Nov 07, 2017 | 4
Minute Read

Hire the right candidate every time with these 3 steps

Interviewing a candidate

Joe Smith seemingly has the whole package. He has a solid resume, great references, skills that showcase his expertise in his field and plenty of success stories to his credit. On paper, Joe seems like the ultimate “can’t miss” candidate. Joe looks the part and his appearance seems to match his resume.

During the interview, Joe is well-spoken, polite and asks great questions. Relaxed and comfortable throughout, he is both engaging and interesting. Not only does Joe seem like a great candidate, the company believes he is the best person for the job and hires him on the spot.

Then day one arrives. Joe looks good and says the right things but something isn’t quite right. He seems a little different than he did during the interview. He is not quite as sharp or prepared as the company expected he would be and seems easily confused and distracted. He gets through his first day and most of the staff think he is an average Joe. By the end of the first month, Joe’s energy has waned, as has his interest in his new position, and he is showing signs of lagging behind. The company can’t help but wonder if Joe is the superstar he appeared to be during his stellar interview. Hopefully things will improve by month six when it’s time for Joe’s review.

When the sixth month comes, there is no review because Joe has already left the company. The company probably would have fired Joe at this review if he hadn’t already quit. Frustrated and confused, the company needs to start from scratch and go through the process all over again to find Joe’s replacement. What went wrong here? Joe seemed like a “can’t miss” candidate. 

First Date Behavior

During the interview, Joe exhibited what can be referred to as “first date behavior.” He was laser focused on making a great, if not stellar, first impression. His resume was polished and he said all the right things. He rehearsed his lines and worked in a few memorable catch phrases to settle into the minds of the hiring team. Just like a first date, Joe was on his best behavior and pulled out all the stops to impress. But this wasn’t really who Joe was; it was a performance put on by “actor Joe” to land the job.

It turns out that although Joe certainly had the necessary skills needed to do the job, he did not possess the attitude and motivation to succeed long term at the position. So often in the workplace, people are hired for their skills but fired for their attitude. And had Joe not left the company, this would have been the case here. What’s important to understand is that Joe wasn’t the problem; the hiring system was.

Defining Job Benchmarking

In this case, the company trusted their instincts when hiring Joe, instead of setting up a solid job benchmark in advance. A job benchmark is a defining a clear and precise description of a job description, including necessary skills needed to succeed. The benchmark should also include areas of consideration such as the ideal employee behaviors and motivators as well as how a person will fit in within the company’s culture. If a benchmark is defined, it’s much easier to compare the results to the results of a candidate. And in doing so, you are able to hire the right candidate for the role.

It’s also important to understand what rewards this role has to offer or the type of person who would be engaged by the role. Is this role a team-oriented position where members work together to accomplish a communal goal, or does it require leadership skills that rally a team together by delegate tasks? The importance of identifying these needs in advance cannot be overstated.

Another benchmarking consideration is how the person views the world as well as themselves. The fine line between confidence and cockiness can easily mean the difference between success and failure and being able to rally the team around their mission. This line is measured by the candidates sense of self.

Last but not least, the benchmark needs to assess whether or not the candidate has the skills to execute the job. It’s no coincidence that skills are being mentioned last. The truth is, skills can be taught, but behavior, motivation and more cannot. The candidate may not have the skills needed on day one on the job but it may not matter. The bigger questions to ask is whether or not the candidate has the potential to succeed?

Creating a Plan for Success

This process should not be taken lightly and should be conducted by people in the organization that truly understand the job and can define the needs and wants are for a given position. These people are known as subject matter experts (SMEs). After the SMEs have created the benchmark, then it’s time to create a plan to ensure all candidates are evaluated equally and fairly.

Since time is such a valuable asset, there is no reason to bring in everyone for an in-person interview. Start with a phone screen and weed out the candidates that don’t have what it takes to remain under consideration. Next, compare the remaining candidates' assessments to the job benchmark and start the live interview process.

The first round of interviews should focus on whether or not a candidate possesses the necessary skills for the job, or at least the ability to acquire the skills needed to succeed. For the candidates that make it to the next round, use the talent assessment to compare the candidate to the needs of the job. Be sure to focus on the gaps between the job benchmark and the candidates' assessment results in the second round of interviews. Ask questions that dig deep into the these gaps to understand if they will prevent the candidate from being successful. In doing so, the interviewers would have had a job specific way to check Joe's polished stories in the initial interviews.

Using this process takes time, energy and effort from multiple members of the company. The same can be said for having multiple rounds of interviews. However, putting in a little extra effort on the front end is significantly less expensive than the cost of turnover in the position, plus the opportunity costs of either good or bad performance. It’s worth the time it takes to do it right the first time.

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Rick Bowers