happened twice this past week, so it must be important. It's another strange and
unusual case where behavioral interviews did not accurately predict on-the-job
performance. First the background, then my abbreviated diagnosis. You might be
able to relate to the following tale.
managers, both at two relatively large companies, were very disappointed that a
number of new hires were complaining about how difficult their new jobs were.
"How could this have possibly happened?" they urgently asked. Both
managers were quite taken aback, since they had clearly told their new charges
during the interview that the jobs were difficult, demanding, and intense. The
new employees had willingly and knowingly accepted the jobs under these
to the candidates, on-the-job reality quickly set in and the jobs were much more
difficult than described to them during the interview. At least this is the
story as told to me by their hiring managers. While the facts were expressed in
an emotional and agitated state, my sense was that the scenario rang true. With
further probing, more was learned.
complaint was that a new sales rep was never told that 50% of her job required
aggressive field cold-calling, prospecting for new business. The other, a
management trainee, complained that he was never told that the days would be
long and physically demanding, requiring him to prioritize 20 to 30 semi-menial
tasks at once in order to keep the branch up and running smoothly -- this while
angry customers urgently waited to get their orders filled.
managers indicated they went out of their way to tell all candidates about the
reality of the jobs and how demanding they were. They both had been burned
before, and knew that new employees rarely got the message unless they were
repeatedly told of the challenges (a.k.a. horrors) inherent in the job before
accepting offers. While they lost a number of promising candidates this way,
they felt it was the best approach to minimize problems later on.
happened? If you've ever been involved in similar situations, you probably know
my take. The four fundamental rules of good interviewing and recruiting were
Maslow's hierarchy of needs was not understood, and therefore ignored.
"Stay a cynic" (alternatively called, "Why you shouldn't ever
believe anyone who needs a job, ever") was disregarded.
"Ask, don't tell" was not invoked. Candidates aren't very good at
hearing stuff when they need a job.
Don't talk candidates out of jobs, select them out. Then you'll be pleasantly
surprised at how many you select in.
this is all pretty much the same rule with a couple of twists and turns.
can find more about Maslow's theory using a Google search, but in essence it
says, if a person needs a job, he or she will say anything to get it. (This
isn't exactly what Maslow said, but it IS the result of understanding how basic
human needs are fulfilled.) According to Maslow's theory, once the need for a
job is satisfied, then some other need becomes the motivator, and it does not
usually involve working hard. However, if the person doesn't need the job, then
what he or she says is more believable. Under this condition, you can then
safely ignore this rule.
"stay a cynic" piece is actually a very good rule for all interviewers
and recruiters to always follow. This is a secondary result of Rule One. Simply
assume that all candidates will say just about anything to get a job. It's the
nature of candidates; so don't believe any of them. Instead, take responsibility
to discover the truth yourself. This is just smart interviewing. Assume that
what candidates tell you is colored by their underlying need for another job. Be
more concerned about what the candidate has done in the past rather than what
they tell you they will do in the future. This is really Rule Two, and it sets
up Rule Three.
don't tell. Instead of telling candidates how hard the job is, find out how hard
they've worked in the past and under what kinds of circumstances. Drill down. By
asking lots and lots and lots of questions, paint a complete word picture of the
jobs and projects that required extra effort. Determine their frequency, the
environment, and the challenges involved.
get examples. This forces candidates to prove their generalizations. Find out if
they liked the job itself, or the boss, or the team, or everything, or nothing.
Look for a pattern of hard work in situations comparable to the job you have
available, which then indicates a core behavior. This is the only proof you
should accept that the candidate will work hard in your situation. Don't tell
the candidate how hard the job is; find out how hard the candidate has worked on
similar jobs and activities in the past.
be surprised. You'll find candidates both competent and motivated to do the work
required. Be a cynic. Trust Maslow. As he indicated, once short-term needs are
met, they donít motivate people anymore. So instead, look for candidates who
see your job as one that offers underlying personal satisfaction, not just
Rule Four comes into play. Don't talk people out a job, SELECT them out. If
candidates have not shown a pattern of cold calling, or staying late, or putting
in the extra effort on things you need the extra effort on, you can only
temporarily talk them into doing it. Instead, look for candidates who find your
job motivating and satisfying, not hard.
this with everyone, even candidates you don't initially like, and especially
those whom you do like. You'll be surprised. During the time you spend digging
about looking for evidence to support your initial gut feelings, you'll find
many candidates who make a good first impression and have the right background,
but who would never be able to handle the difficulties in your job. However, if
you keep an open mind, you'll also find a number of exceptionally talented
people who are diligent, hard-working, tenacious, and committed, but who didn't
"wow" you right away or were a bit nervous at the start of the
these people. They will make you famous.
By Lou Adler