One interview question to make better hires.

on the lookout


This morning I read an article that made me stop and think about what a challenge making a good hire really is. The article was called “The No. 1 Reason for Bad Hires” (on the TLNT blog), and the author started the post by explaining how making a good hire is like trying to hit a moving target. And he is right.

There are so many factors in play, for you (the recruiter or hiring manager), the candidate, and your company. Author Tim Sackett explains:

“Job fit also has multiple components:

  1. The job you have open.
  2. The company culture.
  3. The job the candidate actually wants to do.
  4. The job the candidate is willing to do and how good of an actor they are to prove to you that it is the real job they want.
  5. Your inability to see that your perception of the candidate, and their perception of themselves, do not align.”

There are so many things that have to align to make a great hire, and very few of them are actually in your control as a hiring manager.

So what can you do when there are a thousand factors fighting against your ability to match the right person with the right role at the right time?

By helping candidates weed themselves out.

Most people don’t apply for serious jobs unless they think they are a good fit for them. But, whether they really are a good fit or if they have just convinced themselves that this job would be “close enough” to what they want to do — that is a different story.

It’s the people in the second group — people who just *think* and *hope* this job is a good enough fit for their interests — who won’t stick around. They are usually close to right, and can seem great in interviews. Often they have most or all of the necessary skills, and interest, and passion for the job — but still, the job will end up to be just not the right fit for them.

And as Tim says in his post:

“The reality is, probably 75 percent of your terminations are because of poor job fit. You hired someone with the skills you wanted, but the job you have doesn’t use or need most of those skills.

The job you have doesn’t meet the expectation you sold to the candidate. The job you have isn’t really the job the person wants.”

So how can you calibrate your expectations and the candidate’s, and make sure both of you know — before the candidate ever starts work — that this position will be a good fit for them?

Let them tell you. In your next interview, ask the candidate:

“If you could have any job, in any location, what job would you select? Why?”

Why does this work?

In a job interview, the candidate wants to tell you what you want to hear. They want to convince you that they are right for this particular job, and almost everyone will answer questions in a way that they think conforms with what you or the company would want them to say. It’s hard to remove that element of “wanting to please” from an interview to get at whether or not this would really be a great fit for this person.



But by making the question into a hypothetical, you remove the requirement that the candidate focus just on this job, at this company. You take away the incentive to lie, and instead invite the candidate to dream and be really truthful.

They don’t have to say this job at this company is their dream job. In fact, they don’t even have to give you a particular job title. All they have to tell you is what about their dream job makes it their dream job. What are they doing all day? Who do they work with? How do they spend their time?

Then you can compare that to what your position has to offer. Will this person be happy in this role? Well, just see how the daily life of this role matches with their dream one. Are those a good fit? Then the odds are, this candidate is a good fit.

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