The candidate interview is the foundation of hiring. But many managers go into the process with little training and few tools to guide them through a consistent and insightful conversation with candidates.
Paul Falcone is an HR consultant and author of 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire. Finding and selecting the best talent is a skill that can make your career, and make your life easier every day. The right hire will not only improve performance but will also improve morale and help shape the future of your team – even of the company as a whole.
Falcone says “The premise for this book is a simple one: The best workers have the most options.” It’s your job as a manager to learn as much as you can about a candidate’s skill set and potential quickly, so you can make an informed decision – and an offer – before the candidate is snapped up by another company. In this hot economy, the best talent is snapped up quickly, and you won’t get a second chance if you don’t get it right the first time.
Most hiring managers understand the concept of behavioral interviewing questions. They’re based on the premise that the best predictor of the future is past behavior. Falcone says you should master two main types of behavioral formats: self-appraisal and situational questions. He writes “Self-appraisal queries ask a candidate, ‘What is it about you that makes you feel a certain way or want to do something?’” You might ask why they chose their career or their specialty, for instance, or how they approach a specific kind of problem.
Self-appraisal questions can also include third-party appraisals. Questions such as “what would your manager say about…” or “how would your coworkers describe your ability to…” can reveal more than what the question implies; they can also give you an idea of a candidate’s self-awareness. Do they understand how their behavior affects others? Do they seem to accept responsibility for their failures as well as their successes?
One way to determine self-awareness is to ask what she’d do differently if a situation came up again. “If what you just described here came up again, what would you do differently?” “So, although the project was a success overall – what could have gone better? Where were you more lucky than smart?” Give her space to think this through (getting comfortable with silence is a worthwhile skill of its own). Observe how open she is to questioning herself. A candidate who is confident enough to show vulnerability is a rare find; defensive behavior might signal someone who’s afraid of taking risks and being wrong.
It’s important to follow up on self-appraisal questions. The “why” is as important as the “what.” Asking the candidate to dig deeper into a response will help you see who he really is, not just the persona he may have carefully crafted for the interview process. You’ll also be able to see whether the response is authentic or just what he thought a hiring manager would want to hear.
Self-appraisal questions provide insight into how a candidate thinks and feels about work, the intrinsic motivation driving behavior. Author Anne Rice once wrote “[Most people] try to wring from the unknown the answers they have already shaped in their own minds — justifications, confirmations, forms of consolation without which they can’t go on. To really ask is to open the door to the whirlwind.” Master the whirlwind, and you can learn a lot from your next and possibly best hire.