With the improving economy many businesses are planning to hire their first employees in years. Many do not realize how much has changed in the last couple of years for people serious about presenting themselves as excellent candidates in the interview process.
Most interview processes are ivided into three sections:
- Looking at the job related hard skills a candidate possesses
- Checking if they have done their homework and know key details about the company/job they are interviewing for
- Evaluating if the candidate fits into the company culture and will play well with others in the “sandbox”
For most jobs the first two questions can easily be checked and the interviewer will get a pretty good feel for the candidate’s qualification and thoroughness in researching the company. The last question is the tricky one. Current labor statistics provided, for example, by “Leadership IQ” indicate that 50% of new hires fail within the first 18 month. 89% of those fail because of their attitude. Coincidentally a May 2013 Gallup poll showed that only 30% of the workforce are actively engaged and enthusiastic, 50% are going through the motions while 20% are actively disengaged and are harming the company’s profits and sabotaging their customer base.
With teamwork being one of the main focus points in today’s businesses, one disengaged employee can destroy a well-functioning team within a couple of months. So how can we eliminate or reduce the risk of hiring an unmotivated, emotionally unstable employee who lacks passion and communication skills. For starters, most interviewers use some of the most common 10 to 20 interview questions from “how do you handle major challenges”, “what was the worst/ best boss you worked for” to “tell me about yourself” questions, which can all easily be found on many websites. Candidates can consequently “Google” the questions and will again find on multiple websites the reasons for a certain question and how to best respond. Serious candidates will not only expect the questions, but will have well-rehearsed and correct answers at the ready.
How do we overcome this obstacle to reduce the high cost people with a lack of motivation and negative, reactive outlooks cause? There is nothing wrong with using one of the common questions as a starter. Listening carefully to the answer we need to start digging into the answer with open ended follow-up questions like: “how did it feel confronting that person”, “how did you influence a person outside your realm of authority to deliver results in time”, “tell me more about how the person responded to your approach”. With each answer we need to dig deeper to see more of the candidate’s reaction. For most it is very doable to memorize the answers to the most common questions. It is, however, extremely difficult to keep details of a made up response straight as we delve deeper and deeper into a story and ask about feelings and attitudes. In all we need to listen for the candidate’s
- Awareness of his emotions and how they affect his behavior
- Effective handling of strong emotions and control of anger and anxiety
- Description of nonverbal clues/reactions of others
- Talk about themselves in relation to others (as opposed to about me, me & me)
- Taking accountability for mistakes and thoughtfully reflecting on the lessons learned
- Effective application to new situations of lessons learned
The key to guiding this kind of interview is to pay attention to the nonverbal clues given. Does the applicant maintain eye contact, an open body position, lean in and stay animated or is he tensing up and is coming across as annoyed or confused. Most people cannot be congruent in their body language and their verbals when lying or not telling the whole truth, a clear sign that the well-rehearsed answers do not represent the candidate’s true personality.
A common question I am asked over and over is, would you hire a person with good job related skills who shows an excellent cultural fit with a positive ‘can do’ attitude and communication skills over a person who shows outstanding hard skills, however, lacks in attitude and communication. My answer is to always hire the person with the positive attitude. It is very rare that, in today’s environment, we are looking for employees who are not heavily involved in team work and do not have to communicate with internal and external customers. It is much easier to build on good hard skills and to develop them further than to “on-board” a person or to influence his motivation and attitude. The above mentioned statistic shows that hard skill deficiencies only account for 11% of reasons for separation.
Bad hires are costly and, in most cases, do permanent damage to your business and your customers. If you are not sure about the fit of a candidate, please contact us. We provide diverse on-line assessments to help you evaluate the candidates fit to your company culture as well as his fit within an established unit or team. Give us a call to evaluate your options.
About the Author:
Dr. Joe Mayer is the Managing Partner of the Mayer Business Group, which helps small to medium size businesses grow their employees and their bottom line by focusing on leadership, vision and strategy. Joe is a certified business coach and has 25+ years of experience in leading divisions of publically traded and private companies. Joe can be reached at JMayer@MayerBusinessGroup.com.