Hank Stevens asked me to post this for him, because he ran into a technical glitch...
Primarily to Bob Gately:
A balanced process ┬? no, it is not. The scales are tipped in the favor of the employer. You, as an applicant will never have the resources ┬?they┬? will have. But there are some things you can do. I find it refreshing when an applicant asks me behavioral and probing questions. I do not take it as a challenge. Here are a few.
┬?Tell me about the last person who occupied this position (that I am applying for)?┬? Of all the characteristics that went into this person┬?s make up, what did s/he do that was valuable? If you could change one thing about his/her performance, what would that be?┬?
Some employers will say, perhaps just to him/herself, ┬?Just who the hell does s/he think he is, asking me these questions?┬? Others will, as I find them refreshing.
As an employer┬?s representative, and speaking from my experience as a H-R Director, I considered it my responsibility to educate the applicant about life at the company. I took great pains to tell it just like it is ┬? the good and the bad (there is always some bad). To me at least, the risk is to sell a bill of goods to the candidate. The consequence of that is another tick mark in my ┬?hired┬? column but a rapid and often painful turnover for the company. It doesn┬?t work well not to be candid.
As I said, ┬?Employers have a responsibility to hire the right person for the job. A candidate has a like responsibility when it is decision time ┬? to accept the offer or not. It┬?s all about responsibility.┬?
Henry Stevens, Ph.D.
Human Resources Quality Assurance
Mystery Shop the Recruitment Process - Outsource Exit Interviews
How many of you are using structured behavioral interviewing when filling your positions? Do you use it for all searches? If not what is your most successful approach? Employee or friend s and family referrals?
Structure - as in a list of questions that you ask *every* interviewee.
Behavior - as in the questions ask for the interviewee to tell you how s/he handles specific situations.
A friend of mine who is an IT recruiter recently began working inside a company and learned about this interviewing technique and found it a revelation. I was very surprised as I thought it was very well known and accepted as the most reliable method for successful search and placement. (And she does get some pushback from unwise candidates.)
So, I'm curious about how well known and accepted it is in this group.
Related add on questions:
Are people growing into positions you define or are positions morphing with your employee┬?s strength?
Does this work for you business?
Hank Stevens asked me to post this for him, because he ran into a technical glitch...
Hello Dr. Hank:
I agree that "Employers have a responsibility to hire the right person" and the employer is the only one in the position to know if an applicant is the right person. The applicant cannot know what the employer knows about the job, the past incumbents, the department, the coworkers, the supervisor, the corporate culture, etc. If employers did a good job of identifying the right person for the job, far fewer applicants would fail to become successful employees.
Agreed! There is often a rush to hire what often turns out to be the wrong person!
Hello Dr. Hank:
Great minds...One of my clients called me several years ago to discuss a problem employee. Before we discussed the employee's behavior I asked if the employee had been assessed prior to hiring, she answered "Yes." I then asked to see the one page summary from the hiring report. I then told her how the employee would behave especially when stressed. She laughed and said "That's exactly how she behaves. You mean we had this information before we hired her?" I then found out the CEO wanted to hire her since she was a relative of an important client. Being a relative of an important client is not a predictor of job success.
Whether it is, " . . . a relative of an important client . . . . ." or someone who "looks nice" or "looks the part" or "someone who has "good vibes" (what ever THAT is), your story is NOT atypical. Managers too often rely on gut instinct. And, gut instinct is WRONG!
Here's a quote that I a carry with me in my briefcase and read first, when thinking about how to help my next client make better hiring decisions:
"No matter how you total success in the coaching profession, it all comes down to a single factor -- TALENT! There may be a hundred great coaches of whom you never have heard in basketball, football, or any sport who will probably never receive the acclaim they deserve simply because they have not been blessed with TALENT. Although not every coach can win consistently with TALENT, no coach can win without it." John Wooden, "They Call Me Coach."
It's all about talent and talent fit.
Lots of anecdotal advice - but if so many hiring systems are in place - why does one often ask the question (after meeting someone who works for a company): "How did they ever get hired?"
I often ask hiring managers and executives what they look for when hiring - partly to see how they do it, partly to check their decision-making process. (I consult in marketing , so it is not directly germane to what I do, and hence I get some very straighforward answers.)
The answer I most often get is "the fit". In other words, if the person could get along (whether with the interviewer or the corporate culture often wasn't clear). I guess that's relevant, but it also tends to favor a candidate who can play politics well, and stroke the interviewer.
