Revealing the Hidden Potential in your Job Candidates

 How do you make sure you're not letting promising candidates slip through the cracks?

There are many ways to evaluate a candidate's suitability for the job: applications, take-home challenges, paid trials, and references from former employers.

But despite their flaws interviews are still an important staple of the hiring process. So how do we make them more fair and effective?

Define success for the role

What should they have achieved in six months or one year?

What attributes or experience will the need to reach these goals?

For example, if your new PM will need to help your engineering team to improve performance, remove bugs and create a better experience for your users, what's relevant? Persistence / Goal-orientation / Customer-focus ?

Once you have a clearer idea of what you are looking for, use situational and behavioral questions to evaluate potential candidates against these attributes. Let's look at some examples!

Situational questions

These typically start with "What would you do if..." and can help you evaluate potential. They give you insight into someone's critical thinking process even if they haven't experienced that particular situation before.

Try these kinds of questions:

Your team has fallen behind schedule and is starting to get deflated, what would you do?

If you were running your department, what changes would you make?

Tell me how you would deal with an upset customer?

What to look for

In their answers, check for important attributes. Say you need persistence, do they try to deal with a conflict, or avoid it? Are they able to give specific, concrete examples?

Keep in mind that some people may craft a perfect response to please the interviewer but isn't representative of how they've acted in past.

That's why you need a second type of question...

Behavioral questions

These typically start with "Tell me about a time when..." and help you to evaluate the experience.

Try these kinds of questions:

  • Share a time you identified a problem in your company and how you resolved it?
  • What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • Tell me about a time you disagreed with a customer and how you handled it.

What to look for

If you are seeking someone with customer focus, see if they advocated their customers and how they dealt with internal pushback.

Keep in mind, certain candidates may lie, fake, or hide certain part of their stories to make themselves look better. Observe how genuine they seem when you ask:

  • What were you responsible for in this situation?
  • What challenges did you face?
  • What would you do differently knowing what you know now?
References from other employers are useful here.

Bring the best out of candidates

When you are interviewing, how a candidate "performs" can hinge on asking them the right questions; it's your responsibility to create opportunities  for them to shine.

Spending time upfront defining what you are looking for, and creating a bank of situational and behavioral questions will help you and your team fairly evaluate candidates. You may just find that hidden talent that your were overlooking before!

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