Tag Archives: interview

Habits, Success and Choice

There are some behaviors you simply contract for. But, just because we have an agreement, does not necessarily mean we will see the behavior. I always look for habits.

Required behavior is one of the Four Absolutes necessary for success in any role.

  • Capability
  • Skill (technical knowledge, practiced performance)
  • Interest, passion, value for the work/li>
  • Required behavior (contracted behavior, habits, culture)

I look for those routine, grooved behaviors that support the required behaviors in the role. If a behavior requires a Herculean effort to comply, it is likely that sooner or later, the agreement will be broken. If the behavior is supported by a habit, it is likely I will gain commitment to that behavior.

We think we choose our success.
We do not.
We choose our habits.
It is our habits that determine our success.

Here is how to interview for habits. -Tom

Fictional Behavior in the Interview

“What do you mean, my questions were more real during the exit interview than the initial interview?” Marianna wanted to know.

“In your initial interview, it sounds like you depended on a personality profile, whether people liked the candidate and a response to a hypothetical question,” I challenged.

“What do you mean, hypothetical question?”

“You asked him how he would plan a project. You didn’t ask for an example of a project he actually planned. Even more important, you didn’t ask how he executed the project according to the plan.”

“But, I figured, if he could explain his planning process, he should be able to use that on a real project,” Marianna defended.

“You figured wrong. Lots of people can talk. Fewer can execute in the real world. That is why you have to ask questions about real experience. Hypothetical questions reveal only fictional behavior.” -Tom

How to Interview for Passion for Work at S-II

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
How do you interview for interest and passion, value for the work at S-II?

Response:
Before we can interview for interest and passion, we have to define the work. It’s always about the work.

Most S-II roles are coordinating, supervisory roles, using checklists, schedules and short meetings. The role could be project management, coordinating and first-line management. Longest time span goals and objectives would be short term, three months, six months, nine months, up to 12 months or one year. Learning would include documented experience, written procedures, articles, research, books and conversations with colleagues. Problem solving would include best practices, matching problems with proven (documented) solutions. Value-add to the organization is accuracy (quality), completeness and timeliness. It is the role at S-II to make sure production gets done, meets spec, totally finished and on deadline.

Managerial roles at S-II are accountable for the output of the team.

How does it feel to put a checklist together, and then hour by hour through the day, check things off as they are completed? What is the satisfaction, at the end of the day, to have a checkmark in every box? Some people get their daily juice from checklists. Some accountants get their daily juice from a bank reconciliation that balances to the penny. Interest and passion comes from work on which we place a high value. If we place a high value on the work, it is likely we will be interested and passionate about that work. Here are some questions about interest and passion for the work at S-II.

  • Tell me about a project you were accountable for, that had several steps in it that you had to coordinate and keep track of?
  • What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the project communicated to you by your manager?
  • Step me through how the project was organized, step by step?
  • How did you keep track of the steps?
  • How did you communicate the steps to the team?
  • At any point in the project, how could you tell the progress of the project?
  • During the project, did any of the steps change?
  • When steps in the project changed, how did you track the changes?/li>
  • When the project was totally completed, how did you communicate that to your manager?
  • When the project was totally completed, how did you communicate that to the team?
  • How were records about that project kept? stored? archived? or discarded?
  • Tell me about another project that had several steps in it that you had to coordinate and keep track of?

Each of these questions asks for a specific piece of data about the candidate. And though we are trying to find out about an attitude or feeling, the questions are still laser focused on the work.

How to Interview for Passion for the Work at Stratum I (S-I) Level of Work

Results Can Be Misleading

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
In hiring, you caution against the myopia of results-based-performance. We may naively “assume that a company’s results were created by the candidate’s performance, when there are a hundred other things that contribute – reputation, price point, product superiority, terms, another supplier that failed to deliver.”

I would think that a track record of consistent results over an extended period of time would hold a tremendous amount of value. So the question is, are you minimizing the use of results even when there is a proven track record of results over an extended period of time? Or is it just in situations where the “results” are much more limited where it would be difficult to verify that they really are the result of the individual’s actions?

Response:
Yes, results for short sampling periods are always suspect, and, yes, I also have my red flags up, even with a longer term statistical track record of positive results. I am more interested in the behaviors that created the result than in the result. Especially during an interview, I am not in a great position to judge the cause and effect relationships that ended in a positive result. I may be encouraged with positive results, but I will still focus on behaviors.

How to Interview for Teamwork

“The new guy just doesn’t seem to fit,” Cynthia said. “Our company is built on a culture of teamwork. He doesn’t seem to be a team player.”

“You hired him. What questions did you ask about teamwork?” I wanted to know.

“Well, I asked him if he thought teamwork was important?” she replied.

“And?”

“And, he said yes. He said teamwork was very important at his last job.”

“What did you expect him to say?” I pressed.

“Well, I wanted him to say teamwork was important, because, to be successful at this company, we have to work as a team,” Cynthia insisted.

“So, the candidate gave you the response you wanted to hear?”

Cynthia was silent.

“Look, teamwork is a state of mind,” I nodded. “It’s like an attitude. You cannot interview for an attitude. You cannot interview for a state of mind. You can only interview for behaviors connected to that attitude. Ask yourself, how does a person, with an attitude of teamwork, behave? Once you identify connected behaviors, you can ask a better set of questions. So, what are some behaviors connected to teamwork?”

Cynthia thought for a moment. “Cooperation, support, listening, constructive feedback,” she replied.

“Okay, try these questions.”

