Hiring The Right People – More Than A Gut Feeling Revisited

Pixton_Comic_More_Than_a_Gut_Feeling_by_BillAccordino (click image)

My first leadership development engagement was almost 25 years ago.  My client (prospect at the time) asked me if I could develop a training program for the nursing managers of a major medical center.  The topic was interviewing skills.  In particular, behavioral interviewing skills.  I had just left the corporate world, was a hungary rookie entrepreneur, so I said sure (gulp!).  He provided me with a training video on behavioral interviewing entitled More Than A Gut Feeling by Dr. Paul Green.  My mission was to develop a half day program featuring this video, and get back to him with a proposal in a week.

I immediately rushed home to tell my wife that I was very close to wining my first contract.  I then asked her if she knew anything about behavioral interviewing, because I didn’t!  I put the video in my VCR (it was the early 90s) and watched it five or six times in one evening.  From that point on I was hooked on helping managers and leaders develop the skill of behavioral interviewing.  I have been practicing behavioral interviewing for all these years, have trained hundreds of managers and coached over 100 candidates for jobs on how best to nail a behavioral interview.

At the heart of effective behavioral interviewing is the belief that past performance is the best predictor of future behavior.  A word of caution is in order.  Past performance will only be a predictor of future behavior if the position that the candidate is being considered for is the same as their past position(s).  Let’s assume that is the case for the balance of this discussion.  Behavioral-based interview questions are open-ended questions or statements that are designed to elicit detailed responses.

In a previous post I used the example of asking a behavioral interview question to determine how effective the interviewee is at handling conflict with co-workers.  The question may be, “Tell me about a time when you were involved in a conflict situation with a co-worker.  Please describe the problem, the actions you took and the results?”  You gain a much better understanding regarding how effective the candidate is when they share multiple stories in this PAR (Problem-Action-Result) format rather than the candidate simply stating that they are effective at handling conflict, or describing the process steps.  Here are examples of different types of questions and responses:

Question: Are you effective at handling conflict in the workplace?

Answer: Yes, I always deal with conflict effectively whenever it comes up in the work place.  I talk to the individual and resolve it as quickly as possible.

Effectiveness: Closed end question, you still don’t know how they handle conflict situations.

Question: Would you please describe the process you follow to resolve a conflict situation with a co-worker?

Answer: I ask the individual if they have a few minutes to discuss the situation that led to the conflict, I then ask them to describe their perspective, and then we work together to resolve the immediate problem and agree on how best to handle situations in the future.

Effectiveness:  This question elicited a better response, you now know how they would approach conflict but not if they have had  actual success in this area.

Question:  Would you tell me about a time when you were involved in a conflict situation with a co-worker, describe the problem, the action you took and the results?

Answer:  I was working on a project with a co-worker and we frequently had difficulty agreeing on the prioritization of action steps.  As a result of frequently not being on the same page, we started to miss deadlines and avoided communicating with each other. I scheduled a meeting for us to discuss this challenge.  I described the situation, our behavior and my perspective of how it was impacting the success of the project and other team members.  I then asked for his view of the situation and then kept my mouth shout to listen intently.  We discovered that the most appropriate prioritization criteria was not my way or his way, it was a third way that was more representative of reality.  We then both made the commitment to work more collaboratively.

Effectiveness:  You now have a complete picture regarding how effective the candidate is at handling conflict, the process they follow and actual examples of how they have done it in the past.  A critical ingredient to handling conflict effectively is to use the SBI (Situation-Behavior-Impact) method, rather criticizing the individual.  Stay tuned for more on the SBI method in future posts.

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