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There’s nothing more important than talent selection.

If you feel stuck, and unable to enact your vision, improving your hiring is the fastest way to change the direction of the business. Hiring isn’t hard, but to many it doesn’t come naturally. It’s a skill, and just like anything else, it’s a skill that can be honed with some knowledge and a few simple techniques. I’ve got 10 steps to support you in making better hiring decisions so you can win the war for top talent.

Step #10 Don’t Take Notes
Go to the interview with no pen, no paper, no phone, and no iPad. Just you and the candidate. It  will make you much more in tune with them and their answers, and will cut down on things for them to hide behind creating a more involved conversation. The goal is to assess the candidates skills and values so that you can make a decision on whether of not your want to have them represent your company.

To get their full story, you have to be engaged in active listening and you can’t do that with your attention on a legal pad!

Now, I didn’t say not to write ANYTHING down, I just said don’t do it while you’re in the conversation. After you wrap the interview, and stand to shake their hand to thank them for their time, now is the time to get your notes going. They’re gone, and you can think clearly. Jot down your thoughts and reactions on what they said. If you have a corporate interviewing packet, now is when you fill it out. By separating the listening portion of the interview with the writing and reflecting portion of the interview, you add value to both processes.

It’s not that you can’t do two things at once, it’s just that you shouldn’t when you’re going to be making such a huge decision!

Step #9 Ask for Stories
Avoid hypothetical answers, to the point where you refuse to accept them. When the interview starts, tell the applicant that you want answers in the form of a story, and that theses stories need to be about specific events that took place.

A hypothetical answer sounds something like this; “You know how customers can be sometimes, so it’s important to stay calm, and be direct in solving their problem so they leave happy.”
That’s not actually an answer, it’s a theory. It’s a decent theory, but it says nothing about the person’s skill set and it has one mission on the mind; IMPRESS YOU TO GET HIRED.

Hypothetical answers lead you right into the trap of getting fooled into hiring someone that is not fit for the job. This is because when they talk in theories, they sound much better than they really are.

Specific answers, now those cut through the BS! To do that we’re going to do 2 simple things. First, towards the beginning of the interview, after you finish the small talk questions, tell them you’re going to get into your real interview questions and that you want them to answer by telling a story. Second, when you ask your first question, tell them the same thing again, like this; “Tell me a story about a time you had to BLANK”.

What if I still get hypotheticals? That’s fine. Nearly everyone is used to answering interview questions like that, and you’re also used to getting them! When they start a hypothetical answer, let the person talk for a minute because there’s a decent chance that they will start out with a theory, and then go into a story. This interview style is new to them, so be patient. If the specific story doesn’t come, then we’re going to intervene with a reminder to give us the story. Something like this; “Ok that sounds interesting, so tell me about a time where you did that.”

Now you’ll be getting answers that will tell you what they did, and that will be a better representation of their skill set. From there, we can make a better judgement on wether or not they are the talent that you’re looking for.

Step #8 Be a Movie Director
Ok so what do we de with these stories? We’re going to listen to what they say, and “create a movie” in our head. Use their details to set the backdrop, and set the mood. If they don’t tell you where exactly this story is taking place, ask, and be specific. Not just the job they worked at, but was it in their office? On a sales floor?  Imagine the conversations they talk about as dialogue, and immerse yourself in the characters. As the story unfolds in their words, it unfolds as pictures in your head. This is how we are going to truly know if they are going to work for us!

You’ll start to catch hypothetical answers really quick because there’s a true lack of details, and you won’t be able to create your movie.

Now for the most important reason for making a movie out of their answers. The business world is relational, and relationships are built on conversations, so if the applicant can’t craft a compelling story, then can they achieve the success that you need to have on our team?

It doesn’t matter if you’re in sales, customer service, or a hands-on trade like electrical work, if they can’t connect with people, they’re going to experience performance issues.

It takes some patience to build your movie as they narrate the story. Don’t rush it. Stay quiet, keep listening, (more on that with #6), and use some imagination and creativity. If you have any areas that need clarification, mentally lump them into two categories;

  1. CUT, CUT, CUT – The story is missing detail to a point where your movie doesn’t make sense. As the director, you intervene and bring everything to a halt. Ask the applicant to go back and fill in the missing info.
  2. Fix it in editing – The story was only lacking a small amount of clarity and you make a mental note of it, and ask the applicant to revisit it at the end.

It’s worth noting, that when asked to answer questions in the form of a story, and having you creating the movie in your head, it is very difficult for the applicant to be untruthful. The answers have to be very complex to be made into a movie, and that level of detail is almost impossible to create on the fly.

Step #7 Ask a ton of Follow Up Questions
This is the part of the interview where we get to be in control. We’re going to be looking for gaps in the story, and making them fill them in for us using the 2 styles mentioned above.

How you ask the follow up questions is much less important than actually asking them. Do it in your style. If you’re assertive, be assertive and interrupt as you ask the question sounding skeptical. If you’re gently, politely interrupt and ask for  the clarification.

When you ask a follow up, be specific in what you’re asking, but you HAVE to walk the fine line of not answering it for them.
Good Example: “OK so you’ve got this majorly stressful situation and your GM is no where to be found. So what ended up happening??
Bad Example: “OK so you’ve got this majorly stressful situation and your GM is no where to be found. So you were able to calm it all down and get the customer happy?”
See the difference? In the bad example, you set the applicant up for success. It’s going to be a good answer because you made it a good answer. In the good example, there’s no details for them to play off of. They have to continue telling their story!

