California Labor and Employment Defense Blog

Interviewing: Asking The Previously Unasked

Guest post by Joe Jotkowitz of the Executive Advisory:

When new hires fail, it costs the organization.  Some sources say at minimum it is salary and a half.  It costs time, recruitment efforts, salary, training, client relationships, morale, sales, productivity, and the list goes on and on.

In a recent Leadership IQ study, it found that the number one reason for new hires not working out wasn't a lack of competence... it wasn't a lack of knowledge... it wasn't even a lack of technical skill.  Rather, it was coachability.  Twenty six percent of new hires failed because they couldn't accept feedback.  Other top reasons included an inability to manage emotions, lacking the necessary motivation or initiative, and not possessing the right temperament for the position.

So, if we know that a wrong hire is costly and we know why new hires tend to fail, why don't we do something about it?  Because the areas where new hires are failing the test isn't an area that most hiring managers are used to testing.  How do you interview for coachability?  How do you assess someone's ability to take initiative?  How can you tell if someone possesses the right temperament for the position?

The answer: Behavior Interviewing.  Behavioral interviewing has been around for quite some time, and it's getting more and more use in the workplace.  The basic premise is that the best predictor of future performance (how effectively a candidate MIGHT meet the requirements for the position) is past performance (how effectively a candidate HAS met the requirements for the position).  This is not to say that a viable candidate can only have performed the exact job at another organization.  Rather, the goal is to focus on what's known as KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities).  These are transferable and assessable in an interview when asked effectively.

The strategy is to get away from asking hypothetical questions such as, "If you were in a conflict situation with another co-worker, how would you handle it?"  Rather, ask questions that are more direct, more depth-seeking, more "real" such as, "Can you give me a specific example of a time when you didn't get along with a co-worker of yours?  What was the conflict about?  How did it start?  What did you do?  How did he respond?  How did you manage through it?  What was the result?"  Get your interviewee to become a storyteller, and you'll learn so much more.  And, if she says that she's never had any conflict with another co-worker, then that should raise some red flags as well.

Joe - thanks for the great information.  Joe is a communications specialist that has provided executive and managerial training for companies of all sizes.

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