This is a two-part article on improving quality-of-hire:





Part 2:  

“Hey’re skilled enough (as an interviewer) to know the difference between an effective interview question and an ineffective one…right? And you know better than to ask ineffective questions because of the adverse effect they can have on your hiring results…right?”

The truth of the matter is all too often interviewers put too little effort into creating effective interview questions. I know this because I often have the opportunity to review the questions that interviewers are asking. To the far extreme are interviewers who go into the interview unprepared and ask random questions that just pop into their head. It surprises me how many organizations still allow this to go on. But not much better are those who have a structured set of job-related questions but the questions really aren’t effective for gathering quality applicant information. To compound matters, the latter often creates a false sense of confidence for organizations, and their interviewers, that they are doing a good job at selecting the best when they really aren’t.

> Quite frankly, many interview questions are poorly phrased or are simply bad questions. Probably the most common mistake I see is when interviewers ask candidates to share an example of a time…but they ask for a specific outcome, one that has a happy ending or is a success story. Here’s what I’m talking about: Give me an example of a time you went above and beyond to satisfy a customer. Naturally the answers you receive are going to sound pretty good. And as a result, you’re likely to rate the response fairly high. If you use a 1 - 5 scale, with five being the best, there’s a strong chance you will score the happy-ending success story a ‘3’ or higher. Think about it. You asked the candidate to talk about one of his or her successes, and that’s exactly what they’re going to do. It’s not like poor performers don’t have any…there was this customer who came in (happy) and I made her a little happier. Everyone can produce a good outcome when it’s easy. A High Performer, an average performer and a poor performer can all do equally well when there’s nothing standing in their way. It’s not as if a poor performer, or a bad hire, has never met a deadline or never had a big sale or is only rude to customers even when the boss is watching. Wanting to hire people who go the extra mile when it comes to customer service, or doing any other required job duty, is a good thing. Asking an interview question like the example above isn’t. That’s because it won’t enable interviewers to truly distinguish between performance levels, and isn’t that the sole reason we conduct job interviews? If you can’t see a difference between performance levels, and be right, you’re going to end up hiring some people, that in hindsight, you wish you hadn’t. But it’s not a door that swings only in one direction. In addition to your hiring mistakes, it’s also likely that you have turned away applicants who would have been good hires.  

Sadly, many organizations dealing with ‘employee engagement’ problems look only at post-hire issues, as if they’re confident all hires were spot-on and their poor-performers are simply good hires gone bad. They focus on ways to improve performance, on motivating the unmotivated, and try to get their employees to care more about doing their job…all while the real culprit remains unaddressed. They fail to identify and correct the inadequacies in their employee selection process. When employers take a closer look at the effectiveness of their hiring practices, or lack thereof, employee job performance can no longer remain disconnected from the process the led to a job offer being extended. Another reason why bad hires are happening is because interviewers are asking ineffective interview questions making it impossible for them to correctly identify the best hires. Ineffective questions gather poor-quality candidate information, which in turn, leads to hiring mishaps.

Interviewers who have been properly trained, those who use motivation-based interviewing, understand why some employees go above and beyond and others stop short. They know better than to think skill level is what determines job performance level. They know how to assess attitude (how effectively or ineffectively someone responds to challenges), and can also determine what motivates an applicant and what doesn’t. They know why this information is important and how to incorporate it into their decision to hire. In addition, they know how to write and ask effective interview questions. This is what enables them to gather the information they need to make sound hiring decisions. It’s when interviewers don't know how to do this that they ask ineffective questions and are forced to rely mostly on their gut instinct to tell them who to hire. Sometimes they get lucky and sometimes they don’t. This is never a reliable way to pick great hires, nor will it stand up in court. This makes the interview questions themselves that interviewers ask the #2 reason bad hires happen. Organizations are the sum total of the results their employees produce. That means every job opening and every hiring decision is of critical importance. The questions interviewers ask are significant enough to make or break an organization’s overall success.


This article was written by Hiring Expert, Carol Quin. 

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