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Game On - Hiring Talent, Building Teams and Behavioral Questions



Building a solid team is essential for new leaders, and my executive coaching clients often seek guidance for this crucial skill. I’ve learned that focusing on behavioral questions can truly transform the interview experience.


Hiring talent can be frustrating: a long, laborious vetting of candidates and final selection of someone who appears to possess the necessary skillset, only to find that they never really fit in and are quickly out the door.


I hear so many complaints about employee churn and quick turnover. Seriously disappointing after the interviews, selection, and onboarding that seem to take forever. Bragging about being a “3-time Great Resignator” is total BS. Both sides need to stop running the confusion loop! Talk about a whole lot of time and energy for nothing.


Let’s short-circuit the churn!

We’ve all known people who possess the technical skills required to do the job, but their behavior makes working with them almost impossible. How can you tell in advance?


Interviews are a two-way interaction, or at least they should be. It’s extremely important to not screw up the human element of the candidate employee and the candidate organization. There is zero excuse for either party to get this wrong. Grow up. Sort things out. Get on with it.


The first thing you want to look at is what you’re actually asking of your candidates. Time and time again I’ve seen interviewers ask leading questions and hear the answers they want to hear. But they never get at the actual habits of their potential hires.


There’s a real opportunity here. You can learn to screen candidates for their potential fit within your organization’s culture. Culture is hard to define. But you know it when you see it, feel it, smell it, or step in it!


Get there by asking behavioral questions. Asking real-life open-ended questions as opposed to a purely technical assessment will quickly reveal a cultural fit or not.


Behavioral questions don’t allow yes or no answers. They get to the truth of things…for you and your organization.


Why do behavioral questions work?

1. Past behavior predicts future behavior.

2. Real-life stories demonstrate real-life experience.

3. You get more information about a person by asking for specifics.


I’ve put together a list of over a hundred questions designed to elicit insights about a candidate’s behavior in typical situations. These aren’t yes or no questions, or questions where someone can easily guess what the “right” answer is. They’re intended to spark responses that reveal how someone will behave when challenged on the job.


If they’re about to conduct an interview, I’ll ask my executive coaching clients to choose three to five of these questions with care. Think about a candidate’s expected maturity level, style, and experience. Don’t ask entry-level questions of non-entry level positions, and so on.


During the interview, actively listen to the responses and probe for actual examples of relevant situations. Really try to get to know the person! For example, I might ask a potential hire to describe the characteristics of a successful manager they know. This could lead to a conversation about management style, pet peeves, recent wins and losses, and a deeper understanding of the candidate’s various roles over the course of their career.


Or maybe I’d ask which is more important to them: creativity or efficiency, and why. A non-threatening, free-flowing discussion about questions like these can go a long way toward understanding what it will feel like to have this person as a colleague.


An unstructured conversation sparked by these well-crafted questions reveal subtle, important nuances about how working with this particular candidate in this particular environment would actually play out.


“Best interview ever.”

The typical feedback I get is overwhelmingly positive. For both interviewer and interviewee, it was “the best interview ever.” Both sides get valuable information to help them make a strong decision. The questions don’t feel like a performance piece or a waste of time, and the candidate isn’t being asked to clear hurdles they’d already proven they could handle.


I’ll leave you with these 3 tips:

1. Select 3 to 5 questions max. You may only need one or two.

2. Be prepared to answer behavioral questions that are asked of you.

3. It’s your team. Own the decision.

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