Finding a new team member takes some homework to ensure the right job candidate is still standing at the end of the interview process.
“Many companies don’t plan the interview and then they churn through three or four (hires) before they find the one that works,” said Bob Landis, an ArchPoint consultant.
Typically, companies may dole out interview responsibilities to several team members — but without structure, allowing each interviewer to choose their own questions at their own discretion. This may lead to more personality-type based questions, Landis said.
“The psychological truth behind this is if you don’t actually structure the interview, they will like someone who is most like themselves,” Landis said.
Landis said first a team needs to sit down together and understand the role they need a new hire to come on board and play. The team needs to discern the competencies, skills and attitudes needed in a new team member and then designate the appropriate team members to interview job candidates, Landis said.
The interview preparation should also include crafting the job description for the position to be filled, advised Tom Posey, an ArchPoint consultant.
“Everything in a strategic interview process starts with some alignment and rigor in the job description,” Posey said.
IS A CANDIDATE A GOOD FIT? ASK THESE QUESTIONS:
— Describe the culture of your previous or current employer? What does it take to be successful there? What did you enjoy most about working there? What did you enjoy least about working there?
— So far in your career at which job did you feel the most comfortable? Why exactly was that?
— If I gathered together direct reports or (comments of) other people on the team you work with and I asked them to describe you, what words would they use? Why are you so sure? (Whatever story they tell me about why they’re so sure should anchor to something that actually happened.)
— Who was your favorite boss so far in your career? What made that relationship work so well? (This provides personal insight of how the person likes to be treated.)
Be curious. Whatever the candidate says, ask follow-up questions.
If the open position is a high-level administrative role, Posey suggested identifying the top three key responsibilities and writing narratives around those roles and designating each role with the percentage of time spent on each one.
As part of the interview process for a high-level administrative job, he recommends that the interview team craft simulated exercises based on those top three key responsibilities to test how the candidate responds in the work environment.
“If possible, put them in a half-day role play. You can write circumstances that closely mimic some of the things that you’re looking for in the role,” Posey said.
For interviews for other positions, the job description should detail five or six competencies that will be used as the basis for interview questions.
As part of the interview, interviewers should have more than an understanding of a job candidate’s skills, but how they’ll adapt to their new work environment.
“Are they a very outgoing relationship builder or will quietly work at their desk? That all matters. Are they going to fit into the culture of the team?” Landis asked.
A common pitfall in the interview process is posing the hypothetical question, Landis said. This tactic doesn’t realistically reveal how a job candidate will realistically react, but rather places the candidate in the position of telling the interviewer what they want to hear, Landis noted.
A better technique is behavior-based interviewing, which targets a candidate’s past behaviors to offer perspective on future job performance.
“The best predictor of future performance is one’s past performance,” Landis said.
Landis offered an example: “Tell me about a time you had conflict on a team and you resolved it.”
Then ask the candidate questions specific to the scenario, like: “What did you say when that happened? What did they say back? How was the issue resolved? What did you learn from that and have you had a chance to apply that learning since then?”
“Now, I know what you would do when you get placed in conflict,” Landis said.
The prior scenario interview question works better than a hypothetical set-up for a fundamental reason — people can’t lie that quickly, Landis said.
“When I start peppering with questions like: What did she say next? What were you thinking? How did you feel? You can’t lie in a cognizant way fast enough to keep up with that pace. You’d struggle,” Landis said.
The process is beneficial because it shows how past behaviors will shape future behavior, he said.
“You want to know that someone has self-knowledge of what they did well and didn’t do well in the past…but also are they coachable. Can they self-correct…expect if they join your team, they’ll do the same thing,” Landis said.
Posey recommended creating an interview matrix that includes different questions to be asked by each team member. Posey prefers an interview method called situation, action and results (SAR). Frame questions around the needed competencies for the position and ask the candidate about prior situations, how they acted and what were the results of their actions, Posey said.
THE INTERVIEW PROCESS CAN BE DAUNTING. HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER THESE REAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS?
— For a sales job, pick up a pen and say “sell me this pen”.
— On an advertising sales job interview for the area’s only Jewish publication, I was asked if I knew any Yiddish greetings.
— How would you survive the zombie apocalypse?
— Tell me about a time you told your boss he was wrong.
— What would your last supervisor/boss say drove them nuts about you working for them?
— If you were a car brand, what would you be and why?
— If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Asking follow-up questions based on the candidate’s answers is also an important part of the process, Posey said.
He stressed the importance of providing training to the interview team to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the interview method.
“You want this team to understand how the process works and you want them to be skilled interviewers. Spend some time walking through the SAR process, what to look for and how to ask follow on questions,” Posey said.
After the interview, the team will gather and compare their ratings. This opens up dialogue to pinpoint any outliers.
“Three people may have rated the candidate as a 3, while a fourth may have rated the candidate as a 5,” he said. “Where there’s an outlier, explore and ask what the interviewer saw that maybe others on the team did not. This may inform the group and help them reach an alignment to make a thumbs up or down decision.”
But even with extensive planning, there can still be pitfalls in the interview process.
“If someone wants to be contrived, they can cover that up, but more times than not, this approach uncovers more useful information and helps teams make a good assessment of the candidate as opposed to the unguided approach,” Landis said.