Effective interviewing


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You know that the right top performing hire can transform your business - but how do you tell the difference between a good and a great employee in a 45-minute interview? This presentation will help you interview smarter and make better decisions about hiring top performers.

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  • INTRODUCTIONHi! My name is Virginia Poly, and I'm the founder and President of Poly Placements, a recruiting and managed people solutions company here in Toronto.  Recruiting is a lot like dating – only you usually get to go out on a whole bunch of dates, and spend quite a bit of time with someone, before you decide to marry them. Whereas in the interview process, you have a much more limited time in which to make a decision about whether the person across the desk from you is going to be a good fit for your team.So it’s important to make every minute of the interview count.Today, my goal is to give you some real-world strategies for ensuring that you’re conducting more effective interviews which will do a better job of allowing you to get to know the candidate in front of you, make the right hires, and then continue to refine your interviewing process so that you’re always hiring top performers.I’ve left time at the end of this session for questions, but as we go through the presentation, if you have any questions, or would like clarification, please don’t hesitate to jump in or text your questions to the moderator – I’ll be happy to answer them as you we go along!
  • Just to reassure you that I have some credentials in this field...I started my first business – a restaurant – when I was 22 and had just graduated from university, and I’ve been recruiting people for various roles, and across various industries, ever since then. Today, Poly Placements interviews thousands of people every year, and places hundreds of them both within our own organization and with our clients. The most relevant statistic for us is that 97% of candidates we place are still on the job 6 months later – which is a very good sign that our interviewing strategies allow us to get to the best new hires.
  • What are the key takeaways from today’s session?We’re going to discuss what successful interviews look like.We’ll help you avoid common pitfalls of typical interviews.We’re going to talk about how to create a plan that will lead to more successful interviews.We’ll talk about how to use Performance Standards to drive better interviews.We’ll talk about how you can use BBI – Behavioural Based Interviewing – to really understand a candidate’s true strengths and weaknesses.And then we’ll talk about identifying the traits of top performers – which is how you can improve your interviews in the long term.
  • Successful interviews aren’t just about weeding out the duds – in fact, if you’re interviewing a lot of ‘duds’, you probably haven’t done your initial screening very well. By the time you’re in the in-person interviewing process, you should be looking at a shortlist of people who are all reasonably well qualified and possibly suited for the position, and now you’re just looking for the one who is going to be the best fit for your organization.So what do successful interviews look like?
  • COST OF HIRING MISTAKES 2 times an employee’s base salary5 times an employee’s base salary15 times an employee’s base salary According to studies – what is the true cost of hiring mistakes? Answer:In hard costs and productively loss. Some experts say 5 X others say it’s as high as 15 in hard costs. Think about it: a single blunder on $100,000 employee can cost a company $1.5 Million or more. If you make ten such mistakes a year, your business is pouring $15M down the drain annually. Oops!Where does the money go? Recruiting costs Productivity costs Time loss Opportunity costs Training costsSo what do successful interviews look like?
  • Some people approach interviews as a difficult obstacle course that a candidate should have to navigate in order to ‘win a chance’ at a job.  The problem is that this creates a confrontational environment that won’t allow you to get to really understand a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. The candidate who ends up ‘passing’ the course may simply be the one who has the stamina not to break down during the process, or who gives responses that seem good in the moment but don’t actually give you much insight into how they’ll work, or how they’ll fit in to the organization in the long term. An interview should be designed to measure a candidate’s ability to do the job – not on his ability to get the job!  So it’s important to approach interviews thinking: • How can I use this opportunity to really understand how this candidate works?• What can I do to really drill down and get to know this person and their strengths and weaknesses?• What can I do to understand this person’s potential contribution to the organization?In our experience, 50% of candidates who sound ‘perfect’ in an interview turn out to be just ‘average’ performers in the job. It’s not about performance in the interview – it’s about performance in the actual role!
  • The biggest pitfall of interviews, across virtually all organizations in all industries, is insufficient preparation by the person conducting the interview.Interviews are not just ‘casual conversations’ – they are important information-gathering opportunities with a limited timeframe. They will always go better, and do a better job of predicting long-term success, if you have a plan.