Those who conduct interviews and are fond of standardized tests and questions should remember that skilled interview candidates can pass the standard questions with ease - just like a career alcoholic can pass the police field sobriety tests - I once had an experienced local cop relate to me (while waiting for coffee) that he once checked some driver who he thought was barely under the influence - turns out the guy, when tested at the police station, was over twice the limit. Obviously, a highly experienced test-taker.
The best reference on hiring I ever read is "Hiring the Best: A Manager's Guide to Effective Interviewing" -- by Martin Yate -- you can buy it on Amazon for $8. It's brutal - and tells you how to cut through the clutter to find out what you need to know. Bottom line - you develop a series of non-standard, open-ended questions that also cross-check on the responses. I use the same techniques (subtly) when meeting with prospective clients - always gets very interesting results.
On a more sober note (forgive the pun) many companies are now routinely conducting credit, criminal, drug and reference checks before any face-to-face interviews. (The risks of a bad hire are not limited to just job performance.) In an extreme case, I had an executive search professional tell me of the CEO candidate he was checking out for a client - seems the candidate would go from Los Angeles to points north every weekend in the company of three young women - always different. The search firm couldn't figure out what the guy was up to - but decided not to recommend him. "Amazing what you can see from a helicopter with a telephoto lens" the search guy remarked to me.
Hiring is tough - perhaps one of the toughest thinks a manager (or board) can do. For those of you that do it well - my compliments.
In my opinion behavioral based interviewing is a powerful tool. And structured interviewing is very important from an employment law standpoint.
The theory behind behavioral based interviewing is that past behavior is often a good indicator of future behavior. So by asking these types of questions as they relate to the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) required of a position, you can get a pretty good idea of how well a candidate may or may not succeed in the position.
Asking the questions in an open ended manner - that is within a frame work that will result in more than a yes or no answer will enhance your ability to extract the most valuable information possible. So for example, after you have created a job description that identifies the requirements of the position and the KSA's, then develop your behavioral based open ended questions so that they are getting at those requirements and KSAs.
Say for technical representative who not only needs KSAs in computer languages but also customer service: Don't ask, do you know xyz language? That will only result in yes or no. Ask, instead, tell me about your past experience in applying xyz language in a customer service environment.
Other examples might be: Tell me about a particularly challenging customer service experience you had. What were the circumstances, what process did you use to resolve it. What was the outcome. Basically ask for examples and stories of real life past experiences as they relate to the job description.
Another good tactic is to reverse it so that you aren't always asking for positive examples - it's easy to say nice things about yourself. Try asking a reverse of the example above. So for instance: Tell me about a time when you were faced with a challenging customer service issue and you felt you could have handled it better - or were disappointed in how you handled it - or felt you didn't handle it well - something like that. Ask the candidate to relay the story and perhaps give them the opportunity to also share what they would have done differently or what they learned from the experience.
The structured part as I mentioned is important from a legal persective. Asking all candidates the same questions is a good idea because if a candidate comes back after not being hired and claims discrimination and you had to produce evidence of your interviewing and selection process, you'd want to show that all candidates were interviewed in the same manner. It would not be good if it was viewed that some candidates were given easier questions for instance than others. Consistency is always a good idea when it comes to risk management.
Lastly, always perform reference checks at a minimum and background checks are often a good idea too, especially depending on the nature of the position. I think as someone pointed out already, some people are expert interviewers and know how to answer anything and everything just the way you want them too. But it may not be true. Make sure you protect yourself and your Company. Make sure you know who you are hiring. Heaven forbid your new employee ends up causing harm. You could be found guilty of negligent hiring.
The problem with behavioral interviewing or doing those background checks isn't that they don't work. Beyond the negative expectations you are setting for the potential hires, it's that this level of HR won't exist in a startup until you hire the 50th person. When HR does get hired, its kept out of the way for quite some time. Once HR starts to exert itself, then most of the prior hires will be ready to move on to something more wealth creating, because you are starting to institutionalize, you are starting to cash cow.
The failure to reach a hiring manager is the first indicator of a place that I don't want to work. Getting an HR person conducting an interview is another. Background checks another. Getting asked a question that I didn't prepare for isn't going to happen if I really care. But, if I really care, I'm not going to get interviewed. I'm going to get hired.
The last two times I was behaviorally interviewed, someone called to set up an appointment. Then, the person I had an appointment with didn't make the meeting on time. So if I were interviewing these people, what does this tell me? And, what does it tell me about the company?
The job I do on the side right now, because the startup is not funded yet, is a job I was asked to do by the founder, because he knew me and knew my work. I wasn't looking for a job at the time. When you network to a job and people know you, then you don't get investigated or behaviorally examined, you get hired.
