You’re a trained interviewer, seeking to exert your mythical superpower of looking into the soul of your interviewee, when you ask, “What is your greatest weakness?”
This is your fifth interview today and it’s not the first time you’ve asked that question. You’ve heard it all day, “My greatest weakness is I just work too darn hard.” Is this what you really want to know, or are you seeking something else? Does this persons’ ability to get the job done, and do it well, really hinge on a question like this?
Our common sense tells us that this “verbal tango” during a job interview does nothing to help us achieve our goal, which is to find the best candidate based on the skills required for the job. We sense there is a better way but decades of momentum tells us that this is the way that job screenings are done. Otherwise wouldn’t someone have found a better way to screen employees? This must be the best way…
Or is it??
The “Job Interview” has evolved into asking fuzzy, situational, non-pertinent questions. So, to achieve better results, let’s change the Job Interview description to “Demoview” and forbid the asking of any questions. As the job interviewer, this is a better way to get the information you need out of an interview and find the right person – with the right skills.
Preparation for the “demoview” will be different. Instead of identifying questions to ask, you will be identifying the skills the potential employee needs. You won’t be asking about those skills, you’ll simply be saying, “Demonstrate those skills for me.”
All of the tasks a person performs on the job require skills. Make a list of all of the skills a person needs on the job, then divide that list into two groups.
"A skill, is any ability that a person has as a result of learning to do something correctly."
The first group of skills includes those that you provide training on before the person begins the job. Once you have this list, file it and ignore it for now. You don’t need it for the job posting or the interview.
Your focus is on the second group of skills; the skills that a person needs to bring with them to the job interview - the prerequisite skills. The ideal job candidate needs to already possess these skills because they are:
- Used on the job, but not trained in the training program
- Prerequisites for learning the trained skills, such as already being able to navigate a particular software so they can learn the specific application of that software during training.
These prerequisite skills are the skills that belong in the job posting because this is how you are going to screen the job candidates.
Your preparation for the “demoview” is to set the stage to be able to test the “demoviewee(s)” performance of these prerequisite skills to the standard you’ve established. For example, if the prerequisite skill is to design a web page using specific software, give them the information or content that will be available when they are doing it on the job, give them access to that software, and let them design the page for you.
In addition to setting up the demonstrations, you need to identify the standards to which the candidates must perform. For example, if a requirement is to speak and read French for an international client, you still need an objective standard. You might have a set of instructions in French from the actual job so you can have the candidates demonstrate their ability to read and follow the instructions in a certain amount of time. Or, make arrangements with a French-speaking associate to test the “demoviewee’s” ability to not only communicate in French but in the required software language. A much greater test, than “tell me your greatest weakness.”
For each skill that can be demonstrated, don’t just talk about it; say “Show me.” Do this for as many of the prerequisite skills as possible.
"Don't Tell Me, Show Me"
The degree to which you can have the job candidates demonstrate prerequisite skills is the degree to which you can validate that the candidate qualifies for the job.
What About “Soft Skills”?
You will hear, “We are concerned about the person fitting into our culture,” or “We need to make sure the candidate is a team-player,” or “They need to have strong communication skills.” This is definitely true! These soft skills can be treated like any other skill to be demonstrated if you first translate them into observable performances.
As soon as a soft skills requirement leaves the lips of a requesting manager, have this conversation with them:
“You’re right. They do need to _________________ (insert the soft skill). When you observe a person demonstrating ________________________ (fitting into our culture/being a team player/having strong communication skills), what are you observing them do?”
Keep them talking. You’re simply making a list of the performances they describe. Take the necessary time to complete that conversation. It may be difficult to pull out all of their meaning, and may take some time, but it’s a worthwhile investment. The result will be a list of observable performances defining that particular soft skill. That list is the same as the observable skills. Instead of talking about those soft skills, you can now have the job candidates demonstrate the observable performances that define the requirement.
Keep The Fish Out Of The Trees
Albert Einstein once said:
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Your effort is to keep the proverbial fish out of the trees.
People that are hired without having the skills they need to learn and to perform their jobs are the fish. They may be geniuses in another area, but this job will end badly.
When you implement the “demoview” vision, you will have a way to observe each prerequisite job skill demonstrated by your job applicants. You will be keeping the fish out of the trees. When your client or boss evaluates your interviewing performance, your assessment will be a definite: “NAILED IT!”
About The Author: Rex Connor
Rex Conner is the author of What if Common Sense Was Common Practice in Business? The lead partner and owner of Mager Consortium, he applies the uniquely effective processes of Dr. Robert Mager to the entire spectrum of human performance in the workplace. Conner has witnessed the common violations of common sense while working as a trusted partner inside of more than 50 companies in dozens of industries over the last three decades.