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Use the Discovery Interview to Predict Success

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An exhaustive list of skills and generic competencies doesn’t predict on-the-job performance. Worse, it excludes from consideration all high potential, diverse and non-traditional candidates who can actually do the work but who have a different mix of skills and experiences. It also excludes all passive candidates who are looking for career moves.

Recognize that competency to do the job is not the same as motivation to do the job. And motivation to do the job is not the same as motivation to get the job. The purpose of the interview is not just to determine competency and motivation to do the job but also to demonstrate to the candidate that the job is a career move. All three conditions are essential if a company wants to hire more high performing individuals.

The Discovery Interview addresses all of these issues. To use it you first have to define the work required to be successful. Based on this the interviewer can determine competency and motivation. For the job to also be considered a career move it must offer a combined 30% non-monetary increase in job stretch (bigger job), job growth (faster learning) and job satisfaction (a richer mix of more satisfying work). I refer to this as the 30% Solution.

Figuring out if your job meets all of these conditions involves a discovery process. The term relates to the needs analysis component of solution selling. This is the step in the sales process when the sales rep figures out the customer’s problem and based on this develops a custom solution. Here’s how this relates to the hiring.

Using the 5-Step Discovery Interview Process

  1. Prepare a performance-based job description. Before you even start looking for a candidate describe the 5-6 things the person needs to do to be considered successful. Start with an action verb for each objective, describe the task, the timeframe and some measure of success. You’ll be comparing the candidate’s past performance to this benchmark to determine competency, motivation and the career opportunity.
  2. Conduct a thorough work history review. As part of the work history review focus on why the person changed jobs and if the job change achieved the personal objective. Then look for formal recognition for doing a good job. Compare the reasons for changing jobs and the success achieved to what you need done. These should align closely. Specifically avoid candidates who have “Job Hopping Syndrome.”
  3. Ask the most significant accomplishment question. Describe each objective in the performance-based job description and ask the candidate to tell you what he/she accomplished that’s most comparable. The fact finding associated with this question is at the core of the discovery process. It uncovers where the candidate excels, what motivates the person to excel and if your open spot offers the 30% non-monetary increase. It takes about 20 minutes to do this properly for each objective.
  4. Ask the problem-solving question. Spend 20 minutes discussing the most important job-related problem the person will need to handle soon after starting. Don’t worry about the answer. Evaluate the person on the process used to figure out the cause of the problem, the clarifying questions asked and if the preliminary action plan is reasonable.
  5. Calculate the Job Fit Index to predict Quality of Hire. Based on the Discovery Interview described above you’ll be able to calculate the person’s Job Fit Index. This accurately predicts on-the-job success. As long as all of the factors shown are true the person hired will be a great hire. Getting to yes on all of the factors is the challenge, but in the process of figuring this out you’ll have all of the information needed to make the correct hiring decision.

When it comes to anything, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you’ll never know when and if you’ve found it. The same is true in hiring. Unfortunately, when you define what you want in terms of skills, experiences and competencies, finding it doesn’t predict on-the-job success, motivation or performance. However, when you define your open jobs as a series of performance objectives the process of finding and assessing people is not only easier but more accurate. And as long as you offer people work that’s intrinsically motivating combined with more rapid learning and growth you’ll be hiring more top performers than you’ve ever thought possible. Now’s the time to discover the Discovery Interview for yourself before you hire another person. After the hire, it will be too late.