Hiring managers are busy people, and every last one of them wants an easier way to interview. However, I coach executives that there is no real way to simplify one of the most complex and important things a leader can do—attract, interview, select and add a human being to their team of human beings. It is, in fact, an exercise fraught with danger.
Humans lie, exaggerate, distance themselves from their faults and exaggerate their talents. It happens. We all do it. Hiring managers and candidates.
Humor me for a few paragraphs. What if we as interviewers could break through the candidate BS with some type of HR Truth Serum? Yes, truth serum—that staple of spy novels and movies. Remember Arnold in True Lies? Ben Stiller in Meet the Fockers (Yo Soy Tu Papa!!)? Yes, that stuff.
If only it came free with a SHRM membership.
But, if we could, what would you ask? Performance questions? Please, God, no. Who cares if Susie really only made 72 widgets per hour instead of her claimed 75? Boring.
If you can get honesty, you double down on culture issues, folks. That’s where the real risk exists for almost every hire. Jerks and how to avoid hiring them.
So, prep a dose of pre-interview truth serum. Here is my initial list of things I would ask if I knew I was going to get an honest answer.
- Do you take the last cup and not make the next pot? You’re Satan.
- Do you recline your seat on a crowded airplane flight? You’re out. Next.
- Do you hold the door open for the person behind you? In my world, male or female, you better.
- Have you ever jumped ahead of the natural deplaning process? You’re that much of a big deal, Ron Burgundy?
These are the first ones that pop into my mind. Hit me with more in the comments. What do you wish you could ask someone to get a picture of the real person?
Now, how do you transfer this to a world where you don’t have ready access to drugs and candidates fake it like Meg Ryan? Here’s the exercise—figure out what things you really value, and then come up with techniques to discover it.
- Describe the last person on your team who just didn’t fit. What did they do or not do? This will give you some insight into what your candidate values.
- Examine how the candidate treated the receptionist, travel agents, tour guides? Interview behavior is fake, but off-camera behavior is real. Dig into that.
- Tell me about the last time you teased your boss. Players have earned the right to do this and do it often.
- Describe the last practical joke in your office and your role in it.
Every company has different things that matter more to them, so you’ll need to create your own things that are important to you. If you can do anything to cut down the odds of a cultural mismatch, one that derails a candidate from success, you will have made great headway. No drugs allowed.
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.