I will say that working at one startup wasn't much fun. The head guy funded beer Thursdays, Hooters lunches, and took prospects to strip joints. It really got ridiculous when he bought a Harley and everyone else went out and bought one. That was the culture he built around his part of the company. Did that damage the company, I don't know. But, you got the impression that all the execs even the ones in the headquarters office in a distant city were friends before they signed on with the company.
I dread the day I have to hire an HR director.
And, asking me a question requiring a negative response will get you a positive that improved to a greater positive. But, the reality is asking me a question like that will probably have me terminating the interview. I'm glad that I'm finally in a position where I hire and don't have to play the game. Interviewees should interview the company they hire with the same kind of behavioral questions. Here are a few of the questions I'd ask.
When will the first layoff be? How many jobs did you ship to India over the last year? How much was the VP of Sales compensated last year? The CEO? What percentage of issued equity is represented by the x stock options you are offering me? Does your policy manual really say that supervisors are God? Will the facilities person really unlock my office door and enter without knocking? If I get a death threat at work will I be allowed to call the police? And, could you fax me a sample of your work? Will the company fire all the employee owners the week after we IPO, so the REAL stockholder can be happy?
Why would I ask such questions? Right, I don't want to work for certain kinds of questions. I mean if I asked the hiring manager, "Hey are you a jerk?" What do you think he'd say? And, given my last interview, I know how to get the answer. The guy thought he wasn't hiring me. But, I wasn't hiring him. It cuts both ways. Maybe I should do a background check on the companies that interview me. Well, I can't afford to do that. And, as a early startup, I can't either.
But, no, companies don't exhibit behavior, do they?
Dave brings up a good point. True, at the beginning stages of a Company, they are in the 'friends and family' stage, that is where most of the talent comes from. But as a company grows and you do need to start using other sources of recruiting and methods of interviewing, remember that when you are interviewing someone. That you, as an employer, are being interviewed too. If you want to attract and hire top people, be prepared to impress them with what you have to offer them as well. With regard not only to compensation and benefits, but Company culture, growth opportunities, etc. And always remember to show basic manners such as being on time, not having interruptions, following up with candidates as to their status, things of that nature. And yes, absolutely, candidates should always be given the oportunity to ask questions and should indeed ask questions about the position and Company to ensure it will be a good fit for them. It's a 2 way street and the ultimate goal for both parties should be an employment relationship that will be mutually beneficial.
Have a great day, both job seekers and interviewers!
I've always cared about one and only one thing and that was meeting the schedule, aka getting the work done, aka performance, aka production. Worrying about the rest is a waste of time. I'm sure the worst people I've had to work with could pass a behavioral interveiw. They somehow got the jobs they had. They were tolerated after they were hired, probably out of sheer inertia. Ban inertia.
Every measure has a countermeasure has a countercountermeasure, etc. It's an elective game. I'm not playful. I don't believe in the "best and brightest" or that you can have a "perfect life." If you have a perfect life congrats. It's pretty clear that I don't. It's pretty clear that I'm not one of the best and brightest, but I am the absolute best at what I do. And, more importantly, I own the company. I'll probably avoid the best and brightest right up until the IPO. Then, I'm history and they can sink the company on their own. I milked a cow when I was a kid. I'm not going to milk one now.
Read Management by Baseball. I'm not a baseball fan, but baseball managers build great teams with less than perfect people every day.
Maybe behavioral interviews create such homogenity that you don't need a leader. So maybe it comes down to having a servant leader, you don't need behavioral interviewing. Ov course, in business we define "leaders," so they really don't have to be a leader. They'll get called leader regardless.
We are a machine. We chew people up and spit them out. It's the coming thing. So what if the funnel is gated. That's it maybe I should hire the best and the brightest and turn them into waste product like so many companies do.
Oglyvey, the advertising guy said hire C students, because they make the best business people. They didn't jump through the hoops. They party. They network. They have "know who." And, they know how to construct a deal.
Ellison said something smilar at a Stanford MBA Graduation. They prepared you for a job. They did not prepare you to run a business. You're better off with entrepreuers than with the best and brightest. Than, the guy who knew the answer when the professor asked, who was Fifee? Oglyvey's dog.
So it's a validated technique for creating successful cash cows. I don't care. I'm creating wealth, not cash cows.
David Locke makes some great points.
>I'm sure the worst people I've had to work with could pass a behavioral interview.<
I agree. The best talkers often get hired before the best producers. When using behavioral event interviewing the applicant never tells the whole story, just the story he wants us to hear. Did the story in whole or in part come from a book about how to ace a behavioral interview? Did the applicant tell us the look on his face, the tone of his voice, the body language he exhibited during this event? Did he tell us how productivity was impacted after his successful intervention? How would we know?
