with others, making major decisions independently, working with complex systems or processes. The list is endless. But how do managers assess such things? The quick answer is to ensure there is a well-defined interview process, and the inclusion of at least one cognitive and one behavioral assessment instrument. Yes, unless you are highly effective at evaluating levels of general cognitive ability and behavioral attitudes, you will want such assessment tools. Of course, we believe there are no better assessments than our Predictive Index Behavioral and Cognitive Assessments.
However, regardless of whether you utilize any assessment tools, you will want to engage the candidate in a manner that stimulates critical thinking and reveals certain behavioral attributes or traits. The following are several points to consider.
- Before selling your company as a great place to work and stating what you want in an employee; learn as much as you can about the candidate. When you provide the up-front data, the candidate is better clued into saying what you want to hear. Instead, tell the candidate that you will discuss the job requirements and the company later in the interview, “but first tell me about you!”
- The candidate should speak at least two-thirds to three-fourths of the time. You will learn much more by allowing the candidate to speak. Excellent candidates with nothing to hide will want to tell you everything! When the interviewer is speaking, nothing is learned about the candidate.
- Interviews are most definitely a pay-now or pay-later proposition. Generally, they should be a minimum of two hours. For those positions that have potential for greater impact, you should expect to conduct second or, possibly, third interviews. What about low-skill positions you ask? Well, what are the costs of a bad hire in such a situation?
- Every person has a story to tell, regardless of age or experience. These stories reveal much about what a person is capable of doing in their work and how they will go about doing it. They also reveal much about intelligence, problem-solving techniques, interpersonal skills and ability to work well with others. Where does a person’s story begin? At the beginning, of course. Don’t just ask about the most recent job or past several years of employment, review all positions, including those that seemingly have nothing to do with what he does now. There is a story for why a transition occurred. Plus, you will observe how a person’s career history reveals notable behavioral trends.
- When you ask questions, probe – probe – probe! We want to know about the “who, when, where, why and how much” for every topic. Never accept general answers to questions. Every answer provided by a candidate to a new topic must be followed by many more questions. Peel away the layers. For example: Why are you seeking a new position? Candidates often reply they seek career advancement. Then ask, “What does that mean?” “How will this position advance your career?” Followed by, “Why is it not available where you are currently working?” “If your boss knew you were looking for a new position, would she try to find a way to keep you?” “If you are selected in this position, what position comes next and when?”
- When you peel those layers, you have the opportunity to hear how much thought has gone into the job search. What is truly driving the candidate to seek a new position? What thought has the candidate given to her career planning?
- Don’t be afraid to allow silence to enter the conversation. If a candidate struggles to find an answer, let them have the time to think. If you are too eager to help end the silence, you might miss an opportunity to find out the truth because you may take the conversation down a path you created rather than the one the candidate would have taken.
- All topics should be introduced in a broad context to see how far the candidate will explain things without deeper probing. If you don’t receive sufficient response (80% chance you won’t), you then go into probe mode.
- Never assume you understand what someone thinks or why they took certain action or made a certain career decision! Just because you are familiar with the work environment in which the candidate is working, don’t conclude you know why the candidate wants to leave or left that job.
There is much more to write about the interview process, but you have messages to check, calls to return and a full calendar. We will have more to tell you in future articles. For now, be sure to ask your PI Midlantic Talent Optimization Advisor for more insight on this topic.
By the way, at times I am asked to recommend a good formal and detailed interview process. In my travels, I have seen many, but none more thorough than that offered by Brad Smart called “Topgrading”. It is a highly methodical, some might say exhaustive, process for thoroughly interviewing job candidates. Do what Smart recommends, and you will know your candidates in the greatest of detail!