You're hired! Interview strategies that work

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Have you ever observed an employee advancing within an organization, only to fail for reasons that should have been clearly apparent before the fact? Or, even more likely, have you watched as someone who had not succeeded in previous assignments moved into a new position only to fail once again?

Hiring and promoting the right people is critical in business. Better hires mean increased productivity, lower turnover, higher morale and a better overall customer experience. Even so, many hiring managers have trouble identifying the right candidate. So, how do you recognize the real and capable candidates? How do you find that person who can hit the ground running?

First, traditional gut feeling interviewing is often a poor predictor of good hires. If you ask a manager, “Are you a good interviewer?” most will say, “Yes.” But when you ask about their interviewing approach, most will tell you that they rely on their gut feeling.

Instead, structured, behavioral interviewing can dramatically increase your success in hiring the best people. This method is based on the premise that the best way to predict future behavior is to determine and evaluate past behavior.

In a behavioral interview, the candidate demonstrates their knowledge, skills and abilities by providing specific examples of past experiences. Thus, rather than being asked to tell the interviewer what they would do in a situation, in a behavioral interview the candidate must describe, in detail, how they actually handled such a situation in the past. For example, an interviewer might ask a candidate to name a time that they accomplished a task on the job without being asked. Then, the interviewer may probe more deeply with open follow-up questions such as: “How did you deal with it?” or ”What was the outcome?"

Still, determining the right type of skills often depends on the organization. For example, do you need someone specifically from your industry, someone with the industry experience and contacts, or, are you better off with a talented person with highly transferable skills?

Nonetheless, whether your candidate comes from inside or outside your industry, the right candidate will possess the right skills and the key to success for every hiring is in first determining the competencies that the organization specifically needs, and then using the behavioral method of interviewing.

Carl Hagarty is president of CE Hagarty and Assoc., an executive search firm focused on the fire, security and building controls industries. He can be reached via e-mail at