Why don’t they position the driver’s seat facing out the back of the bus? You can see the road. You can even tell whether the bus is between the lane markers. Of course, we all know that’s silly. Seeing the past does not allow us to anticipate or respond to what is coming down the road at us. Yet, that is what most managers do when they base a hiring decision on someone’s resume and inappropriate interview questions.
This post is the last in a three-part series on Hiring for Talent. The first post (“Too Many Corners on the Box“) exposed the fallacy of over constraining a hiring search by relying on long lists of experiences and skills. The second post (“I Hired Your Resume, But Unfortunately I Got You”) revealed the pitfalls of focusing on the past and made a case for concentrating more attention on forward-looking talents. This post discusses some methods for hiring talents.
You will never find what you have not first defined. As a first step we must identify the talents we are seeking to hire. Consider first company-specific talents. Since individuals frequently change jobs or roles within the same company the vision for the organization’s culture should overwhelmingly determine the talents you seek to hire. Yes, that means you must have first reduced your vision for the culture or company values to writing and, second, take that plaque, picture, or poster off the wall and really use it. Second, consider job-specific talents with your view out the front of the bus. Think in terms of the talents needed to tackle the challenges facing the person you hire.
But, that still leaves a question of how do we uncover a candidate’s talents? Resumes may provide clues, but almost never reveal answers. Poorly written resumes compound the problem by making isolated and unsupported claims of talent (usually in an overview section); such as Creative, Highly disciplined, Responsible, High integrity, Quick learner, High achiever, etc.
Here are three methods for uncovering and confirming a candidate’s talents:
- Trials. This method discovers talents from first-hand experiences during previous interactions. The most effective use of this method is when a manager hires someone they already know well from working together in a professional setting. However, this try-before-you-hire method is rarely suitable for hiring to fill most professional positions when the hiring manager and candidate do not know each other. Most candidates with exceptional talent will not assume the risk of a probationary hire.
- Testing. There exists a wide assortment of assessment tools; including instruments such as Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and Wonderlic to name a few. I have mixed opinions on assessment tools. These tools often reveal interesting and potentially helpful insights. However, they can get pricey and present logistic challenges to administer them. More importantly, the broad nature of many assessment tools can make it difficult to zero in on specific targeted talents. In my opinion, too many assessment tools attempt to provide a be all to end all solution and end up providing so much information that properly interpreting them requires a level of training and expertise that makes them impractical or unaffordable. Nonetheless, I know there are fans of various assessment methods…please feel free to share your views in the comments on assessments you’ve found effective.
- Talking. Not casual chatting about the candidate’s favorite food, team or vacation spot. Not surface-level conversation about where the candidate has worked and what they’ve done. Not a flag-waving recitation of the candidate’s amazing results. But rather, a structured and deep-level dialogue about what drives the candidate and fueled their accomplishments. It’s free; although it takes some work.
Using Interviews to Uncover Talents
A word of caution…Contrived or hypothetical scenarios shed less light on an individual’s talents and traits and may actually mislead the interviewer (in a hypothetical scenario I will always leave that last chocolate cookie on the plate). Google developed a reputation for off-beat interview questions, but has recently abandoned it (read more here). As a hiring manager I care little about what the candidate might do. I learn most from what they have done.
Since talents are innate or hardwired into our character as a toddler, the exercise of them rarely requires conscious thought or action. Consequently, our actions (human doing) indirectly reveal our talents (human being). In other words, a person’s behavior in real-life situations provides us a window to identify their talents. Consequently, we must use inference and pursue lines of indirect inquiry to uncover a person’s talents. Hopefully, you are now getting an appreciation for clearing understanding what you’re looking for in a new hire.
For illustration purposes, here are some behaviors for which you would listen if initiative were one of your target talents:
- Identified a problem, trend or unexploited opportunity
- Researched and presented potential solutions
- Recruited an ad hoc team to pursue an opportunity
- Got involved in a project outside their immediate work area
- Volunteered time in nonprofit organization(s)
- Founded a group or organization to address an unmet need in their local church, school or community
Finally, a few additional practical suggestions:
- Use the same question set with each candidate to create a basis for meaningful comparison among the various candidates
- The book “ Who” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street provides the best structured interview process guide I have ever used
- Another great starting place is “The Most Important Interview Question of All Time” by Lou Adler