What happens before an interview can be far more important than what happens during one.


I recently proposed a radical, new way to interview candidates that has the potential to increase assessment accuracy by 50 percent to 100 percent in comparison to traditional behavioral interviewing. Even better, the approach will attract stronger candidates and increase the likelihood you'll be able to hire them without paying a salary premium. (This is what always happens when candidates recognize the career potential of a move.)

Here's the crux of the strategy:

Give candidates the questions before the interview, and make sure hiring managers listen to all of their answers!

The central idea behind this approach starts by describing the job as a series of big performance objectives rather than a list of skills and "must haves." You'll give these objectives to all candidates ahead of time, and during the interview, they'll use a semi-structured approach to describe their most comparable accomplishments.

Here's how this new interviewing process works:

1. First, describe the job as a series of performance objectives.

One way to do this is to first prioritize all of the skills and competencies in order of importance. For the top four or five, ask the hiring manager how the factor will be used on the job and how success will be measured. For example, "Must have 5 years of battery power design for MEMs circuits and a BSEE from a top university," would convert to, "Lead the development of a battery management power system to extend the life of the Apple iWatch by 50 percent." The assessment is based on the person having done comparable work in a similar environment. (Here's a post on how to prepare these performance-based job descriptions and the full manual.)

2. Use job branding to excite potential candidates.

In your job postings and emails, highlight the two or three most important of these objectives and why they're important to the company. This is called job branding. This simple step will do more to attract the attention of experienced top performers than employer branding. Rather than have people simply apply to the job, ask them to submit a half-page write-up of a comparable accomplishment. Here's an example of this type of job posting.

3. Conduct a 30-minute exploratory phone screen.

Start the phone call by reviewing the person's work history while looking at the "achiever pattern" for general fit. Then, use the fact-finding approach in the "Most significant accomplishment" question as you review the candidate's half-page write-up.

4. Explain the onsite interview process and give the candidate the questions.

Give the candidate a quick summary of the top four or five performance objectives required for job success and suggest that the bulk of the interview will involve digging into the person's comparable accomplishments. Have them use this performance-based interview template to structure their responses. As part of this, send all candidates this video for further background on the interview process, plus a list of all of the other questions you'll be asking.

5. Hiring managers need to follow the same performance-based interview process.

Since interviewers will be introducing the questions and conducting fact-finding, they need to review the template and watch the video, too. Here's a quick summary of the whole approach.

6. Assess the candidate using an evidence-based process.

This interview process provides all of the evidence needed to evaluate the candidate accurately using this Quality of Hire Talent Scorecard.

Here's why this type of process not only increases assessment accuracy but also attracts stronger candidates:

  1. The best people are only interested in the work they'll be doing, not the skills they need to do the work. These people will be more willing to engage in a preliminary conversation if they find the work internally motivating.
  2. Assessment accuracy increases, since it's based on the candidate's past performance in comparison to real job needs, not his or her presentation skills and first impression.
  3. The structured performance-based interview has been found to be more legally sound and more predictive than the traditional behavioral interview. Here's the key reason: Performance objectives are more meaningful and far more objective than a laundry list of skills and experiences.
  4. The structured process ensures all hiring managers are evaluating all candidates properly across all job needs. Most hiring managers naturally overvalue the quality of a person's technical skills and competencies rather than the quality of the results they've achieved.
  5. The use of a formal, jury-like evidence-based assessment reduces the impact of emotional or biased decisions.

While giving candidates the questions ahead of time might appear radical, what's really radical is making sure the hiring managers ask the right questions and the same questions to all candidates. Even more radical is having these same hiring managers define the actual work before defining the person doing the work.

Frankly, this is just commonsense disguised as radical.