Predictive Hiring: Three Interview Questions that Improve Hiring Results

One of the bedrock principles of Predictive Hiring is that a hiring process should be looked at as the process of risk assessment.  You’re not reading the candidate’s resume and taking a guess as to fit; you’re focused on uncovering the factors that, when present, predict a higher likelihood of success for that candidate in your organization.  In The Best Team Wins parlance, we call those the Four Super Elements.

Research shows that confirming the degree to which the Four Super Elements are present can dramatically improve your hiring results:

Attitude:  A positive disposition towards work that persists over time.

Accountability: The degree to which the candidate attributes the events in their life – good or bad – to their own actions or decisions; also known as “locus of control.”

Prior, related job success: The candidate can demonstrate that their performance was actively monitored and measured using defined KPIs or scored outcomes.

Culture Fit: The degree to which the candidate exhibits the behaviors and cultural attributes of the organization.

Determining whether or not these Super Elements are present with a job candidate is surprisingly straightforward.  By asking specific, targeted interview questions, you can determine whether or not the candidate exhibits these critically important characteristics.  Here are three interview questions to begin using right away:

1. Attitude: “Tell me about the last time you were so frustrated at work that you wanted to quit.”  Follow-up question: “What was going on that led you to feel that way?”

Everyone gets frustrated at work, and sometimes that frustration can lead to a feeling that “enough is enough.”  To feel this way is perfectly normal; we’ve all been there.  However, multiple research studies confirm that individual with a positive attitude towards work events – particularly negative ones – have a higher likelihood of being a top quartile performer than candidates who display negative attitudes towards work events.

A candidate demonstrating a positive disposition towards challenging work events will answer your question with answers such as:

  • “It was an incredibly frustrating situation, but they gave me a great opportunity and I’m appreciative that they did that.”
  • “My manager is tough to work for, but I know that he’s doing his best and I can’t fault him for wanting us to hit numbers.”

A candidate demonstrating a negative disposition towards challenging work events will say things like:

  • “That place is a mess.  Managers aren’t really managing anything and it leads to all sorts of issues.”
  • “The workplace culture is really negative, and it makes it hard to succeed.”

Listen for the differences, and avoid hiring candidates who speak negatively about challenging work situations.

2. Accountability: “Tell me about the last time you set an aggressive goal for yourself that you failed to achieve.” Follow-up question: “What was the reason you missed the goal?”

When screening for locus of control, we’re looking for the candidate to exhibit one of two loci – internal or external. The reason that we ask a question about goal achievement and focus on a goal that wasn’t met is to determine whether or not this candidate owns their own results, good or bad.

A candidate demonstrating an internal locus of control will answer this question using language like:

  • “I should have done a better job securing the resources I needed to hit the target.”
  • “I staffed the project incorrectly and we didn’t have the proper bandwidth.”
  • “The economy turned on us and I failed to respond in a way that adequately made up the difference.”

A candidate demonstrating an external locus of control will answer this question using language like:

  • “My manager set my goals way too high. This target was unrealistic.”
  • “They didn’t tell me what tools I was going to need to actually pull this project off.”
  • “The economy turned on us, and there was no way we were going to make up the difference.”

Candidates who operate with an internal locus of control are much more likely to be a top quartile performer than those who operate with an external locus of control.

3. Prior, related job success: “When you go home at the end of each day, how do you know whether or not you had a good day or a bad day?”

Research shows that employees who are comfortable operating in an environment where their performance is actively monitored and measured using specific KPIs or scored outcomes tend to outperform their peers who prefer not to be measured in that way.

Candidates who have had their performance measured formally will answer this questions with statements such as:

  • “If I was able to set three appoints that day, I knew I had a good day.  If I was unable to set three appointments, but made sixty outbound dials, then I could still feel good about my level of effort.”
  • “If I was able to keep my support ticket queue response time average to less than sixty minutes, that was a good day.”

Candidates who have not had their performance measured formally will answer you with statements that lack specificity, such as:

  • “If I didn’t receive any customer complaints, that was a good day.” [How many complaints per day were allowable?”]
  • “We had a good day if we were able to manage the event without any major miscues.” [How was quality control managed within your team?  Was there a KPI that represented your degree of quality?”]

Recall that with Predictive Hiring, we’re operating under the paradigm that hiring is the process of assessing the risk that this candidate won’t be able to achieve the outcomes we’re looking for them to achieve.  Asking these three targeted questions in an interview situation will help you quickly determine whether or not the candidate being considered for the job exhibits the Four Super Elements.