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Only the best interviews yield the best results.

Did you happen to catch the recent LinkedIn piece offering up a handful of interview techniques? Well, don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. Standard playbook.

It’s no wonder we find self-styled experts frequently giving advice on this most essential component of hiring. Conducting interviews is exhausting, frustrating and horribly time-consuming: it consumes your time when you would much prefer to grow and develop a business

Take, for instance, LinkedIn on a few “highly suggested” interview topics:

  1. Tell me about a time you showed leadership.

  2. Describe your most challenging project.

  3. Describe your leadership style.

These underwhelming prompts beg the candidate to fabricate the best version of themselves; the answers will likely tell you very little and consume your mental energy on the wrong focus.

Questions about opinions, goals, and self-description are bound to be highly ambiguous and permit ineffective candidates’ latitude for self-propaganda. At times it doesn’t mean they are being deceptive, but merely that they tend to idealize their own identity and can easily communicate that.

Interviews without accompanying trusted data to guide the process (i.e., findings of professionally conducted psychometric testing) can actually pose a threat. You might overlook hidden gems and, instead, favour candidates who are skilled, rather, at making first impressions. In other words, data-free interviews sometimes let ineffective candidates rise to the top of the selection pool.

These ineffective candidates are what I call emergent, or highly charismatic and gifted at selfdisplay. Candidates such as these often outshine those who are effective, or hard-working, but are less attention-seeking. In the end, you might end up hiring the sort of individual you think you want, but who is actually not the person your organization truly needs.

It is critical your organization identifies a choice candidate’s potential for high performance—to get past “the story” he or she may present. In this sense, the right interview questions are key. If they are not, you may select someone who cannot function as integral to the company and, ultimately, will not be an engaged employee.

In fact, there is a direct correlation between engaged employees and profit. When we choose the “right fit”—which is unique in every context—then we achieve behavioural symmetry, a.k.a. every one of the connected people in the work group (above and below) enjoys being with each other, working with each other, and challenging each other. All are motivated to be the best they can be. This rewarding outcome of complete employee engagement, always starts with selection.

Selection cannot mean just “getting through” the hiring process in its successive stages. This must be a mindful, deliberate, tactical process. Here are a few tips to make your next interview the most exacting that it can be:

  1. Elicit – evaluate… with behavioural testing. Core high-potential performance in challenging and often-changing situations is what we need to understand and be prepared to identify. This is key.

  2. Critically interpret resumes… 100% of resumes have varying forms of truth – the candidate is on “a date” with you, and he or she is presenting the best made-up version of themselves to woo you. Find the holes and drill down. Just because someone states he or she was Director of ______, doesn’t mean they were good at it. It’s your challenge (if you choose to take it), to validate the reality of their performance in that role.

  3. Devise well-crafted “situational” questions for the interview. Safe questions will only yield safe answers. Use findings from #1 and #2 above to craft intuitive, provocative situational contexts, or scenarios that will challenge the hiring prospect.

  4. Be objective… let’s not forget about the “boss.” Consider the personality of the boss throughout this undertaking; it is equally as important in assessing the candidates’ personality. Is this an ideal union? As in the movie A Few Good Men, can the boss handle his/her own “truth”? When it comes to selecting the new employee—that “right fit”—we must consider creating this symmetry.


A few other provoking gems:

  • Ask “why” or “why do you think that” to a number of their answers – it will challenge them and it will reveal their reasoning and decision abilities

  • “What is the weakest aspect of your style when performing?” Don’t allow them to use “things” like technology or learn Excel better

  • “What part of your job do you wish you could spend more time on?” Idealism versus Realism, do you think their answer is the correcxt one for high performance in this position?

Bottom line, removing doubt about performance and fit when faced with the complex process of interviewing your prospective hires speeds up everything. And that can be nothing but profitable. Spending time on the front end of the search (testing and appropriate probing) leverages your chances of making the right choice, the effective choice, in the end.

In 2001, I created The John Harper Group, which specializes in selection and development of Leadership teams throughout North America. I’ve been an operations leader for a multinational company where my team and I grew the business from the ground up, to over $150 million in revenue. I’ve been a user of psychometric testing throughout my company’s dynamic growth and have found it to be so profoundly impactful to my support of, and collaboration with, other businesses. I’ve behaviourally tested thousands of leaders and conducted the same in behavioural interviews.

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