In a recent post I suggested that job seekers need to ask the interviewer about the actual performance requirements of the open job if it appears the interviewer is asking shallow or narrow questions. Once the job is understood as a series of performance objectives, the candidate then needs to provide detail-rich examples of past accomplishments that best compare to the actual job requirements. This is a great technique to ensure the job seekers are being interviewed properly. This Performance-based Hiring approach is now available as an online Lynda.com training course.
Listen for Some Buying Signals
If the past accomplishments are truly comparable and well presented, the interviewer is likely to send some buying signals indicating that the candidate is a reasonable prospect for the job. Some of these signals include describing specific (versus vague) next steps in the process, inviting the person back for another round of interviews, becoming more animated, spending more time in the interview than originally planned or simply stating he/she is impressed and wants to know if the candidate is interested in the job.
A word of caution: Do not ask or answer anything about compensation until you get a number of these buying signals. When compensation is discussed too soon in the process it’s being used as a filter to eliminate those who are either too high or too low. Candidates who ask the question before they’re judged as worthy are judged as not worthy. However, when compensation discussions take place after a candidate’s performance is known, it’s a negotiating item. (DO NOT IGNORE THIS ADVICE.)
However, even if the buying signals are sent and the compensation discussion goes well, it only means the candidate is a contender. To get to the offer stage much more needs to be done. And the best thing that can be done is to prove you can successfully handle the open job. There is more to this than just describing past accomplishments.
As part of the performance-based interview process I advocate, I suggest that the interviewer do two things. First, dig deep into a candidate’s past accomplishments. Second, ask the person to describe how he/she would go about solving or handling a major problem he/she is likely to face on the job. I refer to this twosome as the anchor and visualize questioning pattern. Most interviewers don’t ask these types of questions which is why candidates need to take matters into their own hands and force the interviewer to ask these questions. The technique described above and in the previous post describe how to force the anchor question. Here’s how to force the visualization question.
Force the Visualization Question
Soon after getting a buying signal – even a tepid one – it’s okay for the candidate to ask for permission to describe the process he/she would use to solve one of the big problems likely to be faced in the job. Here’s a rough script and format that can be used for this:
- Ask for permission. Would you mind if I gave you an idea on how I’d go about handling the (project or issue) you just mentioned?
- Get clarification of the problem or task. Ask a bunch of problem-solving questions to figure out the scope of the problem, the status of the existing plan and the resources available. The quality, depth and insight of these questions will be used to assess your competence so ask as many as you can.
- Describe your preliminary plan. Provide enough details about how you’d proceed including the obvious roadblocks you’ll likely encounter and some tradeoffs you’ll need to make.
- Ask for feedback. You’ll know you’re answering the question successfully if the interviewer starts asking “what…if?” type questions and/or asks for clarification on some points. By engaging in a two-way conversation about a realistic problem, the interviewer will gain the confidence that the candidate has the thinking, planning and problem-solving skills needed to successfully handle the job without needing a lot of direction.
Before proving a job seeker can do the work, the job needs to be defined as a series of performance objectives rather than the traditional laundry list of skills and experiences. Half of the subsequent proof involves digging deep into the candidate’s past accomplishments to determine if the person has a track record of comparable performance. The other half involves engaging in an open discussion about a realistic job-related problem. This anchor and visualization approach is not only a recipe for hiring success, it’s also the definition of leadership. That’s why I urge job candidates to take a leadership role in ensuring they’re being assessed on factors that best predict their own success. Then they need to demonstrate it.