By Bill Barker
In my last blog post, I noted that employers are usually very good when assessing whether a job candidate “can do” a job, but often suffer when trying to determine whether she “will do” the job. I did make a brief note that there are behavioral and cognitive assessments that will help in this area, and we’ll get to those topics in the next post. 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. A person’s career history will reveal 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 five 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 he try to find a way to keep you?” “If you are selected in this position, what position comes next and when?”
- When you peel away 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.
By the way, at times I am asked to recommend a good formal 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 process for thoroughly interviewing job candidates.
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