Don’t Assume All Candidates are Ambitious – Make Them Prove It!

Don’t Assume All Candidates are Ambitious – Make Them Prove It!




The goal of the behavioral based interview is to clarify qualities that work well in your organization. But you also need to look at the flip side of this as to what are the characteristics of your problem people?

Look at the qualities of the people who didn’t work out so well AND BE HONEST. In some situations, the responsibility could fall to you in how you interviewed, hired or trained them. In other situations, it will be some part of their personality that you didn’t explain in all of your pre-planning, but turned out to be a crucial skillset in the job.

If you can remember, think about the interview questions you asked them, or at the minimum the types of questions. I recommend making a standard set of questions that you have at your fingertips to consistently ask all candidates. You can feel free to improvise and dig further into a candidate’s experience in a different area, but the list should be a baseline to ensure you’re asking consistent questions for all candidates and give you confidence that you’re conducting fair and accurate interviews.

Let’s take an example. Let’s say that you hired a person with a newly-minted MBA. You assumed–because they went back to school to get a MBA–that they were ambitious, goal-pushed, and interested in learning as much as they can at your company to improvement their career. That was your assumption. You since found out that they were anything but. You also learned that an important quality in that position is goal and a sense of excursion. In the interview, did you ask them why they took the time to work toward their MBA? What was their favorite class? Did you probe them for experiences they had in school that show you what their passions are?

If you need someone with goal, then you need to ask questions that demonstrate that quality.

Are they thinking about going back to school for another degree? Are they taking any classes now–already as part of a continuing education program?

The following questions will also help you determine a candidate’s goal, but should be asked outside of the sit-down interview setting. Here’s why. These questions are most effectively asked when the candidate’s guard is down a bit because you want an honest answer. Once most candidates go into an interviewers’ office or conference room they know that the game is on, and are going to volley the answers they think you want to hear. If you ask these questions in a casual way either on the walk to or from the receptionist desk, you’re more likely to get a truer answer.

Here’s how you can start the conversation: “I’ve just read an interesting article online (or book, or magazine) about [insert something relevant to your business or industry, or an event in the news]. This topic just fascinates me because [give a short explanation here]. Have you read anything about it?” or you could ask “What topics are you interested in learning about, (reading more about, researching?)” The actual topics that you and they mention are slightly irrelevant. The goal here is to loosen them up and find out if there is some thoroughness to them. They may not have an interest in what you specifically mention, but if their eyes light up when they talk about learning more about scuba diving and conquering their fear of diving, you can get a clue that they are interested in improving themselves, and this is an indication of their level of goal. If they don’t provide a concrete answer, make a mental observe and if possible, try to ask a similar question on the way out of the interview to get a better answer.

It’s OK to ask about any hobbies or skills they’ve been interested in learning. If they don’t have a great answer to this question, you don’t have to rule them out completely, but you should factor this in to how they performed in the rest of the interview to determine if they are a good candidate or not.

Copyright 2006 Melanie Szlucha




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