Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Power of Questions

Asking one great question is better than asking ten different questions!

The art of framing the right questions is at the heart of good interviewing for candidate selection.  Hiring the right candidate for your organization is an extremely critical responsibility. The quality of employees hired will determine whether the organization will be a winner or an also-ran.

So, how can you improve your ability to spot the right candidates in 60 - 90  minutes (that’s the average length of a typical job interview)? Frame the right questions to ask, and see your success rate almost double up! 

Is self awareness a common phenomenon?

Contrast the following questions :
Question 1 – What are your strengths?
Question 2 – Can you tell us about a successful project / assignment success in your last job, and how you contributed to its success?

Question 1 will elicit a response from the candidate in terms of what he thinks are his strengths. To be able to believe him, you have to believe that he has a very high degree of self-awareness, and therefore, what he is saying is true. Self-awareness, as we know, is not that easy to come across, so you might be better off asking him to describe a successful situation, and his exact contribution in the success. You can ask further clarifying questions – Why / how / when / who to better understand his behaviour. Then, you as the interviewer infer his strengths from his experience sharing. The inferences on strengths / abilities are based on your analysis of his experience.

Behaviour based interviewing 

The popular behaviour based interviewing technique focusses on understanding how the candidate has behaved / responded under different situations. The basic premise being “Past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour”. Earlier interviews used to focus on hypothetical questioning, e.g., “How would you respond to an angry customer”? 

Behavioural scientists have proved that we humans don’t really know ourselves well. There is a huge gap between what we say we will do, and what we actually do. So, the way to understand a human being better is to find out what he actually did in a particular situation, because in all likelihood, if a similar situation reappears, he would behave the same way as he did earlier. Our predictability of an individual’s behaviour increases if we understand his past. So, a better question to ask is “Have you ever had a situation where you had to handle an angry customer? How did you manage it?” Then you as an interviewer analyse the response and identify the absence or presence of the required job competencies – in this case “customer focus”.

Learn to read the script of the heart and soul

When we hire a candidate, we don’t only hire his brains. We bring in the entire human being into the organization – mind, heart and soul. Indeed, exponentially high performances can only come from individuals who engage with their work, not merely through their minds, but through their hearts and souls as well. Learn to read the script of the heart and soul, again, by asking the right questions!

Ask questions related to passion and excitement, e.g., “Can you talk about a situation when you or your team were really excited about an assignment / project and then some obstacles came in the way? How did you manage the situation?” Along with his problem solving and resilience abilities, you will learn about the passions of his heart – how deeply does he engage with his work, does his face light up when he talks of exciting work – does the passion come through?

Similarly, ask questions about situations which may have stirred his soul. Today’s organizations have a lot of “brains at work”, but need a lot more soul. A question such as “Talk about a situation where you faced a dilemma in terms of a people related decision?”. This question may lead him to talk about his decision making principles – whether considerations of equity, justice and fairness are important to him or not. Again, observe closely to see how deeply did he engage himself with this dilemma. How important was it for him to be fair to people as well as do the right thing for the organization?

Questions which are framed well, and followed up with the right probes of why / how / when etc., can give excellent insights into the core of the individual you are about to hire.

Make sure you use the power of questioning to hire the right candidate!