That’s true isn’t it? We were excited about our new hire. He had worked at some great places, been trained in the exact systems and processes we need, and impressed us as someone who is diligent and efficient. This was going to be a marriage made in heaven. Unfortunately, we were so impressed with his skills, we neglected to learn that he is rude, self-absorbed, imperious, and nobody can stand to work with him. So the marriage we thought was made in heaven ends in an ugly divorce.
There are no guarantees when it comes to hiring people. Try as we might to hire only the people who are a “good fit” for our company, we sometimes make a mistake and take in someone who is a bad fit. But there are ways to stack the odds in your favor.
First, in an interview, focus on behaviors that will be necessary success factors for the job you’re trying to fill, and ask for actual events in the candidate’s past that demonstrate those behaviors. For instance, you might say, “You will need to work with a team of people to do your job successfully. Give us some examples from your prior work experience to show how you worked with others to accomplish a particular goal.” Or you could say, “Tell us about a really tough customer service issue you’ve had. How did you handle it?” The point is, don’t ask hypothetical questions (What would you do if . . . ?) because there’s no way to verify the candidate’s answer. Ask questions that illustrate the behaviors you want and ask for actual situations from the candidate’s past.
Second, when you do reference checks, verify the interview answers you got. “I understand John had a tough situation with the XYZ Company but was able to defuse it by doing thus and such. Is that the way you recall it?”
Behaviors are tough to predict, but if you spend some time thinking carefully about the behaviors you need and then thoughtfully constructing questions to highlight those behaviors, you’ll be surprised how much you can learn about a candidate before s/he becomes an employee.