Monday, May 14, 2012

Three ways to get what you really want from an interviewee.

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

A couple of weeks ago I posed a question to a group of executive peers on LinkedIn. I asked them what criteria are most important to look for when hiring a top notch sales person. Not only did they have different ideas about what order five traits I gave them were in terms of importance, they added their own. I felt compelled to share this information with my readers.

How do you arrive at the answer to these three questions?
Around the same time I read an article in Forbes by George Bradt. He, with the aid of some executive search industry professionals, came up with a list of the three most important interview questions you need your candidates to answer during an interview.

Here’s the list:

1. Can you do the job?
2. Will you love the job?
3. Can we tolerate working with you?

For the most part, I tend to agree with Bradt that these are the three most important questions. The trick to extracting this information from candidates is the questions you use to arrive at the three answers. It is a different set of questions depending on the type of job you want filled. In the recruitment and resources business, a salesperson or recruiter has to be able to master the art of altering and adapting his or her questions to fit the role. 

We already know in this age of resume padding or fibbing (Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson anyone?) simply looking at their CV will not tell us if they can do the job. So what questions need to be asked to determine if someone is full of Blarney or if they have stretched the truth nominally?

If someone did pad their resume, but has a proven track record of success should the padding be overlooked?  Is a proven track record enough to say someone can do the job, or is each individual success like flipping a coin and the next flip is still a 50/50 shot no matter how many times it has come up heads?

I am not willing to take that chance personally. It all boils down to integrity. What if that the next sales guy or gal I hire uses the same logic they used when creating their resume and applies it to creating a rapport with and making promises to our clients? 

I am interested to hear from you about what questions you use to arrive at the three important answers and how you frame your questions for your industry.

For instance, I am in the technical resources industry. My firm makes best-fit matches between IT, HIT, engineering and technical professionals and our clients.

Here are some of my favorite questions to ask when interviewing IT candidates:

1. How did you handle failure? (Aka - Can you do the job?)
We know asking what business task someone has failed at can tell a lot, just as asking for someone’s successes; but I think a better question combines the two sides of the coin. “What project or task did you initially fail at, that you took a step back, re-evaluated the situation, and came back to overcome it and make it a success?”  You can almost smell the synapses firing up to answer this question right now. Most of us fail at one time or another, but you get a really good idea about if someone can do the job if they can come up with an instance where they can demonstrate success as a result of failing.

2. What did you love about any of your previous employers? (Aka - Will you love the job?)
To determine if someone will love the job is tricky as well.  People are motivated to say they will love it to get the job. You can usually tell from their body language and inflection whether or not this is the case. However, there are some really good actors out there.
Asking questions about what they loved in previous positions and workplaces can give you much more valuable insight than telling them about your company and asking them if they think they’ll fit in. If they talk about management styles, amenities and benefits you simply can’t offer, probably just a matter of time before they bolt in search of a place that does.

3. Are you consistent in your front-facing persona and your backstage self?  (Aka - Can I tolerate working with you?)
Usually in the first five minutes of the per-screening process you can figure out whether or not someone is so annoying or out of their league that they will never make it to the interview. To see if you can tolerate working with someone that’s made it this far is a little easier.  It’s relatively simple for a candidate to put on a good face through 1 or 2 interviews, but the cumulative picture here is the key.

It’s not a question you’re asking but rather the actions they take in response to multiple contacts via e-mail or during multiple interviews with team members of varying personality. Are they consistent in their answers with the happy go lucky interviewer as they are with the behavioral HR contact? Call them on the phone during an off time; possibly even send them a text to confirm the interview. If you get positive communication back in a way that makes you comfortable, across all channels and all people, chances are they will fit in well.

We all arrive at the answers to these questions differently and I am very interest in your point of view. I again invite you to share your experiences and methods as it will likely be mutually beneficial to all responding.