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Do you know when you interview a “star”?

Do you know when you interview a “star”?

Research shows that only about 25% of new hires turn out to be Top Performers.  With 75% of people hired missing the mark, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to calculate the hours and dollars lost.  Yet with some people have a really good “interview persona” how do you determine who the real A-players are?  How do you know that this person isn’t just talking a good game – that they really have what it takes to perform over the long haul?

It just so happens that there are questions that you can ask that will uncover what most Bottom Performers don’t want you to know.  It is a series of questions about each full-time job they’ve had.  Yep, that might mean 8-10 jobs for some applicants.  Through this series of questions, you’re looking for patterns.  So if you only ask a couple of these questions for each job or you only ask about a couple of jobs, you might miss the pattern.

This is a lengthy process and is best done with at least two interviewers.  This way one can ask the questions and respond, the other can look for tell-tale signs of discomfort: darting eye contact, fidgeting, hemming and hawing.

1) What were your expectations when you took this job?  (good and bad)

a. Top Performers (TPs) will tend to talk about the challenges and opportunities for growth they were looking for.
b. Bottom Performers (BPs) needed another job, weren’t very strategic in picking this job.

2) What did you find after being in the job awhile? (good and bad)

a. TPs will talk about the pro’s and con’s of the job and how they overcame obstacles and were able to figure it out.
b. BPs were not informed about the challenges and obstacles in the job and this is usually their focus.

3) What were your major accomplishments and how did you achieve them?

a. TPs will show enthusiasm as they talk about their accomplishments, will share 3-4 and will include overcoming the odds in their story.
b. BPs will not have achieved their big goals, may share excuses as to why.

4) What were your failures or major mistakes?

a. TPs will look you in the eye and unabashedly tell you they took on too much, took a risk that didn’t work out and they’ll tell you what they learned.
b. BPs tend to repeat mistakes and share more excuses for their failures job after job. It just so happens that there are questions that you can ask Who did you report to?  What was he or she like to work for?
c. TPs like working for other TPs who challenge them and have high expectations.
d. BPs like easy bosses and will talk negatively about those who were tough.

5) What would your former boss say about you in a phone call arranged by you?  Including strengths, weaknesses, overall performance on a scale from 1-5?

a. TPs will score themselves high, mention lots of strengths and a few genuine weaknesses.
b. BPs will score themselves high but it may sound phony or hollow, and if they score themselves low, they again will offer excuses.

6) Why did you leave?

a. TPs looking for more opportunity and growth.
b. BPs were let go, had a bad relationship with their manager or had no opportunity.

Of these questions, the one I think really stands out as a key indicator of a Top Performer is how someone responds to Number 6.  Many companies don’t even try reference checks anymore.  They believe you can’t get any valuable information on a candidate because former employers aren’t willing to risk the legal implications of giving a reference.

Asking a candidate to set up a conversation between you and a former employer gives you all kinds of information before you even get on the call.  First of all, Bottom Performers will make all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t do it.  This is when real information will come out.  They were really fired when they said there were cutbacks.  They didn’t get along with their boss or none of their former managers still work for that company.

Top Performers on the other hand will be eager to connect you with their former managers.  They will have former managers who will be more than willing to speak on their behalf because, well, they were Top Performers.  Think of it from this perspective – don’t you have managers from past jobs who would be happy to speak for you because of your past performance?  I do.  And so should any candidate you are seriously considering.

The key is to take your time and don’t rush this process.  Be thorough and look for patterns of performance or non-performance.  It’s easy to spot if you’re asking the right questions!