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For Employers: A Technique to Increase Your Hiring Success Rate (part 2)


Part 1 of this series looked at how to form questions that got to the core of what your organisation needs and how to ask questions in a way that honest answers from candidates. In part 2 we look at an interview question pattern that will double your hiring success rate.

The 4 step interview question

The number one reason why new hires fail is that they are not coachable. A high performance workplace is dependent upon employees who have the ability to accept and implement feedback from bosses, colleagues and customers. But discovering coachability during the interview process is not easy. This 4 step question technique that will allow you to separate candidates who are coachable from those who are not.

Step 1 Lead the candidate to think you are going to listen to their boss

Begin by asking applicants for the name of their most recent boss other than their current one and how you would go about contacting them. Go into some detail here asking for a contact phone number or email. The aim is to create a situation where the applicant believes you are going to call their ex-boss. The result is that they are to be more likely to be truthful or not exaggerate in their responses to the questions you ask.

Step 2 Ask them to describe their boss

A simple way to do this is to ask, “Tell me what (ex-boss name) was like as a boss”. The answer the applicant provides will give you an indication about what they are looking for in a boss. For example, if they answer my boss “was very hands-on and wanted regular updates” and they say this in an negative manner, you can infer that this applicant doesn’t like that style of management.

Whether their response, is positive or negative, they usually won’t give you a complete response. So follow-up with questions like “tell me about a specific example of” or “what was that like?” If they indicate (whether implicitly or explicitly) that they
don’t respond well to micromanagers, and you’re a bit of a micromanager, ask yourself whether you could successfully manage them. If their boss sounds like you and they liked working for them take that as a good sign.

Step 3 Ask them how their boss would describe their strengths

Frame the question as “when I talk to … what will he/she tell me are your greatest strengths?” This question has two purposes. First, before you start asking about their weaknesses, it’s nice to start with a positive question. Asking about their strengths gets the candidate talking and keeps them comfortable with you. Second, it gives you an honest look at the qualities that they like best about themselves. If they talk about being process-oriented and very detailed and you’re looking for a big-picture thinker, you just learned something very valuable.

Note that this is not the same as asking the candidate to describe their strengths. If you do that, you are going to get what the candidate thinks you want to hear not what they actually believe.

Step 4 Ask them how their boss would describe their weaknesses

Use a format such as “everyone has some weaknesses, what will … tell me are yours?” This is a critical question and works best if you have completed the previous three steps. If you have done so you might be surprised at the level of honesty you elicit.

You want to listen to their answer on two levels. First, you are going to assess whether the weakness is something you can live with. If they say they were criticized for being political or not completing assignments on time, then you may have uncovered that they share characteristics with your low performers.

Second, if they say they cannot think of any weaknesses or “they don’t know what … thought about them”, then you’ve hit upon the biggest warning sign that someone is not coachable. If they didn’t (or couldn’t) hear the constructive feedback offered by their previous boss, what are the chances that you will be successful giving them feedback?

If you follow these techniques, instead of having a 20% chance of hiring a high performer you will be heading towards a 40% chance of hiring someone who will make valuable contributions to your organisation.


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