Screening, Assessment, Interviewing

Spotting Top Talent During an Interview

How many top performing candidates have you interviewed? How many have you hired? More importantly, how many slipped through your fingers because you didn’t know they would be top performers? Today we’ll look at an article by Rick Crossland on exactly this topic.

It is surprising how many executives and even HR professionals do not like or look forward to interviewing candidates.  After all, this should be the celebration of bringing on another great employee, right?  Their fear is likely because many of them have historically not had very good success predictably selecting top performers through their current interview process.

Here are some of the reasons hiring managers do not enjoy better success in hiring top performers:

  1. They do not follow a structured hiring process.
  2. They ask the wrong kind of questions in the interview.
  3. They are looking for the wrong attributes in candidates.
  4. They are often fooled by candidates who talk a good game, but who lack results and/or character.

The cost of underperformers to your organization is immense. When an interview is actually carefully and properly done—and the right questions are asked—it is very straightforward to determine if your candidate is an A-, B-, or C-Player. You only want A-Players—those employees in the top 10% of the workforce for the salary paid that you would enthusiastically rehire.

Let’s examine the factors needed to successfully and consistently spot A-Player talent in your interviews.

Use a Structured Interview Process

Usually most interview processes are flawed from the start.  In a typical interview process, HR managers, hiring managers, and other team members interview a candidate in short, back-to-back interviews.  You have the good intention to thoroughly compare notes at the conclusion of the interviews, but often this never happens.  If it does, the debrief process usually does not include enough specificity on the strengths, weaknesses, results, and skill sets of a candidate.

Instead, follow a structured behavioral-based interview process.  Instead of a series of back-to-back interviews, get your entire decision team in to interview the candidate in one 2- to 4-hour sitting.  A longer, more intensive interview like this helps you see the differences between A-, B-, and C-Players, as the latter cannot provide enough details of their accomplishments.

After the interview, immediately go through the specific results the candidate has accomplished and compare notes for inconsistencies and where the candidate exaggerated his or her capabilities. Comparing your top two or three finalists using this methodology will yield amazing clarity.

Please note, if you think you cannot afford 2 to 4 hours of your management’s time, remember the extremely high cost of a mishire given the position’s annual salary.

Managers Typically Ask the Wrong Types of Questions in an Interview

Recently, some HR managers of trendy, high tech companies have espoused some seemingly cool interview questions and techniques. These include handing candidates a marker and having them sketch out the process of their favorite hobby on a whiteboard, asking if they believe in life in outer space, or the proverbial “tell me about yourself” interview question.

The problem with all of these techniques is they tell you absolutely nothing about what the candidate has actually accomplished in your industry.  Even if they happen to map out an industry-specific process, they are very well just parroting what they saw someone else do.  This is another way of saying they may just possess academic knowledge on a topic, not firsthand results.

It is important to understand that the primary determinant to a candidate’s future success is his or her actual past accomplishments. To determine these, you must use behavioral interview questions. A behavioral interview asks specific questions about the candidate’s actual accomplishments. This is far more predictive than a situational interview, which asks hypothetical questions that are actually quite easy for a candidate to fabricate answers.

Tomorrow we’ll hear more from Crossland about how managers sometimes look for the wrong attributes in candidates.

Rick Crossland is the author of the book, The A Player. He works with organizations across the country to transform good companies into great companies.