Monday, July 18, 2011

Lesson #3: Great players welcome a tough tryout.

To a great athlete, a brutally tough tryout is a welcome sight because it quickly and effectively weeds out mediocre players. The best players are anxious to show off their superior skills.
The very best utility workers, likewise, will not be afraid of a tough interview. In fact, they welcome it because it makes it easier for them to distinguish themselves from “average” applicants. Train your interviewers to ask the right kinds of questions, allow the candidate to answer fully and to shut up long enough to hear everything they say.  (Hint: Train your interviewers to look the candidate in the eye and count to five after each answer before continuing.  This will often make a marginal job candidate nervous and cause them to add more information… which is usually more honest than their initial “I read this is a good answer to give” memorized response.)
If you want to improve the interviewing skills of your staff almost instantly teach them this technique.  It involves them learning just one question that they can ask over and over. 
“At our company, we often deal with ___________________________________.
Tell me about a time when you dealt with __________________________________
and describe how you handled it.”
The blank could be anything that your company encounters regularly but needs to be extremely brief, such as:
Angry customers
Long and rotating shift hours
Massive overtime requirements
Hazardous working conditions
Highly confidential information
Critical decisions you must make with little input
The reason for the short question is to make the answer as open-ended as possible.  You’re trying to learn more about the candidate in this first interview than anything else.  If you lead the candidate to only one obvious answer by your question, you don’t learn anything at all.
The reason to shut up and listen is so you will actually hear the information the job candidate is giving you.  Many people ask great questions, but only the best interviewers actually listen for the answers and press for clarification if they feel like they are getting clich├ęd answers from some book on interviewing. 
What kind of interviewer will YOU be?  What kind of interviewers will be hiring YOUR staff?