  • Think of a time when you worked on a project where teamwork was critical for the success of the project?
  • What was the project?
  • What was the purpose of the project?
  • What was your role on the team?
  • What was it, about the project, that required a high level of teamwork?
  • Describe how the team worked together?
  • What worked well?
  • What went wrong?
  • What did the team do to pull together?
  • What was your role in pulling the team together?
  • What was it, about the project, that pulled the team apart?
  • How did the team respond to that?
  • What was the outcome?
  • What did the team learn about working together from the experience on this project?

“Would these questions give you some insight to the candidate’s attitude toward teamwork?” -Tom

Hope Derails an Interview

“I had hoped that my new hire would have the potential to work at a higher level,” Marilyn explained.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, at his last job, perhaps there wasn’t the kind of opportunity we have here. During the interview, he was very interested in the work we do. I could see it in his eyes.”

“And?” I prompted.

“And, after the first three minutes, I just knew he was the right person,” she concluded.

“And, now?” I pressed.

“And, now, I think I made a mistake.”

“And, why do you think you made a mistake?”

“Now, that I am looking at the real work output, it is remarkably disappointing,” Marilyn shook her head.

“So, the real evidence of work product is a different picture than what you hoped, what you saw in his eyes and what you interpreted in the first three minutes of the interview?”

Marilyn stared. “I guess I was looking at the wrong things.”

“The real measure of performance, even in an interview, is not a gleam in the eye. The only measure of performance is performance.”

Two Parts to a Skill, Knowledge is Only One

Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom
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“We were excited about this new hire,” Erica announced.

“Why all the excitement?” I asked.

“We were searching for just the right candidate, with experience on our software. We finally found one, he started last week,” she explained.

“So, why am I here?”

“We wondered if you could help us. Our new hire seems to know all the technical ins and outs of our software, but he can’t seem to solve even the simplest of problems with it.”

“How do you know he that he understands the software?” I probed.

“Well, he has two certifications in it, fundamentals and advanced. During the interview, he walked us through some of the software screens and he could explain what each of the menu items does. I was quite impressed,” Erica defended.

“So, he has the training, he can speak the language, you believe he has the skill. But there is still something missing. You know, skill comes in two parts. The first part is the technical knowledge. But the second part is practice. In the interview, did you ask questions about practice? Not, how does the software work, but what problems he solved using the software? How many problems he solved using the software? How big were the problems using the software? How different were the problems using the software? Did you have the candidate step you through some of the problems he solved?”

Required Habits?

“What habits are required for this role you are designing,” I asked.

“Habits?” Robyn replied. “This is a technical position, lots of things to know. I figured I would spend most of the interview, asking questions about how much the candidate knows about the technical part of the job.”

“I am certain there is technical knowledge that is very important to know, and I assume you will spend a good portion of the interview assessing that. But what about habits? What habits are required for this role?” I repeated.

“What do you mean, habits?”

“It’s nice to understand the technical part of the role, but competence will require specific behaviors in solving problems and making decisions. We all have habits that contribute to our success, we all have habits that detract from our success. Habits are grooved behaviors, repeated time after time. Faced with difficulty or a challenge, we often fall back on our habits, even if our habits were unsuccessful in the past. What questions will you ask about habits? What habits are required for this role?”

How to Interview for a Sense of Urgency

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
We find it difficult to interview for some of the soft skills. Our operation moves very fast. One of the things we need to know before hiring a candidate, is, can they keep up. What is their sense of urgency?

Response:
You can effectively interview for anything you can connect to a behavior. Soft skill, hard skill, attitude, character trait. Translate it into a behavior, then interview for the behavior. It sounds difficult, but not with Barry Shamis’ magic question, “How does a person with (this character trait) behave?” Then interview for this behavior.

You asked about sense of urgency. How does a person with a sense of urgency behave? Then interview for that behavior.

  • Show up early.
  • Plan the project ahead of time.
  • Inspect progress frequently.
  • Always works on high priority elements.

Now interview for those behaviors.

  • Tell me about a past project where time was of the essence?
  • Tell about the specific need for speed on the project?
  • What were the expectations on your personnel?
  • What factors slowed the progress of the project?
  • What did you do to expedite progress?
  • How often did you meet with your personnel?
  • Step me through your agenda in that meeting?
  • What were the project priorities?
  • How did those priorities change during the project?
  • How did you communicate the change in priorities to the rest of the team?

The responses you get to these questions, though strictly about observable behavior, will give the interviewer a clear insight into the sense of urgency in the candidate.
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Registration continues this week for our next online program Hiring Talent. For more information, follow this link – Hiring Talent.

Why Hiring is Difficult (to get it right)

“Sure, it would be better to know, the first day, if the candidate is going to make it. It’s such a struggle. Agonizing. Sometimes, I want to tear my hair out. Sometimes, I just want to quit,” Janice lamented.

“Tell me more,” I prompted.

“When I became a manager, three years ago, I was all excited. My chance to step up in the world, assume more responsibility. I would have a team that would report to me. I would have respect.”

“And?”

“That’s not really how it all turned out. I mean, it has its good days and bad days, but hiring people, I mean, hiring the right people is really tough. Seven people over two years. One problem, I don’t do it often enough to get good at it. Do the math, on average, once every four months I have to go back to the drawing board. It’s like starting all over, again,” she explained.

“If you did this hiring thing well, what would life be like, as a manager?” I asked.

“All that I dreamed about when I became a manager,” she replied. “I thought the role of a manager would be uplifting, important. But I always feel like I am down in the weeds. And I can tell, it’s because I don’t have the right people on my team.”

What’s Your Point?
Hiring managers don’t practice enough to get good at hiring (unless they practice). Headhunters practice everyday and they role play with your candidates. They anticipate inane questions in the interview so manicured responses sound elegant. Hiring managers don’t practice enough, so they get fooled almost every time. In what way could the hiring manager spend enough time thinking and practicing to make this a better process? If this job is done well, life as a manager is a wonderful experience.