How do you increase your success in selecting and eveluating people? Education, technical skills, experience and industry knowledge can be defined and verified. But most people don’t succeed or fail because of those elements of who they are. Most people succeed or fail based on how well their mix of values, attitudes, behaviors and personal skills fit the situation. And the higher one goes in an organization, the truer that becomes. How to get at that information when evaluating people for selection, promotion, team involvement and personal and organizational development?
Experts and successful leaders all share a little known fact about human behavior, and use it in evaluating people. They know that every one of us believes other people will act, react, understand and judge as we would – given the same circumstances. That is not a correct belief – but it is a belief.
Professionals use that information to gain insights into what people really believe, how they will behave, and what personal skills they value. Being able to do that gives a real competitive advantage in selection, relationships and leadership.
How do you do that?
Example: With a candidate, ask them to provide a situation where something was done – preferably work related. Then ask him/her the who, what, when, where and why questions about the situation and how it played out. Here’s the secret: rather than ask them about their role, ask them about the roles, actions. motives, values of others involved in the situation. Be ready to gain insights and information about the candidate as he/she reflects on the attitudes, motives, behaviors and skills of others. The key is that we all tend to think that others act, judge, assume and possess many of the same skills as we do. By asking about a third person you do the following:
– People tend to be freer in providing their opinions, assumptions and judgments when it is directed at someone other than themselves.
– By speculating on the motives, judgment and behaviors of others, the candidates are telling a great deal about themselves. And if they won’t speculate, they’re still telling a lot about themselves.
A story to illustrate how this technique can be used:
A company undergoing substantial change in its behavior toward its employees, as a result of a crisis, was attempting to hire a Chief Operating Officer who would be critical to the success of the behavior change. One of the principal concerns of the new CEO was that the person hired would reflect the behaviors and beliefs that would be critical to the change. Old habits and values die hard, and the organization had a lot of very valuable, experienced people who had prospered in a very authoritarian, compliance, do what you’re told to do, micro-managed culture. The culture envisioned by the CEO was very different. Open communication, trust, people as our biggest asset, less stove pipes, more cross functional teams, encourage innovation, high leverage,of talent were all part of his vision.
As the CEO interviewed each of the top candidates for the position, they all agreed with his vision. All were able to provide examples of how they had either built or maintained that kind of culture in their past jobs. All agreed the vision of culture the CEO had was the way to go. Personal chemistry was good with all the top candidates. Their references were excellent. How to pick this critical person to lead change?
The CEO decided one last round of in depth one on one interviews was in order. The focus of the interviews would be on better understanding the candidates own behaviors, attitudes and personal skills. And he would do that by engaging them in conversations about the behaviors, skills and attitudes of other key people the candidates had worked with.
Key questions he asked each candidate included:
Why do you think that person made that decision?
What do you think motivated them to make that decision?
What do you think that decision was based on?
What would you do if you had been in their shoes?
How do you think he/she should have handled it?
Were they successful in that situation?
What made them successful?
What kept them from success?
How did the people affected by the situation handle it?
Who was to blame for the situation?
Who got the credit/recognition?
The CEO was looking for attitudes, values, behaviors and acknowledgment of personal skills that he felt were critical to the culture change process. By having the candidates evaluate the behaviors, values, and personal skills of others he was able to better understand the candidates own unique mix of values, behaviors and skills. What came out of that last round of interviews helped him make what is always – after all the dust has settled – an intuitive decision. But an intuitive decision based on a much greater understanding than by simply evaluating candidate responses to questions about themselves.
Can this approach be applied at other levels in an organization? Of course.
If you are using assessments to evaluate people for selection, check to see if they provide you with these kinds of insights. If they don’t – or if they are too complex to be applied in the real world, look for assessments that can help. They exist, I can assure you.
In addition to assessments, hiring managers and their support people can develop the expertise to make this approach a key part of their selection and development process. People have beliefs that come out in their perception of the behavior of others. A good example is the high control micro manager. There is a very good chance that a high control person has a value that places low trust on others, and that person assumes others feel the same way. Interviews can peel away the responses that the candidate feels are expected, and get at their beliefs – the belief they express through their opinion of others.
Another example is the person who uses blame in a response to a question about others – either to defend or to place fault. You can bet that person will be a blamer, regardless how they may portray their own behavior in an interview.
It’s important to get the candidate to tell you about themselves, but it is equally valuable to get them to tell you about their evaluation of others – it tells you so much about them. Use this key to increase your success in dealing with people in all kinds of situations.