Ask the right questions, find the right employee

Brought to you by HRNow! The Right Advice at the Right Time to help you make the Right Decision

Hiring is one of the hardest things you do as a business owner, full of potential errors. Studies have found that between 20% and 50% of hires turn out to be mistakes — that’s a lot of time and energy spent on finding the right people for your team. 

Luckily for you, there is a simple method that the best recruiters and HR professionals use to find the best candidates, and you can start using it right away. 

The difference between good questions and bad ones

You’ve probably heard questions that begin like this:

  • Tell me about a time when…
  • Give us an example of when…

And you’ve likely heard these ones:

  • What would you do in a situation where…
  • How would you react if…

They might sound like slight variations on the same question, but they produce very different results.
The first kind of question is behavioural—predicting future performance based on past behaviour. A mountain of research shows that those questions are far more effective at finding the right person for the job.  

Three types of successful questions

If you’re not sure where to start with behavioural interviewing, here are three lines of questioning you can work with:

1. The “achiever pattern”
You want someone who will exceed expectations – so find out when they’ve done that in the past. 
Example: Tell me about your greatest accomplishment. 

2. Handling conflict
Conflict happens in every workplace; how your employees respond is the difference-maker. 
Example: Think of someone you’ve had problems with in your career. Tell me how they would describe you, why they felt this way, and what you did about it.

3. What makes them tick
You probably aren’t looking for someone who’s driven by extrinsic things like money or status. Find out what kept them going before.
Example: Tell me about a time when you persevered through a really tough set of circumstances, in which most people would have quit. What drove you?

Think like a STAR
When you ask a question about how someone reacted to a certain situation, you want to get as much detail as possible. A good way of teasing out more information is with the STAR technique:

  • Situation: Ask them to describe the background or context of the story they’re telling. 
  • Task: Ask for a description of what they were in charge of. What did they need to do, and what were the expectations?
  • Action: What did they do in this situation, and how? How did they decide on their course of action?
  • Results: What did their actions and choices result in? Can they quantify the results?

Successfully asking STAR questions means you should plan your questions carefully in advance. Make sure what you’re asking is relevant to the position, and try to use standard criteria for every question and every applicant.  

There will always be hires that don’t work out, no matter how diligent you are in the recruitment phase. But if you embrace the idea that past behaviour is the best predictor of success, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of making a great hire.