>They somehow got the jobs they had. They were tolerated after they were hired, probably out of sheer inertia. Ban inertia.<
Bad hires are bad hires long after they are hired. Many hiring managers don┬?t like to admit failure so they try to fix their mistakes. The book ┬?The Peter Principle┬? does a good job of explaining why bad hires are still on the job years after they were hired.
>I don't believe in the "best and brightest┬?"<
Hiring ┬?the best and the brightest┬? is a mistake unless the job demands the best and the brightest. Most all jobs don┬?t demand the best and the brightest so hiring the best and the brightest is often a mistake.
>It's pretty clear that I'm not one of the best and brightest, but I am the absolute best at what I do.<
Most all jobs don┬?t require the best and brightest. Being the best doesn┬?t mean being the brightest. Being the brightest doesn┬?t mean being the best. Our clients are usually surprised when they learn their best employees are not their brightest employees and that their troublesome employees are often their brightest employees.
>And, more importantly, I own the company.<
One of my clients, the CEO of a manufacturing company, was concerned that a CFO candidate, who was well qualified and a shoe-in to be hired, scored only a 6 on mental abilities (a 6 means he scored somewhere between the 50th percentile and the 69th percentile). After we discussed what that meant he laughed when realized his entire management staff were also 6s.
>I'll probably avoid the best and brightest right up until the IPO.<
That may well be the smartest thing to do. Being the best and the brightest doesn┬?t predict job success.
>Read Management by Baseball. I'm not a baseball fan, but baseball managers build great teams with less than perfect people every day.<
The New England Patriots are a good example of great success without the greatest players. It helps to have a great leader on the field. The coach isn┬?t bad either.
>Maybe behavioral interviews create such homogenity that you don't need a leader.<
A leader is always needed. If we want to hire the best talkers and the fastest thinkers than behavioral interviewing is a sure thing. How many jobs require the fastest thinkers and the best talkers? Wouldn┬?t we prefer to hire the most productive?
>in business we define "leaders," so they really don't have to be a leader. They'll get called leader regardless.<
Business has given up trying to train employees to be effective managers so they now train them to be leaders.
>We are a machine. We chew people up and spit them out. It's the coming thing.<
If managers don┬?t know that else to do, that makes sense.
>┬? maybe I should hire the best and the brightest and turn them into waste product like so many companies do.<
Employers owe it to their employees not to put them into positions where failure is predictable. Hiring only the best and the brightest ensures that many new hires will fail.
>Oglyvey, the advertising guy said hire C students, because they make the best business people.<
Interesting view. The best business people are not always former C students and C students don┬?t always make the best business people. There is more to job success than grades whether we hire only the A┬?s or we hire only the C┬?s. Both approaches are wrong.
>Ellison said something similar at a Stanford MBA Graduation. They prepared you for a job.<
My advice to business schools is to stop telling employers that their graduates make good employees. The best that can be said is that their graduates will be well educated. Schools have no idea which graduates will become successful employees for a particular employer. It is an employer┬?s responsibility to hire successful employees.
>They did not prepare you to run a business.<
That is so true even if they provide the knowledge to do so.
>You're better off with entrepreneurs than with the best and brightest.<
I agree unless the job demands the best and the brightest and few jobs so demand it. However, not all jobs demand entrepreneurial type employees either.
Thanks. As I wrote that, I really felt like I was off in the weeds.
Another type of interviewing that is not discussed in this thread is competency-based behavioral interviewing.
Let's say that we have 3 candidates that are all A students. If you don't take the time to assess the unique competencies they each have, then you might label them as "the best and the brightest" and make assumptions about what this means. You might assume that they had to "jump through hoops" or "weren't good networkers". But there are a lot of different possibilities.
Candidate 1: She was naturally smart. Those A grades came easy to her and she still had plenty of time to socialize and network.
Candidate 2: He was goal-driven and determined to achieve high grades.
Candidate 3: He really struggled to get good grades and he had to "jump through hoops" and spend a lot of time studying at the library.
In each scenerio, the candidate draws on different competencies. If you make an assumption about the competencies a candidate has based on their credentials or experience, then you might only have part of the picture.
Management Team Consultants, Inc
"Tools to Help Managers Hire Top Talent"
The best talkers often get hired before the best producers. When using behavioral event interviewing the applicant never tells the whole story, just the story he wants us to hear. Did the story in whole or in part come from a book about how to ace a behavioral interview? Did the applicant tell us the look on his face, the tone of his voice, the body language he exhibited during this event? Did he tell us how productivity was impacted after his successful intervention? How would we know?
