Redefine Perfect to Hire Perfect People

Everyone thinks the questions asked during the interview are what matters.

They’re not nearly important as the answers.

And neither of these are as important as how the answers are assessed.

In fact, if you know what you’re looking for in terms of real job needs, like the following example, you can ask almost any questions you want.

A Simple Performance-based Job Description for a Product Marketing Analyst

  1. During the first 60 days review the launch plan for the new mobile app suite. As part of this identify all concerns and potential challenges. Develop a resolution for each.
  2. Put together a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of all direct and indirect competitors for a Q2 executive review.
  3. Under an extremely tight timeframe, work with the advertising and market research groups ensuring product messaging and positioning meets all user needs. This area is far behind schedule.

With this actual job in mind, the goal of the interviewer is to ask whatever questions are needed to determine if the person is competent and motivated to do this work. Most important, if the person is competent and motivated to do this work, he/she will have the exact set of skills, experience, competencies and educational background required. That's my definition of the perfect person.

Here’s how I’d suggest you go about determining if the person is competent and motivated. First, ask some variation of the most significant accomplishment question to determine each of the seven factors in the Job Fit Index. Then answer the following questions to rank the person on some type of Yes-No-Maybe.

The Performance-based Hiring Job Fit Index Questions

  1. Does the candidate have a track record of comparable results?
  2. Does the person have enough of the skills needed to do the actual work required or learn it quickly?
  3. Is the person still growing in her field and/or is the quality of her work exceptional?
  4. Does the person possess the Achiever Pattern, meaning the person been formally recognized for being in the top 25% of his or her peer group?
  5. Can the person work with the hiring manager’s unique style, collaborate effectively with the team and fit with the culture of the organization?
  6. Is the work itself intrinsically motivating to the candidate? If the person isn’thighly motivated (i.e., in “flow”) to do the actual work required, forget the idea of hiring the person.
  7. Does the candidate see the job as a career move? The definition of a career move is a 30% non-monetary increase consisting of some job stretch, more rapid job growth and a richer mix of more satisfying work.

Getting to Yes is the Key to Hiring Perfect People

The answers to all of the above questions need to be a collective yes before hiring someone. Getting the evidence and information needed to obtain the yes is the challenge, though. This is why the questions themselves are less important than how the interviewing process is organized and how the collective evidence is assessed. For a start, eliminate the 30 minute series of interviews. This is a sure way to have superficialities, biases and first impressions dominate the hiring decision. Next, eliminate gladiator voting. Up down voting with the biggest thumb deciding is a sure way to hire the wrong person.

Here’s a better way. First give each of the interviewers a few of the Job Fit Index factors. When interviewers narrow their focus to a subset of the total decision they tend to be more thorough. Some type of performance-based interview can be used to gather this information. They then need to share the evidence they gathered in a formal debriefing session before the team makes the Yes-No-Maybe decision for each factor.

If there’s a wide variance on any of the factors, assign it a “maybe” and get more information. You want close to a unanimous “yes” or “no” agreement on all of the factors before deciding whether the person should be hired or not.

In my opinion, if there are two or more collective and definite no votes on any of the factors you shouldn’t hire the person. One correctable no or a soft yes is okay if the hiring manager is willing to coach and develop the person. Regardless, getting the right information to make the correct hiring decision is the purpose of the interview.

After more than a thousand interviews, I’ve discovered that asking questions is the least important part of the process. It’s getting useful answers based on tangible evidence that really matters. And this evidence needs to be evaluated against actual job needs, not the interviewer’s perspective, bias, first impression or feelings. However, if you know what you’re looking for in terms of real job needs all you need to do is get a unanimous “yes” on seven simple questions.

That’s how you hire perfect people.