In the first two parts of this series, the two-question performance-based interview was introduced. The first question involves asking candidates to describe some of their most significant business accomplishments in great detail. While it’s only one question, it is repeated multiple times to ensure the person can handle all of the critical performance aspects of the job, using a performance profile to define the work, rather than using a generic skills-based job description.
The second question involves asking candidates how they would handle one or two of the most critical job-related challenges defined in the performance profile. This is more of a give-and-take type discussion to get at thinking, planning, and the ability to visualize job-related problems.
These two questions in combination with the performance profile, and an in-depth review of the person’s resume looking for the achiever pattern indicating that the person is in the top half of the top half, is all that’s necessary to accurately assess a candidate across all job needs.
Using this information, the candidate can then be assessed using the following formula for hiring success, ranking the person on a 1-5 scale for each factor:
Hiring Success = (Talent + Management + Team (EQ) + Problem-solving)*Motivation2
While the Performance-based Hiring process is an easy way to assess a candidate, you still need to recruit and close the candidate on equitable terms. On this score, most managers, and too many recruiters, think recruiting is selling. You get far better results if you make the candidate sell you. Here are three ways to do this using the two-question interview:
Stay the buyer from beginning to end. If a candidate has an economic or career need for your job, it’s pretty easy to stay the buyer. Needy candidates are always in sales mode, trying to convince you they’re worthy. High-demand candidates are different. In this case, managers and recruiters go into hyper sales mode in an attempt to convince the hot prospect of the worthiness of the opportunity. This not only diminishes the job, but ends up in a bidding war if you decide to make the person an offer.
To reverse this, start by listening four times more than you talk, asking tough, detailed questions about the person’s accomplishments using the most significant accomplishment question as the foundation. Preface the question with a description of what you need accomplished and why it’s important to the company. If the job is of interest, the candidate will naturally try to convince you they’re qualified. This is called the pull-toward recruiting technique. Don’t accept superficial answers. Peel the onion, get facts, and specific details. Challenge the person. Top people will leave this type of interview knowing they’ve been assessed properly, and if the job appears to be a real career move, they’ll be thinking about why they want it, not why they don’t. Make the candidate earn the job — it has more value this way.
Create the career gap. In order for a job to represent a career move it needs to offer both stretch and growth. Stretch represents the actual scope and scale of the job in comparison to the person’s current job. Growth is the future, representing what the job and person can become in terms of bigger assignments, promotions, bigger projects, and unique learning opportunities. A job 15-20% bigger than the person now holds would represent an excellent career move. If the combination of stretch and growth is less than 10% the job is more a lateral transfer, and if more than 25%, the job is most likely too big a jump.
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You can determine the size of the gap using the most significant accomplishment question by comparing the candidate’s accomplishments to the performance objectives listed in the performance profile. Then use the “push-away” interviewing technique to get the candidate to personalize, or “own” the gap, and sell you. For example, if the candidate is light in some area, state your concern, and then ask the candidate to describe something she has accomplished that’s most comparable. Good candidates will not be offended or deterred. Instead, they’ll try to convince (i.e., sell) you as to why they’re qualified.
A bunch of small gaps can often represent a big career move. For example, a slightly bigger team, more influence, bigger impact, and broader responsibility, combined with a faster-growing company, is often all you need to convert what seems like a lateral transfer into a significant career opportunity.
Don’t make an offer until you’re 100% sure it will be accepted. For a top person, especially a passive candidate, taking a new job represents a critical personal and business decision. These decisions are not made quickly, lightly or alone. Too often, companies hurry the process to fill an opening. This clash of needs often precludes either party from making the best decision. While you want to move as fast as possible, don’t move any faster than the prospect is able to digest and consider everything. As part of this, don’t wait until the end to make an offer. You lose a lot of negotiating power this way. Instead test everything before you make an offer, including getting concessions at every step along the way.
Here’s how this is done. First, you need to stay the buyer throughout the process and create the career gap as described above. Second, lengthen your process to add an exploratory step at the beginning and one or two additional steps during the assessment. A second round of interviews including a problem-solving take-home question should be part of this expanded assessment. Regardless of what you add, the key is to not allow the candidate to proceed to a subsequent step, without getting some type of concession. For example, suggest that while the candidate is a bit light in comparison to the other candidates being considered, you’d like to present the candidate to the hiring manager as a high-potential person worthy of serious consideration. However, since the candidate’s compensation is already at the high end of the range, going forward would mean any potential salary increase would need to be modest. Don’t proceed unless the candidate agrees to this concession.
While there’s more to negotiating compensation, if testing is done properly, by the end of the process all aspects of the offer will have been tested and agreed upon before it’s officially presented. Equally important, by delaying the process this way, the candidate is fully aware of the career opportunity you’re offering and has discussed it thoroughly with everyone.
Hiring the best people, especially passive candidates, is much more than an interview and a sales pitch. Done properly, it’s an end-to-end process starting with a full understanding of real job needs, and a professional recruiting process integrated into every interview question. As shown here, it can be done with just two questions.