Scenario: Your candidate arrived for her fourth and final interview.
Having passed a lengthy assessment process with managers and executives, the candidate was confident the company would offer her the senior management position. You weren't so sure, yet.
Your are responsible for this candidate's final assessment and your company has been under pressure to fill this role – it has been open too long.
Thirty minutes into the interview, it was clear to you that the company was poised to make a costly hiring mistake. Both candidate and company had invested time in the interview process, but your additional review at this critical juncture saved time and money for all concerned.
Had this candidate been hired:
• The department would be led with 20% of the experience required for the job.
• Operating procedures would fail and progress would be reversed.
• The team would take a beating due to lack of leadership.
• The company would lose money and time, only to start the recruiting process over 3 - 6 months down the road.
• The new hire would be frustrated, disrespected by peers, and faced with a significant career mistake.
What did you do in this interview to avoid this costly mistake? You did (4) things right:
• Practiced Active listening.
• Gathered specific, factual examples of experience, which had been missed.
• Assessed real experience against job requirements.
• Avoided hiring a manager because of time pressures.
1. Active Listening.
The right candidate means he/she meets the minimal requirements for the position and will be a “high performer”, a huge success, in the role.
Your mission in an interview is to listen carefully and get factual examples that will confirm you can match the right candidate to the job requirements.
It’s natural for candidates to come to an interview ready to sprinkle strategic words across the conversation in order to impress the interviewer.
Most candidates have enough experience or general knowledge about the position to make use of words and phrases that will make your eyes sparkle.
The key to success is to gather facts and examples that support the candidate’s knowledge and “fit” for the job. Does the candidate have solid experience or is he/she simply throwing around key strategic words to impress you?
2. Gathering Specifics – whenever you hear something that sounds “great” you must determine if it’s good or not. Here’s an example:
Candidate: I was often recognized for my abilities in product development. (Sounds great!)
Interviewer: How so?
Candidate: My colleagues knew I was the person to talk with for product development expertise.
Interviewer: How did they know?
Candidate: Well, they knew that it was my responsibility.
Interviewer: Just so I’m clear, when you say, “recognized for your abilities”, did you receive an award, or a thank you letter from your Manager, or a public acknowledgement on your abilities for product development?
Candidate: Well, no. I mean, I wasn’t actually ‘recognized’ but people knew I was responsible for the job.
Most interviewers stop at the beginning of this dialogue, making a note that the candidate was “often recognized for his accomplishments in product development.”
In the example above, we ask what the candidate did instead of assuming that “recognition” was a specific accomplishment.
Here is another example:
Candidate: That year, the whole team went above and beyond the call of duty. I was proud of the team spirit and everyone’s hard work. Of course, there were some challenges along the way; but we pushed through and met the deadline.
Interviewer: What kind of challenges did you meet?
Candidate: We hit a few quality issues, recognized them quickly, and took action to improve?
Interviewer: What kind of quality issues?
Candidate: Well, normally, we averaged 2% variance and at one point we hit 8%; but we got it down quickly.
Interviewer: What happened?
Candidate: Honestly, in pushing for the deadline, we lost control of quality. Unfortunately, we also lost a key client; but we learned a lot and improved for the future.
Interviewer: That’s certainly a challenge. Were you able to recover the client?
Candidate: No, and it was one of our largest, a 10 million dollar account. It was not a good period for us.
Again, most interviewers would have stopped at the beginning, taking a note along the lines of, “Wow, this candidate is a team player, cares for his team, and was able to meet the company’s deadlines in a challenging environment”.
When “digging in” and getting more specific, candidates will almost always share details surrounding the actual situation. From there, you can determine if the experience is a good match for the position you need to fill.
Stop making up stories for your candidates! Get the facts.
By slowing down, listening carefully, and backing up examples with facts, you gain data that helps make a more informed decision.
You saved your company, your team, and the candidate from a costly and painful ‘mis-hire’ experience, by following the right interview steps. Congratulations!
This has been a guest post by Michelle LaVallee. If you need to brush up on your interviewing skills, contact Michelle at Management Success China, especially if you are hiring managers in China. She can help your company avoid the cost of mistaken hires.
Michelle is the Founder & CEO of Management Success China, a management consulting company that specializes in the development and implementation of Talent Management strategies. Her company focuses on bridging Executive and Management experience across the Americas and China. She has over 10 years of experience in assisting Fortune 500 companies hire managerial talent in China.
Michelle is fluent in Mandarin, and the sample interview is taken from a real situation with a company in China.