• David S Cohen

Keys to Success for Hiring the Right Person

If You Conduct Interviews: Questions for the Interviewer

With the start of the new school year companies often begin to hire after the summer downtime. Here are 10 questions every interviewer should consider in order to select the best person - someone who will be engaged, productive and retained!

Are your questions really behavioural?

…Asking true behavioral questions is harder then you might think. The behavior you are trying to discover should NOT be included in the interview question.

Any quick interview search will give you a list of behavioral, situational and attitudinal questions. Most are actually none of the above. Why? Because the answer you want is present in the wording of the question. Make sure you have a clear behavioral understanding of what you wish to find out - not a job description or outcome statement. Once you know the behavior you are seeking then build the question.

Grammatically a good behavioral question is actualy not a question but an interrogative statement so there is no question mark at the end. Adding "What did you do?" kills the behavioral question because it directs them to say they did something when they might have only passed off the challenge to someone else.

Are you hiring for the role or the person?

Many organizations have developed comprehensive and complex behavioral competency models that the interviewer tries to fully cover in the interview. You're filling a role, so you need to make sure the person is capable of doing the job, but you don't need them to be able to do everything in the job when they start. Figure out what are the competencies needed to start in that role, and focus on those. Limit the interviewer to three or four behaviors plus the values of the company; then you will have a more realistic understanding of whether the person is a fit or not.

The job of figuring out which competencies are critical belongs to the hiring manager and incumbents. Asking them for their insights will also give them a better understanding of the role for your new hire.

Are you listening for hypothetical response?

Listen carefully to the ‘would’, ‘could’, 'should' or 'next time' answers because they indicate the person has NOT previously demonstrated the desired behavior. Many people are savvy about answering questions well, but they can't fake direct experiences. You have to listen to their words carefully and if the answers all seem to sound alike it is a red flag. If you want to ensure the answer comes from that person’s experience ask what I call the ‘honesty factor question”. Ask the candidate for a reference from within the story they told you. If they cannot provide you with one you will hear every excuse in the book. Unless the person involved is in the witness protection program they should be willing to come forward.

Also, when candidates use "we" in their answer, you have to refocus them and get them to tell you what they specifically did. Often ‘we’ is a mask that disguises their lack of direct involvement.

Don't be fooled by the person with the gift of gab. Keep them on track and focused on the question. Good conversationalists will often run off on a tangent encouraging you to think they are answering when they are only trying to BS their way through the interview.

Are you prepared before the interview starts?

Have a formal script for conducting structured behavioral interviews BUT customize it with your own words and understand that you need to be "in the moment" to ask probing questions. Some consultants say NOT to ask probing questions but in my experience the most vital information emerges that way. It's akin to the five “W”s of journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.

Have you put together a panel?

Have a panel of three to conduct the interview. The person paying the most attention to the responses is often the person taking notes. That is why the person responsible for hiring - the hiring manager - should not be asking the questions but rather taking notes. They can ask additional and probing questions, as long as those questions are job specific.

Are you asking BOTH traditional and behavioral questions?

Start with traditional questions because you need to find out if the person can technically do the job. If they can't but are great in terms of the behaviors, do you have the time to teach them how to do the job? To many interviews are too technical or too behavioral. You need to have a balance.

Have you limited the number of questions?

Don’t ask too many questions. If you have identified four competencies to start the job, then stick with no more then four behavioral questions to cover the competencies plus one or two behavioral questions to cover the values of the organization. Remember, when a person has the behaviors you are looking for they will articulate a number of these in each answer. Being able to connect the responses to the appropriate desired behaviors, regardless of where they were answered, allows you to discover multiple examples in multiple situations with fewer questions.

Are you talking less than 5% of the interview time?

Too often interview panel members talk too much. Often, they give away all the answers before they ask the first question. They do this by describing the company, the role and the person they are looking to hire. You need to follow a simple formula to explain the process of the interview, and nothing more. Save details about the company and role for the end, after you have completed all your questions.

Bonus Tips
  • Do not compare one candidate to another only to the profile

  • If you don’t find a good fit, keep looking. The replacement of a bad hire costs anywhere from 1.5 times to 10 times annual salary

  • Most jurisdictions in North America require you to keep a copy of ALL interview notes (except the US Federal government and Pennsylvania) for at least three years. Don’t throw out the interview notes of those who are not hired

  • Behavioral responses that are older then two or three years should not be considered as relevant as those who are more recent

Finally, since behaviors are transferable, those who don’t have specific recent work, might be your best candidates. Moms returning to the workforce and those discharged from the military might have the skills, knowledge and behaviors you specifically need. Get past the fact they were not in the area of work that you are specifically looking at.

#BehaviouralInterviewing #EmployeeEngagement #BehaviouralCompetencies

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