Adapted from a presentation at the 2005 ICFA Annual Convention
Use behavior-based interviewing. What is behavior-based interviewing? It is shown to be anywhere from two to five times more effective than other types of interviewing.
We ask the candidate for specific examples of how they've done things in the past that are job related. We would never ask a theoretical question like, "How would you handle this situation?"
I was once asked, ''Tell me how you would deal with an underperforming salesperson?" I said I would take an eight-step approach to this—I would have a discussion, then give a warning, etc., and after the final step I would terminate the person.
I noticed just the slightest smile on the interviewer's face and she said, "You got the perfect score on that answer." She showed me the method they used and sure enough, I got a 10 out of 10 on that answer.
But what she didn't know is that as a sales manager I was real wimp. I would give everyone way too many chances, I would bend over backward to help close deals for people who simply couldn't close. I would do their job for them because of a personality defect I have called empathy.
But you would never know this if you asked me how I would do things, because I had read all the right books and I had seen top performers in action. I knew what the policy was on how to do these things.
If you are asking hypothetical questions, you will inevitably get hypothetical answers.
With behavior-based interviewing, what you would ask me instead is how I handled an underperforming employee. You would get all the details and then say, "Wow, you did a great job of bringing that underperformer around. And just to confirm, your general manager at the time was John Smith?"
A typical behavioral question is to ask for two accomplishments you are most proud of. The bottom line is to make sure you get specific, concrete answers, and always try to link it to reference checks who can confirm what the candidate has said.