This post is written for recruiters who know that the person often hired is the one who makes the best presentation, not the one who's the most capable. It takes courage to confront hiring managers on this point. This post will help.
When I was a full-time recruiter, I didn't like doing searches over again especially when a great person was misjudged. This was the driving force behind the creation of Performance-based Hiring--an expert system for hiring A-level talent. It involved a simple trade-off: See fewer and stronger candidates by asking hiring managers to use a different process for defining the job and interviewing candidates. It used these key steps:
1. Throw away the job description.
We all know that lists of skills, duties, responsibilities, academics, required experience and industry background are useless for attracting, screening or selecting top performers. Hiring managers know this too, but they're reluctant to try new things. To get around this on your next search assignment ask the hiring manager what the new hire would need to do to ace their first performance review. Then, ask what the best people do differently than the average people in the department. Next, ask why a top person would want this job. Finally, ask the manager if he or she would interview someone who could do all of this work successfully, even if the person didn't have all of the skills and experiences listed on the job description.
2. Train your managers to focus on performance early in the interview.
In addition to the resume, I ask candidates to separately summarize two different accomplishments related to the job--one team-based and one as an individual contributor. I then ask the manager to review these during the first 30 minutes of the interview. By having the hiring manager focus on the candidate's most comparable job-related accomplishments early on, the interview becomes more focused and emotional biases are minimized.
3. Measure first impression at the end of the interview.
More mistakes are made in the first 30 minutes of an interview than any other time due to the impact of first impressions. Focusing on performance right away will minimize this problem. It will be virtually eliminated if the hiring manager conducts a phone screen focusing on the person's past performance in comparison to the performance-based job description before arranging the onsite interview. At the end of the one-on-one interview, it's okay to objectively determine how or if the candidate's first impression will affect job performance.
4. Out-fact your manager to minimize biased or narrow assessments.
The one-question fact-finding interviewing process was developed to give recruiters enough information to disprove false conclusions. The idea behind this question is to ask the candidate to describe a few significant job-related accomplishments in great detail. The fact-finding process involves getting details, dates, metrics, org charts and examples of going the extra mile. If you do this for two to three different accomplishments, you'll have enough information to challenge any false assertion. From a recruiter's perspective, accurate information is the only defense for conclusions based on intuition, biased first impressions or narrow assessments.
5. Don't let untrained managers conduct the first interview alone.
Unless it's structured, pre-planned and focused, the initial one-on-one interview can quickly become irrelevant. Typically, if the candidate makes a positive first impression, the interviewer asks easier questions, and if the candidate falls short on the first impression hurdle, the interviewer asks tougher questions. A well-run panel interview can minimize these problems since it minimizes small talk and creates structure.
6. Use a multi-factor, evidence-based assessment.
Few interviewers are able to accurately determine a candidate's ability to do the work required for job success. That's why preparing a performance-based job description is the first step in conducting an accurate interview. Recognize that technical competency is only one aspect of a complete assessment. Just consider the fact that when new employees underperform it's typically not due to technical weakness, rather, it's because of weak team skills, lack of motivation to do the work, poor organizational skills or a problem with the hiring manager's style. Here's a link to our Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard which addresses all the factors that predict on-the-job-success. When used with the Performance-based Interview it's a great way to collect and rank the evidence from all of the interviewers. This ensures a balanced and objective assessment.
Too much time is wasted interviewing candidates using the wrong techniques, and too many hiring mistakes are made as a result. Many of these problems can be avoided by spending an extra hour preparing a performance-based job description. This will save hiring managers two to three hours every week by not hiring the wrong person. This is an easy trade-off to make, but many recruiters are easily intimidated by their hiring managers' demands for instant results.
It takes guts to say slow down. It takes common sense to recognize that you can determine the quality of the person by the quality of their accomplishments, not the depth of their skills or their first impression.