  • The other common pitfalls we see most often are: INADEQUATE SOURCING & PRESCREENINGPart of interviewing more effectively is making sure that you're only spending time interviewing the really good candidates - the ones who definitely have the skills and experience you're looking for. And that depends on attracting the right candidates, and then screening out the second-rate ones before you start scheduling interviews.We’re focusing on interviewing, not sourcing, today, but what we’re talking about today – creating Performance Plans and identifying traits of top performers – will help you attract better candidates because you’ll have a better idea what to look for.  USING THE WRONG CHECKLISTA lot of interviewers make up a ‘checklist’ of items they want a particular candidate to have, and that’s okay as far as it goes, but it’s important to use the RIGHT checklist. For example, a checklist full of bullet points like “Can the candidate use a Mac computer?” may not be relevant, when all you really need to know is whether the candidate is familiar with Microsoft Office, and bright enough to adapt from PC to Mac if they have to. NOT UNDERSTANDING THE JOBA huge pitfall for many roles is that the person doing the interviewing doesn’t really understand the job for which they’re conducting the interview, or the day-to-day activities of the job: They go into an interview thinking that the #1 component of the job is managing existing clients, but the REAL job is generating new business. They end up recommending or hiring strong account managers instead of strong salespeople – which results in poor performance or high turnover. ‘GOING WITH YOUR GUT’I’m not going to say that ‘going with your gut’ is always wrong, but unless you’ve been interviewing lots of people on a regular basis for years, it can be a very dangerous strategy for making hiring decisions. The ‘going with your gut’ approach tends to lead people to hire people they like personally, and people who are like them in temperament – both of which may not be what the organization needs. It can also, of course, lead people to overlook serious gaps in a candidate’s skills and experience. More importantly, when a ‘gut feel’ candidate doesn’t work out, it’s hard to figure out where the mistake happened in the first place. THE INTERVIEWER TALKS TOO MUCH Part of the interview function is for the interviewer to tell the candidate more about the role and the organization, but if the interviewer spends more than 25% of their time talking, then you’re not going to get the information you need from the candidate in order to make a good decision.   
  • POLLING QUESTION: how much time do you typically spend preparing for an interview?  10min30min60min Response: all of them are too short! You’re looking at least 2 hours – not for every single interview, but for each different role.So, what does that 2 hours consist of? Here’s a look at our process… 
  • We approach the interview process as a lifecycle, not just one activity.STEP 1: Creating a blueprint using a Performance Profile, by breaking down the specific activities and outcomes associated with the role.STEP 2: The Sourcing Strategy is how you find and attract candidates, and can include things like referrals, job postings, using recruiting agencies, etc. Sourcing is a big topic – and increasingly becoming a separate discipline of its own – and we’re not focusing on it today, but we’ve included it here to demonstrate that the interview process really begins before you even start looking for candidates.STEP 3: Developing your interview questions, based on your Performance Profile.STEP 4: Analyzing responses to the questions, and drilling down into the candidate’s true strengths and weaknesses.STEP 5: Identifying the traits of the existing top performers in your organization, so that you can continue to refine the process as you go along.
  • Without a blueprint, it’s almost impossible to measure candidates, especially when you’re seeing more than a handful. Also, performance is about results, not about skills & qualifications. So how do you set up the blueprint?
  • Here’s how to create an interview blueprint that will improve your results: GO BEYOND THE JOB DESCRIPTIONWe talked about using the wrong checklist earlier...the biggest ‘wrong checklist’ is one that is basically just the job description – including everything from “Should have 5-7 years experience in X role” to “Must be good at Excel” – in a checklist form. The interview needs to go beyond these kinds of checklist items and drill down into specific work experiences, working styles, motivations, career aspirations – all the stuff about people that makes them a top performer in their day-to-day work life.  IDENTIFY ACTIVITIESThink about an average day, week or year in the role for which you’re interviewing. What are the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities? What are the once-a-month or once-a-year activities? What management role does this position involve? What level of interaction with people? Is there a a lot of facetime with co-workers, clients or management? Or is this role more about working independently? Be as specific as possible. IDENTIFY OUTCOMESWhat are the outcomes for this role? After a month, what do you expect the new hire to have accomplished? Are they expected to maintain the status quo in this role, or are they expected to transform the role or the organization? What will the new hire have to do to be a success in this role? Increase sales, reduce expenses, get tasks done faster, improve a process – the more you know about where you’d like them to be over time, the more you can identify which candidates are likely to be successful at delivering them. 
