How to keep your hiring process honest!
Is there something inherently dishonest about the hiring process?
We think there might be.
Let’s face it, there’s a lot at stake in who gets hired, making it tempting for both the candidate and the hiring manager to veer left (or should I say right) on the honesty scale. We see hiring managers reluctant to reveal all they know about a job they are trying to fill if they believe that by disclosing the full story they would chase away the talent they are trying to hire. And if we are to believe what we read, 70% of the resumes submitted by candidates contain misleading information about who the candidate is, really.
And there’s the infamous interview dance – with hiring managers spending time thinking up clever interview questions to uncover the “real” candidate, while candidates send time practicing their perfect answers to the same set of “clever” questions.
The result? Lies, distortions, and deception has become an unwelcomed side product of many hiring processes and directly contributes to a growing number of hiring mistakes. With estimates as high as 75% of hiring decisions going bad within the first year of employment, you get the picture of just how important it is to make sure your hiring process promotes “honesty” rather than its opposite.
The interview is one of the places in the hiring process where a hiring manager has opportunity to uncover deception. Here are some techniques we use to keep our interviews honest that may be helpful to you.
Make it easy for the candidate to be honest!
Some interviewers believe that one of the ways to ease a nervous candidate (and themselves) into the interview, is to go over the content of the job, even going so far as to describe the ideal candidate before the interview even starts. DON’T DO THAT.
Anything that tips a candidate off to the type of responses you are looking for in your interview will contaminate the honesty of their responses. Be careful not to ask a question in a way that reveals what the answer needs to be in order for the candidate to be considered. “We are looking for a candidate who has the initiative and resourcefulness to solve problems on their own. What can you tell me about how you solve problems?”
Instead, at the beginning of your interview let the candidate know you are looking for candor.
“We have quite a bit of flexibility in the type of candidate we’re looking for, so our goal for today is to get to know you better. There are no right or wrong answers to any of the questions I ask – I just want to know what you’ve done in your past jobs and what is most important to you about what you do next. I’m going to be really honest with you about what you’re likely to experience “on the job” and I’d like you to do the same with me – let me know how we’re likely to experience you as an employee.”
And then you can move on to more specific questions that will allow you to assess the skills you are looking for without revealing your preferred answers.
“I’d like to learn more about how you handle day to day challenges. In your last job, what were the common problems that tended to come up each day? How did you address those problems? What resources did you use to solve them?”
“I’ll be checking your references.”
Make sure the candidate knows right up front that you are going to be checking their references and why.
“One of the steps in our hiring process is to talk to your previous supervisors to confirm the information you provided on your application and in our interview. As we go thru our conversation today, I’ll be asking questions about your past work experiences that your previous supervisors can also comment on. If there is info you provide that you’d like me to keep confidential, just let me know.”
With that preamble you can ask questions that go beyond the more typical self reports. For example, instead of asking – “What do you consider your most important strengths as an employee?” – ask “what will your previous supervisor tell us are you most valuable attributes as an employee?”
At PACE, we find that IF a candidate knows we will be verifying the information they provide on their application and in the interview, their self reports are almost always the same or close to the same as the actual reports we obtain from their previous employers. And you would be surprised what kind of information gets self reported using this simple technique!
Ask questions that require a candidate to reveal their “other side.”
Not all your questions should be focused on identifying a candidate’s strengths. Spend some time in each interview asking questions that will tap into those areas of the candidate’s on the job performance they’d like to improve.
“In your role as a customer service rep, tell me about a situation where a customer had an issue with your company that you were not able to resolve.”
“Tell me about a situation where you made a mistake in your role and had to figure out how to fix it.”
“What comments have come up from previous supervisors either in formal performance reviews or informal feedback sessions, that reflected something about your work that you knew you needed to work on? What did you do with this feedback?”
Make sure your reaction to the candidate’s answers (verbal and non verbal) is never judgmental. Your goal is to keep the employee talking, making it comfortable for them to be honest!
Ask what the candidate “does for fun” outside of work.
“Tell me about a situation outside of work that you were able to use your “people skills” in a positive way.”
“What do you like to do in your spare time?”
Learning about the candidate’s passions outside the work setting, will give you clues as to what is likely to motivate them at work. Listen to how they describe what they enjoy doing, where they’ve had success outside the work environment. You’ll likely uncover personal qualities that will either connect with or be different from the qualities you believe are important for on the job success.
A candidate for an accounting role who enjoys building model ships (working with detail), a candidate for a customer service job who does volunteer work at a food bank (helping others), or a candidate for an administrative assistant role who organizes events for their large extended family (organizing, communicating, etc.) are likely good fits for the jobs you are trying to fill.
Ask questions to provide insights into how the candidate will deal with a unique “situational challenge”.
Don’t be afraid to explore how the candidate is likely to deal with the challenges they will face “on the job” that aren’t part of the job description. Don’t go into detail, but ask if the candidate has ever dealt with a similar situation.
“The manager who supervises this job has had some recent turnover in this role. He would say he expects perfection and for that reason tends to give a lot of feedback when an employee is under performing. He doesn’t chase people away, but employees who are not comfortable with feedback would likely be challenged by him. Have you ever dealt with a boss like that? How did you work with them?”
This approach does two things – provides information you can use to predict how the candidate is likely to perform on the job, and establishes you as someone willing to be honest and open about that challenge, hopefully encouraging the candidate to do the same.
Use follow up questions to dig deep.
According to a recent Career Builder study on hiring mistakes, about one third of all hiring mistakes happen because the candidate seriously misrepresented their skills or capabilities – either on their resume or in the interview. A good interviewer will uncover those kinds of deceptions simply by digging deeper on the what’s, whens, and how-tos of the candidate’s claims.
For example, if a candidate for a sales role reports that they increased sales by 25%, your follow up questions might be…
- Was that a team result or did you do that by yourself?
- What kind of sales results did others on your team achieve during the same time period?
- What did you do differently to achieve that outcome?
- What obstacles did you encounter when achieving this goal? How did you work thru them?
- What kind of help were you given by your boss? Team members?
This article was written by Jeanne Knutzen, owner and CEO of PACE Staffing Network, an award winning recruiting and staffing agency headquartered in Bellevue Washington. PACE places 1000’s of employees in new temporary and core jobs each year and have developed a candidate screening and evaluation process that incorporates the “best practices” in hiring and selection.
If you’d like help with your next recruiting or hiring project, give us a call at 425-637-3312 or e mail us at email@example.com