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The Growth Report
HR 2012-2

Hiring - The Art Of The Interview


Kevin Ryan, founder and CEO of Gilt, offers his advice in an article in Inc. Magazine where he suggest that the interview is "just a waste of time".  At first I was confused, but after reading his "point of view", I think I agree.  He sounds like he's exasperated with the whole process of sitting down with a potential emplyee to ask them questions that don't lead anywhere!  "I don't want to be thrown off by someone who presents well," he said. "When I think of why people succeed, it's because of intangibles that don't come through in an interview."  I totally agree, and if you are predominantly using "Data-type" questions in your interview process, you probably agree too!  "They're just telling me what I want to hear!  How can I get beyond that?"  Considering all the time and resources used, hiring new employees is a very costly activity for a company!

There's an ancient proverb that says "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks".  This means that, if you are trained well, you can discover all those "intangible motivators" in an interviewee simply by asking the right questions.  But there's the catch - IF YOU ARE TRAINED WELL!  Here's a great question... "Who get's trained to interview?"  I've asked that question to many HR Professionals and have discovered that, you guessed it, NO ONE (or very few) is actually trained in the art of interviewing.  They are given the job and a list of questions to ask and sent off to provide the company with it's most important resource - it's Star Employees!  Very few people have actually learned the art of asking questions that REVEAL character, response to authority, ability to work on a team, ability to fit into a culture, work ethic, response to unmet expectations, willingness to work WITH me and not just FOR me.

I'll admit, like Ryan, that hiring is not an exact science.  However, since I have incorporated "Revelation Type" questions into our interview process, I have yet to be surprised by an employee if they have struggled or not work out.  And that's really what I want isn't it - no surprises!  It's unreasonable to expect that I will always hire awesome employees that will stay with the company for years.  The real "problem" is when I am surprised that an employee doesn't work out.  This is when I begin to feel like someone made a mistake in hiring the person.  "How did this person get the job?"  "Who hired this person?"  It's these surprises that cause me to doubt the people and the process involved in hiring.  Then I begin to lean towards the same conclusions as Ryan, "It's a waste of time". 

Really, there are three questions that I want to know the answer to when considering a new employee.
  1. ARE THEY ABLE TO DO THE JOB FOR MY COMPANY?
  2. ARE THEY WILLING TO DO THE JOB WITH MY COMPANY?
  3. WHAT WILL IT LOOK LIKE IF THEY GET THE JOB IN MY COMPANY?
A.  Are they able to do the job FOR your company?
This question is answered through the resume, vitae, application and references!  Therefore, you need to make sure your application includes questions that will help you gather this information.  What is your industry?  Have they done before what you will be asking them to do?  How did they perform doint that job, both from their perspective and from their bosses perspective?  Rather than just asking them to list their jobs and positions, continue to ask them what responsibilities they had while in that position and how successful they were.  You want your application to tell you IF THEY CAN DO THE JOB FOR YOU!  The best measure of future performance is past performance.  "Have you done 'this' before?"  Most of the clients I work with have to do a pretty major overhaul of their application to make sure they are getting the information they're really looking for to increase the confidence of a successful hire and streamline the efficiency of the process.

B.  Are they willing to do the job WITH your company?
This is where the beauty of the interview comes in!  As mentioned in my article about Recruiting, your Interviewer needs to be very familiar with the culture of your company because they are the gatekeeper deciding if this person is going to FIT IN to your company.  Skills, to a degree, can be taught.  However, I want to know if the person will fit in our company culture.  THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!  If your interviewer doesn't have a strong sense of your culture, they will easily fall back on the default of just filling a position.  Classic mistake!  I have made it a priority in our company to hire for cultural fit!  I can overlook some lack of skill, but I cannot afford to overlook the bigger picture of what our company is trying to accomplish on this earth!  Once you have a firm idea of your culture, the interveiw becomes about discovering how much experience the potential employee has with your type of culture.  
If you are a highly relational company, you need to ask questions about how they have related to their co-workers and employers in the past.  What is their friend base like?  Are they energetic and positive?  Are they easy to relate to?  If your company is highly competitive, you need to ask questions that will reveal to you how they respond to competition in the workplace.  How do you feel about winning?  How do you feel about beating other people?  "What are 3 goals that you are trying to accomplish right now in your life?"  "What was the last goal you really felt good about accomplishing and when was that?"  
Remember, I want to know if this person will fit!  Will they be willing to work WITH others on a daily basis in our company?

C.  What will it look like if this person gets a job IN your company?
Once again, past performance is the best indicator of future performance.  In asking them about their past experience with "our culture", I often use the follow up question, "What did that look like?"  I want details so I can get a picture of what it will look like when they are working for us.  "Did you do that", I'd ask.  "Yes", they respond.  "Cool, what did that look like?"  Or I may ask, "Have you ever disagreed with your boss (teacher, coach or parent)?"  They will always say "Yes!"  Then I follow up with "Tell me about that.  What did that look like and how was it resolved?"  How they answer this question will reveal how they will respond to you when they disagree with you!

Once I know answers to these three questions, I can then make a decision on whether or not to hire them.  I don't always use the interview to disqualify an applicant, although sometimes that happens.  I use the interview to gather information so I won't be surprised!  Yes, I most certainly have hired people in the past that I knew didn't have the skill necessary to succeed in my company. And, yes, I have also brought on people that I knew would find it very hard to fit in.  Sometimes you just need to get someone in a position quickly and you're willing to take a hit.  But for the past 15 years, there have been no surprises!!  And even more importantly, because I knew ahead of time, I was able to prepare managers and supervisors as well as tailor their position to minimize my companies "exposure".  If I can't minimize my "exposure" and I know they won't fit, I don't hire them... no brainer!  

Action Steps!
1.  Reveiw your application.  Are the questions adequate to give you the DATA you really want to know?  Can they do the job?
2.  Review your interveiw questions.  Are you asking questions that REVEAL or questions that just give you more DATA?  Do your questions reveal ABILITY TO FIT into your culture?  
3.  In your next interview try out a few of these suggestions and see what you find!  It will be fun to discover what is revealed when you start asking these types of questions!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please contact me and lets come up with a solution that sets you up for MAXIMUM GROWTH!

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• Hiring - The Art Of The Interview

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