At best, an interview is contrived. An interviewer asks, What’s your greatest weakness? Only to hear the interviewee respond, “Perfectionism.” This line of habitual, rote questioning leads to bad hires. An interview process that actually leads to finding a great candidate stops the interrogation tactics and starts a process of discovery.
The goal of any interview is to step into the mind of the interviewee and determine if s/he will be a great fit for your company going forward. The better interviewing questions can ascertain the truth of someone’s past experiences, her future potential, and her ability to enhance your company culture. Utilizing better questions that foster critical thinking leads to better hiring decisions that help your company’s long term results. Done well, interviewing is both a science and an art. Specifically, the interview process should be built on a foundation of structure and consistency so that HR managers can quantifiably compare candidate to candidate. It should also reveal important psychological aspects of the candidate to determine her learning agility and fit within the prospective role and organization.
Do your Homework Before the Interview
HR managers should start the interview process by setting a foundation of qualifications the ideal candidate will possess. Even though HR may have a strong and clear understanding of the job description, managers may be surprised to discover some hidden qualifications during this brainstorm session that will reveal more about the ideal employee.
How might we best define an ideal candidate?
These qualifications can also be used as a sounding board when HR managers quantify the responses of each interviewee. Realistically, you’re not seeking a perfect fit, but clearly defined qualifications help you to ascertain truly excellent candidates.
Assess Learning Agility
Skills consistently predict job success. Past performance is an indicator of future success. Where most interviewers go sideways, however, is spending too much time asking candidates about past achievements. It’s important to know that there has been prior success, but more importantly, an interviewer needs to hear about a candidate’s learning agility, i.e. what the candidate learned along the way and how she will apply her skills and knowledge to their company’s current and future challenges.
- What is some of the most constructive criticism you received early on in your career, and how has that feedback helped you grow?
- Tell me about your most successful accomplishment leading a cross-functional team on a major project or initiative. What did you learn about team dynamics that would cause you to do things differently going forward?
If they pretend previous projects went perfectly, if they dismiss learning anything from their prior experiences, or if criticism from their early days sounds trite, it’s a red flag for their being open to constructive feedback, future coaching and their own willingness to grow and/or assess their own growth.
Ask a Candidate to Think
People prepare for interviews. They hire résumé writers and interview coaches and they search online for pre-scripted answers that they can spit out without thinking. Stop the brainless interaction by asking questions that are creative and can have more than one right answer. These questions create an opportunity for you to hear the wheels turning in their heads.
- Your biography is published posthumously. What is on page 213 of this 300 page book?
- You receive 3 phone messages when you get back from a meeting. One is from your spouse, the second is from your boss and the third is from your biggest client. All say urgent. In what order do you respond and why?
Original questions require original answers. There is no one correct response to the questions above, but there is a well-articulated, meaningful response that explains perspective, values and who this candidate is as an individual, and if they fit your organization.
Interviewing techniques that seek to trip-up or fluster may be clever, but they won’t lead to great hires. Interview questions that emphasize discovery and dialogue lead to faster and greater understanding and insight, which leads to brilliant new team members.
About the author: With presentations to 30,000+ executives in eight countries, AmyK Hutchens serves as an Intelligence Activist and business strategist to leaders around the globe. She is a former senior EVP of Operations for a leading sales and marketing firm, Director of Education for Europe and Australia for a billion dollar consumer products company, and chosen member of the National Geographic Educator Advisory Committee. Follow AmyK on Twitter @AmyKinc.