Published: Mar 2, 2020
When it comes to finding that perfect candidate, I’m always looking for a “Win-Win Hiring” outcome. This means that both the hiring manager and the new hire both agree it was the right decision one year into the job. While defining hiring success with this outcome is a worthy goal, it requires some significant reengineering of your hiring process to achieve it on a consistent basis.
But after 40+ years of recruiting, I’ve come up with a method that helps avoid making that costly bad hire. It starts with taking a step back and identifying what’s working and what isn’t in your hiring process and your candidate evaluation. This can be a lengthy process, but to help you get started I created the chart below that shows what I’ve found to be the best and worst predictors of on-the-job success:
Most of the problems listed above occur when interviewers don’t fully understand the job they’re hiring for. As a result of this disconnect, they substitute their biases and pet questions to make what ends up being a faulty assessment of the candidate before them.
Eliminating these problems, however, can be as easy as reframing your assessment process to answer the following question: “What does the person in the job actually need to do during the first year to be considered a great hire?”
Here are my three steps that will help you successfully answer this question and avoid a costly hiring mistake:
1. Start by tweaking your job descriptions
It’s my opinion that job descriptions should never look like a traditional laundry list of skills and competencies. Instead, outline five to six key performance objectives (KPOs) or objectives and key results (OKRs) that describe actual tasks that will need to be fulfilled while on the job, plus the actions required to complete those tasks and some specific measures of success.
For example, being upfront in your job description with KPOs like “Reduce scrap on the widget line from 5% to less than 1% by year-end” and “Conduct a process review of the entire assembly process in the first 30 days to identify problems” is a lot better than saying, “Must have 10+ years of high-volume widget production experience, an engineering degree from a top school, a results-oriented attitude, and strong team and collaborative skills.”
And while this list of performance objectives is a critical first step, the interviewing process must also be redesigned to assess the strong and essential predictors of job success shown in the table above based on this actual job description.
2. Be sure to ask these two questions during the interview
The good news is that the predictors of a candidate’s likely success at the job can be assessed with just two questions during the job interview. The first is what’s called a Most Significant Accomplishment (MSA) question and it looks something like this:
“Can you describe your most significant career accomplishment related to (describe one of the KPOs from the job description)?”
It takes about 15 minutes of fact-finding to fully understand what the candidate accomplished, covering the actual results achieved, the changes made, how decisions were made, the competencies and skills used, the underlying environment and culture, and the process used to achieve the results. This one question uncovers a great deal, but by asking the same MSA question for every KPO in the job description, a trendline will emerge revealing performance, fit, and potential to handle the new role.
The second question, called the Problem-Solving Question (PSQ), is entirely different. Here’s the typical format:
“One of the biggest challenges in this job is (provide short description). If you were to get the job, how would you go about solving it?”
For the widget example I provided above, the question might be: “We have a big scrap problem. Can you walk me through how you would figure out the root cause and put together a solution?”
Asked properly, this question uncovers a critical ability of all top performers: Job-related problem-solving skills. The best candidates I’ve met in my 35 years in executive search all have the ability to anticipate the needs of the job before starting it. They can figure out very quickly what’s wrong or what’s necessary to accomplish a task, what they need to do to implement a solution, and what resources they need to do it. The ideal candidate also realizes they don’t have the answers for everything, but are confident enough to tell you how they’ll get the information needed.
When you ask this problem-solving question, it’s important to turn off the spotlights and shift the conversation into a more natural give-and-take discussion about real job needs. It’s also important to note that what’s being assessed is the process the person uses to develop a solution, not the solution itself.
Assessing the person’s problem-solving skills includes evaluating the appropriateness of the questions asked and how the candidate handles pushback from the interviewer as they challenge some of the ideas presented.
3. Follow up with the Anchor and Visualize technique to increase interviewing accuracy
Often people can talk a good game when asked a problem-solving question, but can’t deliver the results. To address this concern, use this follow-up question:
“Now can you tell me about something you’ve accomplished that’s most related to what we need done?”
I refer to this question and follow-up combination as the Anchor and Visualize approach. It’s a great way to find out if your candidate has a successful track record of past performance, and to see if they have the ability to visualize the future and any problems that may be lurking around the corner.
When combined with a clear understanding of real job needs using a performance-based job description, these interview questions are all you need to ensure you’re hiring a great person and increasing the chance you’ll obtain a true “Win-Win Hiring” outcome.