Hiring for Talent

Interviewing and hiring can be one of the most challenging parts of a manager's job.  Sometimes it can seem like the person you interviewed isn't the same person who shows up for the first day of work.  What happened?

While it's fairly straightforward to assess and evaluate a candidate's skills, experience, and subject knowledge, often the more difficult thing to measure is an individual's talent, that elusive characteristic that can make or break their success in a role.  Gallup defines talent as "a naturally recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that is productively applied."  I like to say talent is our behavioral DNA - it's who we are naturally, innately, and instinctively.  It's what we do best, automatically (and often, with little effort).  Is it possible that some people have a natural talent for interviewing??  The answer is yes!  

So how do you really identify whether a person is naturally and innately suited for the job you're trying to fill?  The good news is that by asking some strategically-worded interview questions, you can more accurately assess an individual's talent and potential fit for the role.  Some of the most insightful candidate responses are elicited by what are known as “behavioral interview questions.”  Behavioral interviewing is effective because it helps predict future success on the job by looking into past behavior – not potential behavior.  A question that begins with “Tell me about a time when…” for example, is much more predictive than “What would you do if…” which tends to lead candidates to say what they think you want to hear, rather than give a real-life example that provides insight into their talent, skills, personality, and work ethic.  Here are a few great interview questions to try:

 “Tell me about your best day at work.”  Finding out what really engages and motivates someone, what they really enjoy doing, is often a clue to their natural talent.  This open-ended question asks for personal preference and is hard for candidates to game.  Since there isn’t a right answer they think you’re looking for, they’re likely to be honest.

“What is the most useful criticism you’ve ever received?”  A twist on the cliché “What’s your greatest weakness?” question, this one enables hiring managers to learn what kind of feedback candidates receive from others while simultaneously learning about their weaknesses (as perceived by others).

“What do you expect of your manager?”  This question is pure gold, especially if you end up hiring this person.  Just as you have expectations of the candidate, they have expectations of you (consistent feedback? mentorship? autonomy?), and there’s no better way to find out than to ask.