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Why do we still sometimes hire people that don't work out?

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I’ve been delivering interviewing techniques training sessions with a variety of clients recently. The first thing we do in the session is look at some of the reasons why candidates have left employment or not worked out. In all the sessions so far, there is one common theme. Very rarely, if ever, has the candidate lacked the technical skill or capability to undertake the role. Reasons for leaving, or not passing the probation period, range from reliability issues to poor team-fit or being unable to demonstrate the same values and ethos the company upholds. This shows us that the problem does not lie in finding out whether candidates can do the job but in exploring whether the person is the right fit for the company.

The interview and selection processes people attending the training use vary from a very informal “make-it-up-as-you-go-along” approach, to standardised questionnaires with competency-based questions, scenarios to work through, and clear evaluation guidelines and marking.  One similarity they share is that most of the interview process concentrates on assessing the applicants’ skill set and experience.  Interests, hobbies, values and behavioural styles are given scant consideration.  The fact of the matter is that it is usually fairly easy to determine whether somebody has the right competencies to handle a certain role from their CV. Given this, and that we have already determined that poor hires are rarely poor because of lack of skill or experience, it is a bit of a fool’s errand to concentrate our interviewing efforts on going through each job on a CV to establish what a candidate has done.

Turn it on it's head
A great step towards more effective interviewing is to turn the interview on its head.  Spend a little time making sure that the applicant has the skills you need to get the job done and then concentrate most of your time and attention on getting a real feel for the person.  What are their hopes, dreams, aspirations?  What gets them fired-up and passionate?  What values do they hold dear? What are push and pull motivating factors?

I find that asking a similar question from different perspectives helps to get a true feel for the person.  For example, after asking a candidate what their top three values are, I might ask what their closest friend would say their best personal trait is.  This helps to identify interviewee bias.  Oftentimes applicants will prepare scenarios and examples which they think will sit well with the interviewer – this is easy to do as many companies now advertise their values on websites.  People aren’t trying to mislead us, they just want to get the job!  When you ask somebody to think about their best friend / spouse / parent / sibling and then ask them to answer from that perspective a weird thing happens.  They do just that! It’s unprepared, unrehearsed, and people sometimes feel more comfortable telling you what somebody else’s opinion of them is. 

There are other tools available to help with determining if somebody has the kind of outlook, behaviours, values and ethics, that will lead to longevity of employment with you.  Psychometric, behavioural and values-based testing has evolved dramatically over the past few years and can give valuable insights.  These are best used when building successful teams and can also improve performance in established teams when the time is taken to work on how people can better communicate with, and understand, each other.  There is a plethora of choice available so, if you want to make sure you’re using the best tools for what you want to achieve, please feel free to give us a call and we can point you in the right direction.  

If you need more help with effective interviewing techniques, you can join one of our training workshops or we can tailor a full day programme to deliver in-house to your teams and hiring managers.  Call for details on 01902 763006 or email info@recruitrecruit.co.uk with “INTERVIEW TRAINING” in the subject.


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