Yes. I have a great deal of experience using Microsoft Excel. In fact, I created my resume using that program.”
The interview was going well. She had the look, spoke well and Bill thought she would get along with the other team members. He missed the part about Excel and hired her anyway. Her resume sure showed even more experience and familiarity with the snow and ice management industry than he really thought she needed. Six months later, with hours of training, coaching that went on for days and a ream of documentation, he was letting her go.
Like many managers, Bill conducted interviews for years and after an all-day session of “back to backs,” he had missed a few key points of this employee’s interview. She had the background, had the way with words that so many do in an interview, but did she have the right attitude? She came up with an answer to all of his questions, but how would she perform and how could he possibly know?
Simple. Well, sort of.
All interview candidates seem to go to “interview school.” They have the answers to “What are your weaknesses?” and “Why did you leave your previous job?” down pat. You must look deeper.
Hire for attitude instead of skill
Paul owned a PR company and had been in the business for 20 years. He could teach almost anyone how to call a radio station. What he had also learned is that when hiring PR reps from other agencies, he had to spend hours untraining all their old habits. If you are hiring a sales person, hire a go-getter with a love of people and a high self-esteem, not necessarily someone who has sold for years. You can teach skills, you cannot teach someone to overcome rejection and surly customers, nearly as easily. It is the attitude that will outlast problems and the attitude that will readily learn new skills.
Assign a task in the interview
Put your candidate on the spot. Ask them to do the job, right then, right there. If your vacancy is an IT support person, role-play a difficult end user calling with a seemingly impossible problem that must be fixed yesterday. See what they say. If you are hiring for sales, have them sell you your own product. See how many questions they ask about it before just jumping into the six-step sales process.
Pay attention to the past… differently
Your candidate has experienced 10 years working with your competitor. She has won every award for this type of position possible. So, how much do you think she will question your direction when you say to do something different than what she has been rewarded for? How quickly do you think she will be loyal to the very company she has competed against for years? Perhaps that candidate who has worked in a completely different industry but can demonstrate to you the right attitude toward hard work, learning and customers would take less training.
Try story time
Asking closed questions in an interview limits creativity and gives candidates a 50/50 chance of getting the right answer. Do you only want a 50/50 chance that they’ll stay and be productive? Try asking him or her to tell you a story. Then listen to the story for hints on how they prefer praise, get along with others, share credit with co-workers or bad mouth their boss. Also, “listen” to their body language and for creative story telling. Much is revealed when a person tells you a story and almost always, the story will be true as most can’t make up that kind of detail on the fly.
Ask for passion
This one must be done delicately. After you have asked your standard questions and tested for skills that you need, find out the passion of the person you are about to entrust with this job. The results are immediately revealing.
For example, Melissa was hiring a sales person. She thought she had found someone. All the questions had been answered with ease. The candidate’s background suggested she had the attitude and making of a great sales person. Yet, when Melissa casually said, “What is it that absolutely lights your fire? What is it that you absolutely LOVE to do?” The candidate looked her straight in the eye and said “I absolutely love to type. I love to see if I can beat my own typing speed record and enter more information than anyone else can.” Now this candidate doesn’t do sales with Melissa, but she is one of the best admin data clerks she has ever seen.
Many don’t know who they really are, but most do know what they like to do. Make sure it is what you are hiring for.