The follow up questions typically take the most time to master out of all the interviewing skills, and that’s because it doesn’t feel like you’re in control of the interview, and typically if your interviewing someone, you’re used to be in control constantly!

Since you typically will do a few interviews a week, you can practice the follow up questions normal conversation, and when you do, an amazing thing will happen; people will tell you things that you can’t believe they just told you! You give them the stage to talk, and they will just keep on talking.

#6 The 4 Secrets to Amazing Interviewing
OK we’re about halfway through here, so now it’s time to give you the one piece of advice that, above all the other ones, is by far and away the most valuable! When I was taught this by one of my mentors in 2011, it forever changed my hiring ability. I actually still have the exact paper he wrote it on, and not only that, it’s actually with me in my work bag at all times. I think this piece of wisdom is THAT valuable. Now, without further adue, here are the 4 Secrets to Amazing Interviewing;

  1. Ask Question
  2. Listen 
  3. Ask Question
  4. Listen

Here is the picture of this original lesson that I got on June 30th, 2011.

That’s it. Beautifully simple. Ask a question, listen to their answer, then ask a follow up question about it, and listen to their answer, then ask another follow up question or a different question, and listen, and repeat…

#5 Allow for awkward Silence
Be Patient, and don’t rush to finish the interview. That’s when you will start to make hiring mistakes.
Now when it comes to a silence during the interview, we need to learn to love it, not fear it. Embrace it, don’t try to fill it up.

This is their interview, and that means it’s their silence. 

When it get’s quiet, stay quiet. Use the time to think, reflect, and wait for them to talk again. They will, and a majority of the time, this is when they tell you the deeper things that they don’t tell other interviewers. Many character flaws are revealed after a silence.

Alright that’s the nuts and bolts stuff. The rest of the list is much larger, broader concepts. More complex, and less actionable, but also more important!

#4 Diversity, the Yin to your Yang
This is not diversity in the sense of social diversity, it’s diversity in the sense of you need to be looking for people that have skills that compliment areas that you have a weakness. Now if you work in sales, everyone you hire needs to have sales skills, but they don’t all need to share your passion for spreadsheets and data, or have O.C.D. about paperwork like you.
If your a people-person, you need to diversify and hire a details-person. If you’re highly analytical, you need to hire someone that’s intuitive. If you’re a Gen-Xer then you need a co-leader that’s a Millennial.

#3 Job Values
What are the skills the applicant MUST have to get hired? You need a list, and it needs to be gospel. If can be as small as 3 things, it can be as many as 10, but it needs to be specific , and they have to be non-negotiable.

Don’t make “honesty” one of them. That’s obvious!

Give this list some thought, and use pencil, not pen. The list needs to evolve as you evolve. It needs to be able to shift as the world changes. If you’re in an industry where discipline is important, then “Follows the process” may be a job value. If you’re in tech, that job value will eventually lead to the death of your company because the tech industry changes extremely fast and your team needs to be able to adapt and creatively solve problems.

Job Values 2.0
What are some skills that you prefer they possess, but aren’t necessary? To ask that differently, what are some skills that you want, but are teachable? To work in tech, they have to be able to write code to work for you, but they don’t necessarily need to be a master public speaker. Maybe that is part of the job, but that’s a skill set that you can teach on the job.

#2 Alignment to The Purpose
This ALMOST made it to #1…it’s that important.
What is “The Purpose” of your company or division, and what are the “Core Values” that your team lives by?
“The Purpose” aligns the group, and the individuals align to it. It’s a statement that expresses the highest aspirations of the team, and it can never be check off as complete. It’s the direction, and the identity. It’s what you shoot for, constantly. If your a non-profit, it might be “To always be in a giving mindset”. All, and I mean ALL of your hires HAVE to align to The Purpose by nature.

If you can’t confidently state your Purpose, then you need to make that priority #1.
Click here for guidance on finding your company’s or divisions Purpose.

So how do you find out if they align to The Purpose? Subtly, that’s how. If you tell them what it is, then they will say, “Yep that’s the most important thing there is!” You’re going to do 2 things.

  1. Ask them “what are you proud of?” and then listen. After the response is complete, ask 3-5 follow up questions, and you will be able to track back through the persons values and figure out what makes them so proud, and you’ll be able to answer the question, “Do they want to [insert The Purpose here]?
  2. Tell a Purpose-laden story of your own, and once your done, ask for their thoughts on what you said. If they pick out a version of The Purpose, then you know they align to it.

#1 An Interview is an Audit of Skills
It’s not about getting a good interview, it’s about getting an accurate interview.
This is #1, because it is. As in there is no argument that I can dethrone it, because it is what interviewing is.

A good interview is their responsibility. An accurate interview is your responsibility.

All hiring mistakes, yes all, are because something  was missed, and it caused an inaccurate audit of the person’s skills. Have you ever heard someone use the cliche’ “They were a totally different person in the interview!”

It’s impossible for them to be a different person in the interview vs the person that shows up to work.

If you interview the applicant for 2 hours, and at the end can’t answer YES to whether or not they align to The Purpose, and have the job values required for success…THAT’S GREAT. All it means is they need another interview.

There is nothing more important than the people that work for you.


If you’d like to get a Monday Morning message from me with 3 strategies to prime you for a killer week, then sign up for my free Monday Morning 3 Point Primer.

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