Too often, startups can have a a difficult time finding quality people to hire. How can you tell the difference between a hard worker and someone who’s all talk, no walk? You may have plenty of applicants but without the right approach to interviews, selecting the right one might as well be a dice game. In order to make a quality assessment of a potential hire, you’ll need to use a structured interview designed to uncover the candidate’s past behavior. By gaining a real sense of what they’ve accomplished, you’ll be able to more realistically predict their future results. That was the gist of a talk given by Dr. Paul Green at EmergeMemphis last Wednesday.
Over the past fifty years, nearly all academic papers on conducting business interviews support the use of structure and a behavior-based approach. In more specific terms, this means using prepared questions about past events, and fishing for details.
Asking the Right Questions
A very poor question might go something like, “What do you think are some of your weaknesses?” Most interviewees will be able to B.S. their way through a question like that. In contrast, “Could you tell me about an example in which you worked with other employees to fix a problem?” forces a more direct answer. Be sure to take note of specific details like a name, time, place, or number. If the interviewee doesn’t readily give you specific details, try to probe with follow-up questions.
Observing the Interviewee’s Behavior
After you ask a question, the candidate will likely break eye contact and look off to the side. This is GOOD! It means you asked a question that has caused them to think. Preventing the candidate from using canned responses is one of the goals of behavior-based interviews.
As an interviewer, you should be completely comfortable tolerating silence. After a good, detail-oriented question, an interviewee may take an extended period of time trying to think of an answer. Instead of helping him along or looking impatient, give him or her time to think. It’s far better to wait for a well thought out answer than force a half baked one.
Preparation and Creating a System
In addition to the basic ideas above, Dr. Green stressed the importance of good planning. He advocated using prepared questions organized by competencies related to the open position. Based on the interviewee’s answers, the interviewer can later assign ratings to the candidate for each competency. Systematizing the interview process beforehand allows each interview to proceed smoothly and be highly useful in comparing potential hires.
The structured behavioral interview may take a little more time to prepare for and execute, but it will certainly be worth the investment. Quality hires can dramatically improve your company’s efficiency and results, while mediocre employees will create far more work for you in the long run!
If you are interested in having Dr. Green speak or simply want more information, you can contact him using the information below:
Paul C. Green, Ph.D.
Author, Trainer, Consultant
505 Tennessee St. #514
Memphis, TN 38103