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Asking the Right Questions and Getting the Right Person

Aug 17, 2007
How many times has this happened: The promising new employee makes a good first impression, is enthusiastic but just doesn't get the job done?

To maximise our chances of getting this right we need to rely on some basic research which tells us that most people will continue to repeat past behaviours. Some say as much as 88% of the time. If this is the case then we need to define what we want them to do and find out if they have done it before - in a consistent way.

While this seems very logical it is often quite surprising how many people rely on what a candidate says they will do, or could do in certain circumstances. "I am well organised and can bring a project in on budget and on time." Easy to say, but have they ever done it?

Starting with the job description is a good first step - what are the key results this job has to deliver? Reviewing past successful job holders will also help - what did they do that made them successful?

Listing the key issues the new employee would have to deliver for you to think the appointment is successful is a good test. Listing all these specific results required up front and then stating the behaviours they must have to achieve them is the next step. Make them "must haves". This will make it much easier when it comes to screening applicants and making the final selection. It even helps with the advertisement.

Let's look at a simple example of how this works. We want someone who can develop new business and sell your product into new market segments. Based on the key results areas of the job description and what we require from the new person in, say, the first three months, we might define success as identifying a new market segment and selling product to at least three new customers within it.

To increase our chances of success we want someone who has done this before so we define this as: must have carried out analysis of sales data to identify new markets and successfully developed new customers.

We can put this in an advertisement or brief a consultant with it. When we are reading résumés we can see if they had the opportunity to do it.

When it comes to interviewing we don't ask if they can do it, we do ask, "tell me how you last went about analysing sales data to identify new market segments". If we get satisfactory examples of this we can then ask "tell me how you closed a deal on your last new customer".

By getting enough examples in this way to satisfy yourself they have already done what you want them to do, you have increased your chances of a successful recruitment exercise. Of course you must cover this ground again when reference checking, using the examples given to check their veracity: "Tell me, how did John go about identifying new market segments?"

Building this technique into your recruitment process along with recruiting for the desired core competencies outlined in a previous article, will make a difference - and it can amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars if that difference is between the right person and the wrong person.
About the Author
Paul Phillips is a Director of Horizon Management Group; a specialist human resource management consulting firm. More resources, including free downloads are available at www.horizonmg.com
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