Up until recently many employees were hired and promoted based on a simple theory: past performance is a good predictor of future performance.
Hiring or promoting on past performance continues to work if the environment in which the employee is expected to perform will remain constant. In today’s world, you’d have to be doing business in a cave located in a remote location in the world that is disconnected from all communication to do that.
For every small change in the environment, past performance becomes less of a valid predictor of future performance
The new formula for predicting future performance goes something like this:
Past Performance + Capacity + Potential = Future Performance
Predicting future performance then requires knowledge into a candidate’s transferrable skills.
The employee selection process must uncover the transferable skills that this employee developed in the past that can be transferred to new situations and unprecedented challenges. These skills (problem solving, analytical thinking, leading others, planning and organizing, customer service, negotiating, and so on) are job specific, company specific, and even industry specific. They are transferable from task to task, project to project, and industry to industry. Leading a turn-around, selling a service, troubleshooting a customer’s problem takes a lot more than repeating what was done in the past. It requires the ability to execute quickly and effectively, even when time and resources are limited. Those skills can’t be scripted but they can be learned. That’s the purpose of the interview – to uncover what’s been
How do you uncover a candidate’s transferable skills? It begins with learning how to conduct a behavioral interview.
Unfortunately the traditional interview is loaded with inaccuracies. For starters, many candidates are so well coached by outplacement counselors, career coaches, and web-based articles that they make mincemeat out of the interviewing hiring manager. The result is that many studies have shown most interviews to be just slightly more effective than flipping a coin.
I’ve prepared a 7-step process to help employers learn how to conduct a behavioral interview. Note: It does not begin with compiling a list of questions!
1. List the three most essential functions or activities that the prospective employee must perform exceptionally well to meet or exceed your expectations. Ask yourself: “At the end of 12 months, what does this candidate have to do or complete to really impress me?”
2. Identify the core competencies required by employee to actually complete these activities consistently and effectively. Limit the list to 3 or 4 skills for entry-level jobs, 5 to 7 skills for mid-level, and 10 skills for senior and professional level roles.
3. Develop interview questions that target these core competencies. Use open ended questions. Don’t ask “How many years of experience you have as a team leader?” but “Tell me about how you would go about building your team hear if offered the job?”
4. Listen more than you talk. An effective interview is 70% listening, 30% talking – or asking questions. Listening also means observing. Sometimes the interviewer is uncomfortable asking a question that makes the candidate – well, uncomfortable. Silence is ok – don’t rescue the candidate. A rule of thumb is wait 10 seconds before breaking a silence. That’s one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand…not 1-2-3-4-and so on. A few seconds of silence is the perfect time to uncover how a candidate behaves when working under pressure. Does he fidget? Break into a sweat? Does his voice quiver? Or does he talk before he thinks…and rambles on.
5. Probe. Learning how to conduct a behavioral interview the right way doesn’t involve listening for right and wrong answers. Don’t get excited when a candidate provides a response you wanted to hear. An effective interview doesn’t just happen because you asked all the questions on your list. A candidate’s responses could be scripted as well if not better than the questions you plan to ask. Too often the manager asks a question, hears what he or she wants to hear, and moves on to another question. Instead of moving down the checklist, ask another question pertaining to the response just given by the candidate: “Tell me more;” “Was there ever a time that same technique or solution didn’t work;” “Were you able to repeat success again? Where and How” Here’s my rule: for every one question you ask, have 2 or 3 more related questions regardless of the response.
6. Use psychometric tests – personality, general reasoning, behavioral style – to confirm the impressions made during the interview as well as uncover additional questions. For example, a an assessment might reveal that the candidate who brags about his detail orientation and drive for results “scores” low on attention to detail and task closure. Many assessments such as Assess, Prevue, and Clues offer recommended interview questions personalized to the way a candidate’s personality fit, attitude, and/or abilities. For the candidate just mentioned, the assessment prompts the manager to dig a little deeper to make sure the candidate has learned to dot his i’s and cross his t’s … or has just learned to provide you the answers you wanted to hear. These questions also help you target the questions you might ask former employers and co-workers when completing reference checks.
7. Ask yourself: Is this candidate qualified to do the job as it exists today? Does this candidate have the ability and motivation to do the job in the future? Few jobs will remain constant going forward. Whether it’s your next CFO, software programmer, or customer service representative, the marketplace they meet today may be very different 3 years from now. How effectively and how quickly will they be able to adapt?
Yogi Berra once said, “the future ain’t what it used to be.” Truer words have never been spoken. Past performance is a poor predictor of future success in most jobs today. And many current skills will become less valuable, if not worthless, moving forward? Unless you’re hiring for transactional/low-skill jobs where candidates are abundant, the importance of learning how to conduct a behavioral interview and testing for transferable skills has never been so critical.