Figuring out if applicants have the technical skills to perform a job is relatively easy. You run a skills test and analyze the numbers.
What’s more difficult is finding out whether a person has the personal characteristics to become successful and be someone co-workers wouldn’t go nuts working alongside.
Nearly half of new hires (46%) fail within 18 months of being hired, according to research in Mark Murphy’s new book, Hiring For Attitude.
Why? It’s not a lack of technical skills (only 11% fail for that reason). Instead, 89% fail for attitudinal reasons—emotional intelligence, coachability, motivation and temperament.
That means workplaces are strewn with, as Miller calls them, “talented terrors,” people who perform the job task exceedingly well, but are hell on roller skates to be around.
One problem: There’s no single set of “positive” characteristics to hire for. You need to identify the core values that are important to your organization and ask questions that extract that value.
Example: Southwest Airlines employees are legendary for their casual, quirky manner with customers. Murphy’s book tells how Southwest once conducted a group interview for pilot applicants: After all the finely suited candidates arrived, the HR person brought out a bunch of baggy brown shorts and offered applicants to change if they wanted to get comfortable. The ones who didn’t change were shown the door.
“They were willing to turn down top-gun pilots because the applicant wasn’t willing to have the company’s core value—fun,” says Murphy.
One of the key questions in any interviews, Murphy says, is to choose your workforce’s key characteristics, then ask applicants, “Could you tell me about a time when you _______ (relating to that characteristic)?”
Tip: Avoid following that up with “… and how did you solve it?” The problem-solvers are going to tell you anyway. The problem-bringers won’t.
Bottom line: The best interview questions to identify positive qualities are behavior-based inquiries that focus on how the person will perform tasks (see box below).
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