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Frog or Prince: The Secret For Successfully Hiring Talented People

Quite a few managers are bothered by the outcome of their hiring interviews: after a very nice conversation with the candidate that seemed like a first step into a great future together, often it becomes obvious shortly after joining the company that she/he was not suitable for the position at all. 

You may share similar experiences: a candidate told you that she/he is very good at approaching and interacting with people, she/he told you about her/his hobbies, the sports club she/he is in – a lot of interesting information that gave you the feeling she/he is a pleasant person and will be doing well in the sales position you are looking forward to fill. Only after the onboarding you find her/him floating every day: the results are simply not coming in. 

Some managers are getting so frustrated that after suffering by this for more than once, they either wing the interviews by “having decided in the first 10 seconds” or just blindly bring in a dozen of new people for mass training and wait with their final decision for the probation review after half a year. But that’s not only a waste of time but will also leave a highly negative impression of your company in the job market. 

In addition, considering recruiting cost, training investment, salary and benefits, workplace integration, termination and potential legal risks, you will be shocked how much money bringing in a wrong person will cost and how much this can harm operational efficiency.

Are you ready to face these consequences, or would you rather prefer to get great hiring results and sustainably build up an attractive employer brand? You will find in this article a few new tricks for your hiring practice, and take away a better idea of recent developments in professional recruiting.

Some managers did as above for selection, let’s call it “the traditional interview,” is only 10% predictive of future job requirements, while there’s a technique called “behavioral interview,” that is 5-6 times more reliable, and easy to apply in most hiring cases. 

The scientific beliefs behind this technique are

  • a behavior exhibited in one circumstance will be exhibited in other circumstances as well
  • the more recently a behavior was applied, the more likely it is that it will be repeated
  • the more often the behavior was demonstrated over time, the higher the probability will be that it will be repeated in the future

The “STAR” method has been a real classic in this field, in which the candidates are expected to give answers to four aspects of one selected accomplishment:

  • Situation: identify the situation or problem you solved or encountered
  • Task: what is the specific task or targets? (who, what, when, where, what’s required)
  • Action: detail your specific action (what did you do? how did you do it?)
  • Result: the results. (savings, accomplishments, recognition, etc)

However, already early in my recruiting experience I found STAR useful but not powerful enough for 3 reasons:

  1. the candidate’s “accomplishment” is just a single case, which could even be out of date or not fit the actual situation in a changing environment anymore.
  2. while the “performance” was there, important aspects of the thinking process are  missing. What was she/he thinking about when she/he took the actions? What are the reasons he chose Plan A instead of Plan B? How did she/he feel? Did she/he feel good and will continue a certain behavior? Does she/he have the ability to provide solutions towards a different or more complicated task? Or imagine someone holds his past success and would never open to any improvement or innovation.
  3. when I used STAR, I normally expected a successful case, while we learn as much from from our failures, if not even more. If the candidate did learn from her/his failure in the past and already knows what works better, isn’t this the best deal that can happen to your company if she/he joins?

As a result, on top of the “facts”, during interviews I started to invite candidates to also describe their motivations, feelings and learnings and how they used those lessons in different situation. As a result, in ten years I successfully hired around 800 people for various companies, from technician to director, from fresh graduate to highly experienced. Over the years many of them have grown beyond the role I hired them for in the company, making them a valuable investment of the company into their potentiality: young engineer became department manager, junior HR specialist succeeded my position as HR head and assumes the responsibility for 450 employees, sales director develops the team and multiplies the team’s revenue by three times in a few years. Thus, high quality new hires can lead to dramatically higher productivity, profitability and sustainability.

Can you imagine what a great surprise it was a few years later, when I found out that Dr. Michael M. Lombardo and Dr. Robert W. Eichinger (also known as “Lominger”) had already enriched STAR by adding the learning agility to it to make it more effective, suggesting to ask the candidate what she/he has learned from an experience and how she/he applied these learnings in going forward.

As a result of my own experience in recruiting, and supported by the Lominger theory, we developed Qianlead’s behavioral interview structure A-M-O-L-A:

  • Actions: How did they approach a problem/situation etc.? What did they do to solve it?
  • Motivation: How would they explain their thoughts process, why did they select a certain approach. Why did they choose to do it in this particular way?
  • Outcome: What was the result? What was the impact?
  • Learnings: What did they take away from this experience?
  • Application: How and when did they apply  these lessons to other situations.

According to the Qianlead Success Triangle, not only the skills, but also the attitude and personality of a candidate are the relevant elements for the probability of a successful integration into a company environment. When beginning to ask for the motivation, you can start collecting glances of the iceberg’s under-water parts: weather someone is persistent, innovative or authentic? Weather the value set will fit the position, the team and the company? These and many other findings often become the determining factors for understanding how compatible a candidate would be with the organisation and how sustainably she/he might contribute to the business development instead of only fulfilling temporary or urgent tasks.

In conclusion, to lead a successful hiring interview, you need to have these 5 factors settled:

  • a well defined Job Description
    This is the most important foundation of not only in recruiting but the whole organisation’s people strategy. A good job description should be well established in line with the business vision and the company’s culture, and include the purpose of the role, its main responsibilities, competences, and how to measure its performance
  • a quality preselection
    Preselecting suitable candidates by screening the CVs using a standardized checklist, and collecting the missing basic information by phone call can avoid numerous useless face to face interview meetings, thus  dramatically increasing the recruiting efficiency
  • a well prepared interview using the AMOLA approach
    Respect interview as a science. Behavior based questions for each competence required by the job role should be developed and structured beforehand. This is the only way to make the hiring results more reliable.
    My only other secret in leading successful job interview is never to ask for opinions.
  • alignment between recruiter and hiring manager
    You lead the interview and represent the company together, so make sure that you are aligned through the whole process: roles are duly distributed tasks are clearly assigned, resulting in transparent records.
  • a wise decision
    There are a few things to consider: past performance, skills and competences, attitude and personality, organisation and culture fit. The perfect candidate does not exist in recruiting, so keep a keen eye for potential developments: can this candidate learn a certain skill or grow to reach a certain standard in a reasonable period of time? 
    To support this, use a standard form for your interview records and fill in each blank – simply because otherwise important information will be lost.

The less you will hire new talent solely based on instinct, and the more you evolve your skills, processes and documentation, the more you will be able to evaluate your recruiting performance in the future to systematically build your track record.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s really worth it! 

Let me know how it’s working for you: success stories, feedback, questions, ideas? Comment below! And also let me know what other aspects of hiring would be interesting for you.

Hong Liu

By Hong Liu

Hong is an experienced HR expert for challenging business situations: if you want to create an environment attractive to top-level talent in leadership or build up an efficient HR administration, she’s the perfect choice. For more than 10 years she’s created stunning results in multinational corporations, like successfully integrating two company cultures post-merger, or building up a new plant’s staff from 0 to 450 in two years, or creating an Asia-wide management development program for more than 120 junior talents.

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