Guerilla Interviewing: How to REALLY Hire the Best and Brightest

26 Jan

Interview Best Practice - Assessing MotivationEpisode Two: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff – Assessing Motivation

Last episode, we discussed planning for great hiring.  In this episode, we’ll begin to sink our teeth into the meat of conducting interviews aimed at separating the wheat from the chaff.  First, I have good news and bad news.   Good News: “The Job Interview” as a selection tool is low drama – it’s cheap, doesn’t use a ton of time, doesn’t require a lot of resources and is low on the headache scale (relative to other assessment tools).  Also, assuming you’ve got a solid strategy in place before you begin it’s fairly quick to get from posting a job opening to hire.  Bad News: Empirically, “The Job Interview” is the least valid predictor of a candidate’s future job performance and has been proven to be the least effective tool for selection.  But keep your chin up – most of us still use the interview as our only selection tool so you’re in good company.  We can beat these odds by planning better , conducting carefully crafted interviews, and making smarter decisions – keep an eye out for a future post about decision making.

As I began to write this article, I was planning to cover all of the pieces of how to screen a candidate– guerilla style of course.  But as I wrote (and wrote, and wrote and wrote), I realized that each bit of a guerilla interview is insanely important and deserves its own limelight.  So I will cover all the parts of a guerilla interview one by one over the course of the next several weeks, be sure to sign up for our RSS feed to follow my posts. 

Before I begin, I wish I could take credit for all of these ideas, but I can’t.  There are tooonnnnsssss and tons of resources available on the subject of interviewing and hiring.  My “bibles” are two books in the Topgrading series; Topgrading and Topgrading for Sales.  Topgrading was introduced to me by a really cool guy who really knows Recruiting – my current boss at Sage, Chad Godhard plug, plug.  This book should be required reading by everyone who works in business and hires people.  Also, Lou Adler of The Adler Group is an amazing resource.  Lou’s approach is very strategic and smart – I am a huge fan and follower.  I also highly recommend joining; they don’t bombard you with daily emails, and when they do send info, it’s worth reading. 

Suggestion #1 for Conducting Guerilla Interviews:  Assess Motivation

Assessing a candidate’s motivation can be a major weed-out item, and in my opinion it’s the most effective way to reveal who a candidate really is.  It’s important to obtain this information right off the bat so you can drive the remainder of the interview process to your advantage, so start here.

It’s important to get the real answer here, so ease into this a little.  Ensure you make the candidate feel as comfy as possible with you; the more relaxed a candidate is with you the more likely it is that they will be their natural self and you will be hearing their sincere answers vs. the ones they spent hours rehearsing.

Motivations that I hear often include things like wanting to make more money, a better title, a different corporate culture, a different style boss, more challenging work, more responsibility, and even landing a job period because they’re currently unemployed, etc.

Find out:

  • Why they are looking,
  • Why they are looking now,
  • How long they’ve been looking and why it’s been that long (if it’s only been a week, what happened a week ago? If it’s been 8 months, why is it taking so long?),
  • What their ideal job looks like,
  • What their career plans and aspirations are,
  • What they love and hate about their current and recent jobs,
  • What actions they’ve taken in their current post to solve for the reasons they’re looking,
  • Whether they really want this job (vs. any job),
  • If this job is better (in their mind) than what they have now, and
  • What (in their mind) will be better than what they have now.

Allowing a candidate to talk through these topics is very telling about their character. It tells me about their desire, ambition, drive, passion, energy, attitude, aptitude, communication style, whether they are strategic vs. tactical, how organized (or not) they are (or aren’t), their personal style, etc.  Most of what I need to know about all the “soft stuff” is covered during this initial assessment of their motivations.  Getting someone to sincerely talk about what drives them, what they want to do, how they plan to do it, and what they’ve loved and hated about their jobs produces some of the most revealing information and allows us to assess who a candidate truly is as a professional (or in some cases, as a non-professional).

Verify their motivations are in line with this job before investing serious time with the candidate.  For instance, if they want more money it may make sense to move the comp discussion toward the front of the interview.  If you’re not offering what they will take, there’s no sense wasting much more time. If they are looking for more challenging work, find out exactly what that means, verify that we can fill that void and find out if they took any action toward ironing out that wrinkle in their current situation.  If their ideal job is working from home 3 days a week and this is an in-the-trenches office position, say that and get to the wrap-up.  If they want structure and you don’t have a single written SOP in your company, it’s probably not going to be a fit.  If motivations are not in line, say so and get to the wrap-up (we’ll talk about a positive, professional wrap-up in a future post). 

If their motivations are in line, GREAT news –we have a winner at this point, so let’s keep rolling!  Having motivations that are in line with your job opening and your corporate culture along with some good old-fashioned energy and sincere desire (not just for any job, but this job) are the first signs that this candidate could be a great fit for the position.  Proceed with the interview – hopefully you listened very carefully to what motivates your candidate because you’ll be using that information to navigate through the rest of your interview (and your professional relationship) with them.  Knowing what truly motivates someone is a very powerful thing – use it for good. 

Next time I’ll babble about Impressions.

Be sure to check back often to read my future recruiting posts and in February we’re offering a FREE webcast, Creating the Recruiter’s Little Black Book, that will also provide tactical approaches to recruitment.  By attending, you will be awarded One General Credit-Hour from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). 

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