For 2000 years, we’ve known that hiring is not a science…
What follows is a guest post written by Ed Zenzola, a colleague and President of The Zenzola Group, a boutique executive search consulting firm specializing in the development of hiring strategies and performance profiles. The principals of this group offer senior-level HR experience with global organizations; their executive recruiting expertise allows Zenzola Group to match opportunities with exceptional individuals who will quickly become high-performing talent.
This post was originally written for client companies who are frustrated by the challenge of identifying and retaining top talent. The readers of Career Acceleration Notes will gain valuable insight by considering the perspective of those on the other side of the desk.
About two thousand years ago, the officials of the Han dynasty tried
to make a science of the hiring process by creating a long and detailed
job description and rigorous tests for civil servants. Archaeological
records show that those same officials were frustrated by the results
of their efforts; few new hires worked out as well as expected.
Experience and studies have shown what the Han officials discovered in
200 BC: it is impossible to turn hiring into a science.
and retaining talent is improved by how we approach interviews. Here
are five steps that should be part of every interview.
key is structure. A structured interview is the most reliable technique
for predicting performance and for communicating expected performance.
This requires having well prepared questions developed from the
Performance Profile we discussed in a previous email.
- The interviewer must be extremely familiar with the performances and
measurements that are required in the position. From these required
performances and measurements, questions can then be posed to the
candidate regarding relevant prior experiences. The questions should be
posed to truly understand the candidate’s actual role and the
significance of the performance. A rule of thumb for preparation is 2
to 1; if you expect a structured interview to last 2 hours you will
need to spend 4 hours preparing for the interview.
competencies. Listen closely to the candidate’s descriptions of prior
performances. You should be listening to the candidate 80% of the time
and only interjecting to pose additional questions. Your questions
should be structured around a SOAR format; the Situation or Opportunity, the Action taken, and the Results.
To determine problem solving competency, ask questions such as, “what
were the 2 or 3 biggest challenges you faced on the project, tell me
step-by-step how you handled the biggest one.” Questioning like this
will reveal if the candidate has exhibited all the critical
a cultural fit. Beyond the tangible performances and competencies are
the intangible issues of cultural fit and emotional intelligence.
Cultural fit is even more critical to an employee’s success within an
organization than education, experience, skills or intellect. There is
an old saying: You hire for experience and skill and fire for
personality and attitude.
the candidate’s SOAR (a.k.a., P-A-R or C-A-R) description of prior performances, interject with
questions; “how did your boss manage you on this project?” “Is this how
you like to be managed?” Or, “describe the recognition you received.”
Avoid asking direct questions; “describe the environment and culture of
your previous employer” and “what did you like best and least?” More
often than not the response will be a rehearsed answer.
The entire interview team must be on the same page. Whether a group
interview or single interviews, everyone, regardless of position, must
know and agree to the relevant factors in ranking candidates. Of course
everyone should have the Performance Profile and an understanding of
the position’s required competencies. Assign interviewers a sub-set of
the competency model and require them to provide detailed evidence to
support their assessment. Review the interview results in a group
setting with the hiring manager and senior people, making their
comments last. Also start off with the positives rather than the
negatives to increase group objectivity.
sell; at this point, be a buyer. You can’t convince a top quality
candidate that your position is the best among competing offers if the
interviewers oversell and under-listen. The key to recruiting top
quality talent is to over-buy and under-talk. This means you need to
get candidates to talk more by asking in-depth, tough, and challenging
questions. Describe the challenges in the position and get the
candidate to describe relevant performances. The more you put the
candidate in the selling position the more the candidate will describe
prior performances in detail.
To Get to Yes, each party must move away from positions toward an understanding of the needs of the other party. This post offers a valuable glimpse into the needs of organizations who are recruiting talent. Sharing this post illustrates the synergy that can exist between career professionals who support organizations and individuals.