Another Level of Interviewing
Business generally makes sense to me - some of it comes naturally, other parts I’ve developed over time. Marketing? Easy. Public speaking? Doesn’t bother me. Management and leadership? I’ve grown into those roles.
But one of the most stressful parts of business for me?
Interviewing and Hiring.
Hiring is filled with landmines. Move too fast and you get the wrong person. Move too slow and you lose the right person. Spend all your time on a candidate you think is great, just to find out leadership doesn’t approve. A bad hire can ruin the existing culture of your team. Your unqualified neighbor may apply and then you’ll have to awkwardly see him every time you’re mowing the lawn. And it’s a very public part of your job - external and internal people know you’re hiring and ask about it.
Landmine, landmine, landmine.
So what can you do to mitigate the risks and reduce the stress associated with hiring? Try these strategies as you’re looking to bring on new talent:
1—LinkedIn is Better Than a Resume: Typically I invest more time on someone’s LinkedIn profile than I do on their resume. Resumes show you exactly what the candidate wants you to see: a polished, extremely proofread narrative. LinkedIn provides some extra clues and insights that can help you understand things a resume doesn’t.
A person’s LinkedIn profile helps me understand how serious they are about their career. If they’re in a certain field (medical, agriculture, etc.) or they are extremely successful, they don’t necessarily need LinkedIn. But if they are normal (like most of us), I want team members who can communicate their personal brand, understand the power of their online presence, and think beyond just the basics.. LinkedIn helps me see some of that.
No profile picture, a few dozen connections, or one line describing their last job - none of those are complete deal breakers, but, depending on the job, they are certainly red flags. Spend 10 minutes on LinkedIn before you meet with a candidate and read their posts, their comments, their recommendations and see if it doesn’t provide some insights that makes hiring easier.
2—A Different Interview Style: The more interviewing you do, the better you get at it. I have a very casual interviewing style naturally, but started using a different approach a few years ago, particularly when interviewing senior candidates. “Laddering” is a technique where you push past the initial answer from the candidate during an interview. Instead of accepting their answer at face value, ask additional probing questions that eventually elevate more meaningful insights. The most simple explanation of laddering is that you essentially ask “why?” a few more times before moving on to the next topic.
The tactic is used in marketing research to better understand subconscious motives of consumers, but it works well in interviews. The best way to perform a laddering interview is to prepare in advance (can’t grab the resume on the way to the interview), document questions about their successes and dig into what they did, why they did it, what they would have done differently, etc.
Instead of accepting a surface level response, push harder for the story of their wins and losses (And I spent a lot of time on negatives of their career, not as a hard interviewing tactic, but as a way to understand their learning patterns). Ask progressively detailed questions to better understand how the person succeeded, how they responded to failures and what their teams or managers would say about them.
3—Focus on Emotional Intelligence: The scariest part about hiring is bringing on someone who could ruin your company or team culture. At Motivosity we prioritize team fit and intentionally think about how happy we would be working with that person. Anyone can be amicable for 120 minutes and can hide a bad attitude...very few will blatantly expose that they’re a bully, a gossip, or a complainer.
So how can you estimate a person’s cultural impact?
Look for indications of emotional intelligence.
Your team matures when you hire for emotional intelligence. People with a high emotional IQ recognize their own emotions and the emotions of their peers, which can help steady a team in turbulent times. They unify groups even if there are mild conflicts. They attract other highly talented people - all things you want as the hiring manager.
Are they authentic or do they show signs of empathy? Do they share credit and praise the teams they worked with? Or do they only talk about their contributions as if they’re an island? Are they answering your questions with “We” instead of “I” at least some of the time? Do they have a history of helping others?
While at LogMeIn I was asked to interview an incoming senior leader. This individual had already been through multiple interviews and I was basically the “culture interview”. On paper they were extremely qualified, but something about their style wasn’t sitting right. Still, because the company had already invested so much time with this candidate, I gave my approval to hire them.
I was anxious about my decision. I spent all day thinking through my recommendation and finally realized what didn’t feel right: Their emotional intelligence was lacking. They never talked kindly about someone else, took 100% credit for everything they were involved with and seemed to be thrilled about being a one man show. Able to verbalize my hesitation, I met with the team and we decided not to hire that individual. Emotional intelligence matters, even if you have sunk costs associated with the interview process.
4—Hints of Scrappy: People always ask me, “What are you looking for in a team member?” There are obviously role specific answers, but there’s a constant I’m always looking for: people who are scrappy...
Have you ever watched Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks? After the space shuttle is damaged, NASA engineers are trying to figure out how to save the astronauts on board. They walk into a room in Houston and the main engineer says something to the extent of, “We have to figure out how to get this square piece, into that circle piece, and this is all we can do it with.” Then he dumps out a box of the supplies and tools that match those aboard the spaceship and the group gets to work.
I want to hire the person that looks around the room, figures out what resources there are and then gets to work.
What does that look like in a job history? Someone who doesn’t complain about small budgets. Or the person who other departments come to when they have a problem. I want the candidate who isn’t afraid of constraints and does their best regardless. Those “hints of scrappy” might come from a side gig they’re working on, or a full time job to put themselves through college, or a single parent who still got top rankings on their annual review.
Scrappy candidates get some bonus points because I know they’ll be an ally regardless of the situation.
5—Look for the “Punch to the Gut” Feeling: This is my newest hiring tool and comes per advice from Scott Johnson, CEO of Motivosity. He said, “When I’m hiring, I try to imagine how I’d feel if someone denied my offer or withdrew their name from the interview process. If I knew I’d have that “punch in the gut” feeling after hearing that news, then I do everything I can to get that person on the team.” That’s fantastic advice. Sometimes we think about structured interviews or biases, but there’s something to be said about your gut excitement for a candidate.
If you’ve been in your career for very long, you know how painful it is to work with someone who is the wrong hire. Maybe they don’t get the job done right, or they don’t get the job done at all. Maybe they take PTO multiple times a month or make drama when there’s nothing dramatic going on. Regardless of how they negatively impact your company, they negatively impact your company. It’s time to add a few strategies so you and your hiring team can get it right.
TechBuzz welcomes back guest author, Logan Mallory, who writes on HR, Leadership and Culture. This article, "Another Level of Interviewing," is Part I of a two-part series on hiring and retaining your best employees. Check out his Oct 26, 2020 article on culture. Logan is VP of Marketing at Motivosity. He earned an MBA and BA in Communications from BYU. He previously held Digital Marketing Positions at LogMeIn, Jive, Workfront, and Deseret Book. He has been an adjunct professor at the BYU Marriott School of Business in Marketing Strategy. He is originally from Michigan.