When things get a little squirrely in an interview process, it can provide valuable insight into how the candidate takes ownership in difficult situations.
People are perfect two times in their life. When they are born and when they interview.
Here are three suggestions for behavioral tripwires that reveal things bad hires keep well-concealed during a smooth interview.
ASK FOR TIMELINE COMMITMENTS.
When will you see their resume? When will they follow up? What is the next step? When can they start?
Following up on one's word is a character issue and asking for commitments allows them to demonstrate their character, for better and worse.
But it gets better.
If they miss their commitment, it's not the world's end. Now you get to hold them accountable politely. Why didn't they do X as they committed to?
Ideally, they respond with humility and accountability. Do they apologize and own the failure? Do they provide a clear and believable explanation? Do they defend or counter-attack? Do they stop communicating? These are valuable data points on character matters that are otherwise nearly impossible to assess in a friendly interview.
And now you have insight on their accountability. This can greatly strengthen your confidence they are being upfront about themselves or over-representing their character, which happens often.
Making mistakes is not a big deal. Failing to account for and learn from them humbly is a huge deal.
ABOUT THAT DISAPPOINTING PREVIOUS JOB: WHAT DID YOU MISS IN THE INTERVIEW? WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT IT? WHAT WILL YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?
When you ask why people were hired onto past jobs, how they performed, and why they left, you will often hear a story of how the company did not measure up to their commitments. It was disorganized, the candidate was mismanaged or micromanaged, etc…
Sometimes these stories are completely true. Just as some employees fail to live up to their interview act, employers over-sell too.
But there is an opportunity gem in these mismatched experiences.
Humble people will recognize their participation in a bad hire and share their reflections on what they learned and how they would avoid the situation again. Candidates too proud to admit a weakness will deflect accountability to ensure they join an aligned functional team.
Again, everyone makes mistakes and many times it’s an honest call to admit one might make the same mistake again with the same information. It happens to everyone.
With leadership roles it is particularly important to dig into their contribution to a solution. Anyone can complain but leaders solve problems with collaborative communciation.
You are looking for their recognition that they could do something differently in the future to avoid similar situations. We use this technique with high career movement candidates to assess how intentionally or unaccountably they are making job changes.
HOW WOULD YOUR FORMER BOSS DESCRIBE THE SITUATION AND YOUR PERFORMANCE?
Ask how their former manager would characterize their performance before you ask for them as a reference.
This is from the Topgrading methodology and is called TORC.
Comparing the candidate’s story with the employer’s story can lend additional resolution and believability. This isn’t about skepticism, it’s about cross referencing.
The reference provider’s perception will vary, plan on it. What you are listening for is the other side of the story. How well does it align or not align? Does the misalignment reflect a weakness in the candidate’s ability to accurately see other’s point of view? Is the leader of a competence and character level to give credit as well as critique?
THIS IS BLOODY DIFFICULT STUFF.
Hiring risk is incredible. In as little as a few hours you are trying to get to know people on a level they may not know themselves and predict how they will represent your company, contribute to culture, and perform financially.
To put it another way, people spend a lot more time deciding who they will marry and the divorce rate is still 50%.
People are complicated.
Good interviewing is about digging. Follow up questions. Assessing behavior in and out of the formal interview context. Cross referencing other people’s perspectives.
The most confident interviewers are often the most naive.