  • Here’s how we go beyond the job description to identify activities and outcomes.In this example, we’ve used the role of a District Sales Manager.We’ve started with the overall goal of the company and the role, and then translated that into specific key results, which are then translated into specific performance standards.
  • Breaking down the role into key result areas and the performance standards for those results will make a huge difference.Key competencies will then flow from these – which means you’ll be able to conduct an interview which is designed to measure these performance standards.Your hiring accuracy will be improved, because you’ll be assessing for the appropriate skills and abilities.And in the long term, your turnover – and associated costs – will be reduced because you’ll do a better job of hiring the right person for the right reasons.The process isn’t always easy! You may want to engage an HR expert – like Michelle’s team at Maximum People Performance – to help you really get at the key performance indicators of the role, and define the key activities and outcomes associated with the role.
  • There are really 2 different categories of questions to ask during an interview:INFORMATIONAL QUESTIONS: These are questions designed to learn more about the candidate’s skills, experience and approach. They might include things like:Tell me about yourselfTell me why you applied for this particular jobWhat qualities do you think a successful manager should have? BEHAVIOURAL BASED QUESTIONS:Behavioural based questions are designed to elicit specific examples from the candidate, because those are good predictors of future performance. We’ll talk more about those in a moment.
  • So we’ve established our Performance Profile earlier, and we knew we needed to know more about sales ability, training ability, and improving customer service.Now we’re ready to ask some direct questions about the candidate’s specific experiences around these skills. Notice that these questions often start with “Tell me how…” and are open-ended, rather than simple questions like “How many years’ experience do you have in training?” This gives the candidate an opportunity to expand on their experience, and invite answers which provide more insight into the candidate’s true strengths, weaknesses, abilities and interests. It also gives you, as the interviewer, an opportunity to drill down into more specific areas.You’ll want to start the interview with a few questions like this, and then move on to Behavioural Based Interview Questions…
  • Not all responses are created equal!Studies have shown that great salespeople, who are really invested in what they’re selling and in creating long-term relationships with their clients and customers, become really upset when someone doubts what they have to say – they feel their personal integrity is being questioned.However, great teachers really like being doubted, because they see ‘doubting’ as a sign of an active, inquisitive mind who is really interested in the topic.It’s important to know which answers are most predictive and relevant for the role for which you’re interviewing – the appropriate response for one role may not be the same for another.
  • What is BBI?Behavioural Based Interviewing is interviewing based on discovering how the candidate behaved in specific previous work experiences, because past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour.It’s the difference between asking someone “Are you a good problem solver?” and “Tell me about a time when you successfully solved a problem or challenge at work.”
  • BBI questions are all about encouraging the candidate to provide SPECIFIC EXAMPLES of recurring behaviour.
  • So, which of these two answers is better?Well, the first one isn’t bad, but the second one is a more PREDICTIVE answer. The candidate who gives you a long, wordy response that sounds good but really isn’t spontaneous. The candidate whose first response is “Actually, that happened yesterday…” can probably provide lots of examples, because it’s something they’re practicing every day, and it’s top of mind for them.With the first candidate, you can probe for a specific response, and you might get it – but it may have happened months or years ago. With the second candidate, you can say, “Oh? Tell me about it.”
  • Both of these answers are pretty good: They’re spontaneous, specific, and provided results.However, they both say different things about the candidates: Candidate #1 is likely the more creative thinker and a good people-reader, while Candidate #2 is likely to be a fast-learning, get-it-done kind of person. Which candidate is going to be most successful in the role? That will depend on what the specific role calls for: Candidate #1’s answer is probably perfect if the role is a Marketing Manager. Candidate #2’s answer is probably perfect if the role is Procurement Manager.
  • HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF BBI:The best way to use Behavioural Based Interviewing is to look for the spontaneous, top-of-mind responses which are offered quickly and without a lot of memorized jargon. Look for spontaneous responses: The responses which are top-of-mind and are elicited quickly are more predictive.Look for specific examples: Responses which include specific examples tend to be better predictors of future behaviour than long, theoretical responses.Look for repeated behaviours: When candidates quickly respond with a recent example, you can be fairly certain that the behaviour is a recurring one.Confident, clear responses are best – they’re a good indication that the candidate really does ‘know his stuff’.
  • The specific BBI questions you use will depend on the role for which you’re interviewing, but here are two of our favourites:“TELL ME ABOUT THE ACCOMPLISHMENT YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF...”The answer to this question can tell you a whole lot about the candidate: What they think of themselves, what they think is important, what they think the rest of the world thinks is important, and how they take pride in and approach their work.“IF I ASKED YOUR MANAGER/CO-WORKERS TO DESCRIBE YOU, WHAT WOULD THEY SAY?”This question can help to generate more honest reponses in 2 ways: One, it implies that you ARE going to be speaking to other people when you conduct your reference check, and smart candidates know that consistency and self-awareness is important. Two, it provides an opportunity for a candidate to identify the possible gap between what they really want to be and what they may currently be (“I am striving to be a good time manager, but my co-workers might say I have a ways to go in this regard...”).
  • In our experience, it’s a good idea to use a standard scoring system to measure candidates.LEVEL 1: These are the candidates who just aren’t good enough – and it’s easy to identify these.LEVEL 5: These are the candidates who are perfect for the job, and you know right away.LEVELS 3 and 4: These are strong candidates, and they’re probably good hires because maybe they just need to grow into the job.LEVEL 2: This is where most hiring mistakes are made.
  • The more you know about people who are already successful in your organization, the more you can conduct interviews which are designed to discover top performers.Are the top performers in your organization all buttoned-down, metrics-oriented, by-the-book types? Or are they highly creative, entrepreneurial thinkers who are more interested in solutions than process? And remember that top performance may mean different things in different departments and even different roles: The marketing department may be looking for creative, high-energy people whose role in the organization is to shake things up, while the top performers in finance may be people who tend to prefer structured environments and longevity.Once you know these traits, you can refine your interviewing process accordingly: For the marketing department, you’ll know to use BBI questions designed to get at examples of creative thinking, change management, getting the organization on board with new ideas, etc. You may want to try out some of your interview questions on current top performers – their answers will give you insight into what kinds of answers will best predict success within your organization!WHY HAVE I PUT THIS AT THE END OF THE PRESENTATION?Because it’s really a cycle – identifying top performers is both the end of the interviewing process (analyzing new hires as they go along) and the beginning of the interviewing process (because it’s where you start when you’re creating your interview blueprint).
  • Effective interviewing

    1. 1. Virginia Poly, Poly Placements, and how getting the right people can transform the organization. @VirginiaPoly Introduction
    2. 2. • 2011 Toronto Star‟s „Ones to Watch‟ • 2010 RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards Winner of Deloitte Start-Up Award • Profit Magazine Top W100 (2010) Profit Magazine Top W100 (2009) • Profit Magazine PROFIT HOT 50 (2009) 6th fastest growing start-up in Canada • The Branham300 (2008): Top 25 IT up and Comers in Canada Poly Placements Today
    3. 3. Key learnings • What successful interviews look like • How to avoid common pitfalls • Create a plan for successful interviewing • Use Performance Profiles to drive better interviews • Use BBI questions to predict success • Identifying traits of top performers
    4. 4. According to studies, what’s the true hard cost associated with a mishire? A. 2x the employee‟s base salary B. 5x the employee‟s base salary C. 15x the employee‟s base salary The High Cost of Bad Hires
    5. 5. Successful Interviews • Think „opportunity‟, not „obstacle course‟ • It shouldn‟t be a command performance but an opportunity to really get to know a potential hire • Think in terms of the contribution they can make to the organization
    6. 6. Common Pitfalls
    7. 7. Other Common Pitfalls • Inadequate sourcing and pre-screening • Using the wrong checklist • Not understanding the job or the team culture • „Going with your gut‟ • The interviewer talks too much!
