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Any manager knows that one great employee is worth more than a pile of mediocre staffers. Having brilliant or average employees can make or break your business. If you want to grow a strong team and a flourishing business, you’d better know how to hire.
The problem is that too many people make the same mistakes over and over again. They don’t know how to conduct interviews or write good job descriptions, so they end up hiring the wrong people and wasting resources managing and firing them. Then they have to start the whole process over again.
How do you attract the best candidates when trying to fill a position? First, you need to educate yourself on some common misconceptions about hiring.
Recruiters often make mistakes in the interview process. They sometimes give too much weight to the interaction between the candidate and interviewer, instead of focusing on the candidate’s abilities and motivation for the job.
Moreover, most hiring decisions are overly influenced by the interaction at the start of the interview. An interpersonal relationship develops between the candidate and interviewer right away, and that can end up swaying the interviewer too much.
If you immediately like a candidate, you’re more likely to ask them easy questions as the interview goes on. If the candidate lacks certain skills, you might dismiss this, thinking they’ll be able to learn them later.
On the other hand, if you dislike someone from the start, you’ll probably be harsher on them. You might subconsciously start looking for their flaws to prove that your negative first impression was correct.
We also have a natural tendency to focus on candidates’ skills instead of their ability to actually do the job at hand. When you put too much emphasis on a person’s performance in an interview, you might lose sight of what the job actually involves.
So remind yourself to focus on your candidate’s capabilities, not the impression they give off. Aim for objectivity. You’ll pay more attention to performance requirements when you push yourself to be more objective.
How can you do this? First off, wait at least 30 minutes after an interview before you make any hiring decisions. Don’t just go with your first impression [Gut reaction] of the person.
The real key to ensuring that you’re hiring by performance is to create performance profiles. Read on to see how they work.
Most people recruit by writing a job description that contains a long list of desired skills or traits. That’s not the most effective method, however. It’ll only lead you to recruit average employees.
So don’t rely on job descriptions. Use performance profiles instead.
A performance profile outlines the goals of the position, rather than the skills and qualifications it requires. It’s a great way to filter out your candidates.
So don’t just say you’re looking for a candidate who’s good at market research, for instance. Say you expect the person to “prepare a comprehensive competitive analysis report in the first month.”
When you emphasize specific tasks, you’ll turn the job’s requirements into measurable objectives. Focus on what your candidates can do, rather than what they have. Your employee’s skills aren’t what matters – it’s what they can do with them that counts.
When you’re preparing your performance profile, set a benchmark for the ideal candidate. How would the best possible employee do the job?
For example, the author was familiar with a jewelry-making business that struggled with a high turnover rate in the polishing department. When they started benchmarking, they found that the best performers were people with an eye for detail.
So they started giving candidates pieces of jewelry to evaluate during their interviews, to assess their attention to detail. The strategy worked: their turnover rate decreased.
Giving candidates a task is much more useful than having them respond to a job description.
The best candidates look for positions based on what they’ll be doing and learning, not the skills they already have. They’re interested in bettering themselves and growing.
An ambitious person won’t be attracted to a job description that’s just a boring list of duties, so use performance profiles if you want to bring in the best people.
Some employers use interviews as tests to see whether the candidate will fit in with the company or not. If you catch yourself doing that, stop. It’s not a good use of an interview.
An interview should really be about testing to see if the person can do the job well. So use performance-based interviews instead.
Performance-based interviews are about fact-finding. To give a performance-based interview, you need to ask two key questions.
The first is the most significant accomplishment question, or MSA. Ask the candidate about the most important things they’ve accomplished in their career. Be sure to get all the details. If you’re interviewing for an entry-level position, ask them about a project they felt proud of.
There are many ways you can phrase this. For example, you can ask, “Can you describe a project or task you were involved in that made you feel proud?”
A good answer to the MSA question tells you almost everything you need to know to make a good hiring decision. So if the person tells you they’re proud that they once patched up a disorganized team and led them into giving a great presentation, you’ll know they’re a natural leader.
The second most important thing to ask is the how-would-you question. Do that by describing a problem to the candidate and asking how they’d solve it.
A candidate’s answer to a how-would-you question tells you how they think. It shows you how well they can improvise and solve job-specific problems.
Imagine you’re interviewing for a sales management position. You might want to know how they’d approach selling a new product, for instance.
Don’t hesitate to clarify the facts, either. Sometimes interviewers don’t ask follow-up questions because they’re afraid of appearing confused. Details are important, however, so make sure you get as many as you can.
We’ve seen how first impressions can be deceptive in interviews. It’s easy to get hung up on emotional prejudices when hiring – you should actively strive to avoid that.
So here are some good tips for staying focused on the right things during your recruitment process.
First off, use evidence-based assessments. Evidence-based assessments ensure that you’re judging candidates using solid evidence, not just your gut feeling [System 1 Thinking].
So evaluate your candidates according to the job’s real demands. If you’ve made your performance profiles, you’ll already know what your ideal candidate looks like.
More importantly, don’t let any interviewers make the hiring decisions on their own. Instead, have teams of people to decide who should be hired for a position. Draw up assessment charts too. Hold debriefing sessions after your interviews so you can share information and compare your thoughts.
Panel interviews are also helpful. They eliminate a lot of the problems that arise in one-on-one interviews.
There are a couple of reasons why panel interviews are a good idea. First, they’re more objective and goal-oriented. There’ll be less room for small talk, so the interview will be more on point. You can’t get sidetracked with trivia when there are three people conducting the interview.
Panel interviews also make it easier to assess the candidate’s responses. In one-on-one interviews, you sometimes spend so much time thinking about the next question that you forget to listen to the person’s answer. When there are more people in the room, you can alternate the questions and focus more on the candidate.
Panel interviews can be intimidating for the candidate, however. If you’re going to use a panel, warn them beforehand. An interview shouldn’t feel like an interrogation, after all.
Qualification: noun: A quality or accomplishment that makes someone suitable for a particular job or activity.
Job descriptions state qualifications for a job. When interviewing, align interview questions with listed job qualifications to ensure applicant meets or exceeds qualifications for the job.
An interviewer may ask questions that are subjective and unmeasurable. The question, "How would you describe your management style?" is not a qualification, and is unmeasurable.