Several years ago, during the dot com craze, I had a client that was a high-volume technical recruiter. Their recruiters could, and did, extract some of the damnest admissions out of candidates. It was amazing.
Bottom line - the tool is only as good as the person using it. Behavioral intervieiwng, when used in conjunction with other routine screening processes and having several skilled interviewers (usually lacking - how many interviewers have you ever encountered who had any training?) - you'll find out what you need to know. Candidates aren't James Bond - they are what they are - and it usually becomes apparent pretty quickly.
I currently sit on the board of a not-for-profit, and chair the Executive Director Search Committee. We pulled in a knowledgeable industry consultant to help us with the search and selection process. Just in writng a comprehensive job description many interview questions become obvious (to us.) How they are posed during the interview process is another subject.
I'm a big fan of behavioral interviewing - mixed with some tactical questions. Must come from the years I spent as a weekend flight instructor - you learn real fast to spot the ones who just talk a good game. Talking a good game is very hard to do when the instructor 'pulls' (reduces to idle, simulating engine failure - a common training maneuver) an engine on you.
Same goes for behavioral interviewing - I like to pose hypothetical problems and see what the candidate comes up with - since they don't know what I'm looking for - there is no "right" answer. Later on, I'll circle back around and ask the same question a different way in a different context and see if the answers are consistent. Since other interviewers are asking questions in their own way (panel interview) a gamesman would have to be a magician to hoodwink everyone. Haven't met one yet - but rather a few that thought they were.
Leif, I knew one of your candidate ones. She had a perfect 4.0 GPA until she took art photography. Then, she was a 3.99. She had been a newspaper editor before going back to college. She only took classes she could pass without thinking like the college paper class. She ate up someone elses opportunity by being the college paper's managing editor, no not mine.
I was one of those candidate threes, because I never went to school to manufacture a GPA. I went to stretch, so I took impossible course loads, out of stupidity, and hard classes. I wasn't particularly goal oriented. My GPA isn't bad, but its not good enough to get me a job out of college, or at a few of the GPA required corportate employers out there today.
I'd tell a kid to not be like me. Don't make the same mistakes. A GPA can go a long way, or not. Be goal oriented. And, no they shouldn't be like her either. I'd want them to grow up to be a line person, not a design person, not a functional wonk, so social is important.
As an employer, I don't worry about people that socialize or whatever as long as everything gets done on time or before time.
The problem with people who had an easy time in school is that they didn't learn to push themselves, so they won't do it for you.
BTW, she got a full scholarship to the law school of her choice and decided not to go. Good thing. The lawyer bust was just a few associate years downstream.
I agree with your that behavioral interviewing is much better than the old gab fest where the interviewer does all the talking. However, behavioral interviewing is not the most effectfive technique to use to identify future top performers.
I agree with most everything you say and only feel compelled to respond on one theme. There is not one best way to select a winner. Behavioral interviewing is a very powerful tool in the arsenal - it is by far not the only tool. Indeed, too few are actually trained in not only its use and techniques but the philosophy behind it. There are many wannabes out there. I will take talent over experience any day!
Hello Dr. Hank:
>I will take talent over experience any day!<
Me too, but then again I show hiring managers how to hire for talent.
The premise behind behavioral interviewing is that the most accurate predictor of future performance is past performance in similar situations. Behavioral interviewing, in fact, is said to be 55 percent predictive of future on-the-job behavior, while traditional interviewing is only 10 percent predictive.
From the site - http://www.quintcareers.com/behavioral_interviewing.html
All this discussion of behavioral interviewing caused me to brush up on the topic. The above site is pretty good.
Interestingly, conventional behavioral interviewing focuses on past accomplishements. What I realized was that I add a twist when I use it - I describe a potential situation that could happen in the position the candidate in interviewing for, and ask they what they would do (future-looking, as opposed to reviewing the past - which I can read from their resume).
What I look for in the answer is problem-solving skills, appropriate grasp of the technology (or professional skill area such as marketing) and both the skills and ability to apply it (where applicable), interpersonal and political skills and overall approach and logic.
Since I'm asking about a potential (future) situation, there is no right or wrong answer. Assuming that the interview is thorough, and the candidate can convince you that they can do what they say they can do (not that hard to determine if you've done the task yourself and drill down far enough) - if you like what you hear, you've generally got a good finalist.
Job matching or hiring for talent goes beyond behavioral interviewing.
Excuse me for interrupting, but is this thread still accomplishing our goal of providing useful, expert advice to the software industry? Or has it gotten to the point, perhaps, that you guys can agree to disagree?