    8. 8. Setting up for Success How much time do you typically spend preparing for an interview? A.10 minutes B. 30 minutes C. 60 minutes
    9. 9. Blueprint: Performance Profile Analyzing Reponses Sourcing Strategy Interview Questions Identifying Traits of Top Performers The Interview Lifecycle
    10. 10. Blueprint: Performance Profile • Go beyond the job description • Identify activities • Identify outcomes
    11. 11. MAJOR GOAL: Ensure profitable sales growth with a superior sales team, better customer service, continuing innovation and tight budget controls KEY RESULT AREA PERFORMANCE STANDARDS Grow revenue from $10M to $30M by end of Year 2 1. Increase SMB accounts from 10 to 20 by year 2 2. Reduce less profitable clients by year 1 Train a winning sales team 1. Managers‟ training meeting at least 1x/month 2. In-store sales training conducted 2x/month 3. New employee training session conducted 1x/month Improve CRM 1. All staff received 4 hours of customer service training per quarter 2. DSM has followed up with store managers weekly to ensure improved customer service PERFORMANCE PROFILE: District Sales Manager
    12. 12. Why is this so important? • Competencies flow from performance standards • Improves hiring accuracy • Will reduce turnover in the long term
    13. 13. Two categories of questions: 1. Informational 2. Behavioural-Based Interview Questions
    14. 14. Informational questions SKILL FROM PERFORMANCE PROFILE FACT-FINDING QUESTION Increase number of SMB accounts “Tell me how you‟ve grown sales from small/mid-sized business clients…” Training expertise “What do you enjoy most about creating and implementing training programs?” Building client/customer rapport “Tell me how you build relationships with customers and clients…”
    15. 15. Different roles. Different responses. GREAT SALESPEOPLE “I don‟t like it. It makes me really upset when someone doubts my credibility.” “How do you feel when someone doubts what you have to say?” GREAT TEACHERS “I love it! It shows that the other person is really interested in learning!”
    16. 16. Behavioural Based Questions BBI: BEHAVIOURAL BASED INTERVIEWING Past behaviour is a good predictor of future behaviour.
    17. 17. BBI Questions SKILL POSSIBLE BBI QUESTION Adaptability to a changing marketplace “Tell me about a time when you changed your priorities to address a changing situation.” People management “Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult decision about one of your employees.” Innovation “Tell me about a time when you came up with a new way of doing something and how you measured results.”
    18. 18. QUESTION: Tell me about a time you overcame resistance to your ideas. Analyze responses CANDIDATE #1 “It‟s very important to be persistent, if you really believe in your ideas. If my team doesn‟t agree with my idea, I know it‟s just a matter of coming up with the right business case. It happens all the time.” CANDIDATE #2 “Actually, it happened just yesterday.”
    19. 19. QUESTION: Tell me about a time you solved a problem outside your comfort zone. Analyze responses CANDIDATE #1 “I inherited some existing staff members, who weren‟t gelling together as a team. I engaged an improv actor and we spent an afternoon doing hilarious activities – it really broke the ice.” CANDIDATE #2 “Our team had to get a website up, and a week before the deadline, the tech guy got pneumonia. So I spent a few late nights, called in a few favours from web guys I know – and we got it up.”
    20. 20. MORE EFFECTIVE BBI: • Spontaneous responses • Specific examples • Repeated behaviours • Confidence without cockiness Authentic vs Rehearsed Responses
    21. 21. 2 OF OURFAVOURITE BBI QUESTIONS “Tell me about the accomplishment you‟re most proud of...” “If I asked your manager/co-workers to describe you, what would they say?” Using BBI
    22. 22. Scoring candidates 1 2 43 5 Most hiring mistakes happen here Source: Lou Adler
    23. 23. ANALYZING TOP PERFORMERS It’s easier to identify new top performers if you know what your current ones look like.
    24. 24. What makes current top performers successful in your organization? • Compile a list of traits your top performers have in common • Examine top performance in the organization, the department, and the role • Refine the interviewing process
    25. 25. 5 STEPS TO BETTER INTERVIEWS 1. Take the time to prepare 2. Create a Performance Profile 3. Ask questions designed to get at predictive behaviours 4. Analyze and score responses 5. Identify traits of top performers
    26. 26. Discussion