Knowing what to ask and how to ask efficient questions is a great knowledge but it is not enough, we also need to know how to evaluate accurately those answers. Imagine that you ask a question and you do not have sufficient knowledge to understand and interpret candidate’s answer. The interview would be waste of time. Of course, it is not totally useless to ask questions about subjects that you do not have knowledge about, however you need to know what bad and good answers sound like.
In many cases, most of the employees, even executives and people who are responsible in hiring process, do not have a clear understanding of the company’s strategy (or Mission Statement or hallmarks). In this case, it is impossible to separate between high and low performers for your company and therefore, it is impossible to recognize if the candidate is a poor cultural fit or a good cultural fit according to the answers of the candidates. By knowing your hallmarks, preparing your hallmark interview questions and hallmark answer guideline, you will know exactly what you should be listening for and how you should evaluate when you hear it.
Hallmark answer guideline is divided into two groups. The bad answers that reflect a poor fit with the organization’s culture are the warning signs and the good answers that reflect a good fit with the organization’s culture are the positive signals. Most of the time interviewers miss an important signal or misinterpret the answer, and the answer guidelines help you to identify good and bad answers immediately.
Let us say that two hallmarks for your organization are that you take ownership for the problems, taking a lead for the process even it is not your duty and also that you are a self-directed learner, taking responsibility for improving your skills and always in a state of growth. In this case, a warning sign answer of a poor fit with the organization culture might be ‘‘I was scared to make a mistake’’ or ‘‘there was a constant change which was impossible to keep it up with’’. On the other hand, a positive signal answer might be ‘‘I told the truth to the customer explaining I was not familiar with the problem so I connect the customer with someone in the company who was expert on this and followed the situation by contacting both with the customer and the expert’’ or ‘‘I asked a lot of questions to my colleagues from different perspectives, I discussed with them, shared ideas and I received feedbacks’’.
Creating a four-step survey will make it clearer to see. First step of the survey is an invitation to participate. Invitation should involve simple instructions and at the end, you should provide some feedbacks so that you make the survey more appealing for the employees. Second step of the survey is warm up questions. You should start your survey with simple questions about the characteristics that exemplify success and failure at your organization. Simple questions will relax employees about the process, make them feel more competent and validate your hallmarks discovery. A simple question may be asked to list some attitudes that describe the most or the least successful people at your organization. In step 3, you start introducing your hallmarks interview questions and your aim is to go deeper and receive real life situations as much as possible. You want to get details that reveal the attitude so you can ask questions such as: ‘Could you tell me a time about two difficult customers you dealt with.’ In addition to personal experiences, you can ask the participants to tell you their observations about the situations their colleagues struggled, in concordance with your organization’s hallmarks. This allows us to understand if their personal answers have the same intensity and directionality as their answers about their colleagues, so that we can evaluate responses and get better scoring ranges. The fourth and last step of surveying is analyzing. As we gather information so far, it is time to analyze the survey responses, grade them, identify whether they represent positive or negative examples.
Practice of survey may be too technical, but the idea is simple: testing your hallmarks interview questions and asking employees to tell you what good and bad answers sound like. If you accomplish to do this, you will have good answers and you will know how to identify the great and not-great answers so that you can increase your chance to select future high performers and avoid the low performers.
If you already have a system to record the results of candidates’ skill test, you may possibly merge it with the hallmarks rating system. This does not have to be complicated to use or expensive. The aim is to have a reliable and consistent way to get a hallmark analysis so that you can make an effective and objective comparison between your candidates.