My post last month was about Behaviours being the number one focus for the hiring process. Businesses consistently get it wrong, hiring mainly on experience, when it’s mainly behaviours why someone gets fired, not experience.

I said, in that post, that I would cover a way to hire on behaviours – how I do it. I thought is might be helpful, because everyone knows how to hire on experience – it’s the CV and an experienced based interview. However, few know how to hire on behaviours – even though it’s a far more powerful and accurate way of hiring!

My technique is based on Leadership’s IQ “Hiring for Attitude” techniques, and is as follows:

#1 Identify the behaviours that work for your business

Your business’ culture, and the behaviours that are required to succeed in that culture, are unique. The right behaviours that define high performance will vary from culture to culture. Just because someone is successful in company A doesn’t mean they going to be successful in company B. Things are done differently in different businesses: one person might be an ace sales rep in a big company where you get the sales leads “on a plate” but would that person have the right “self-starter” and “intuitive” behaviours for a small business where they have to generate the new sales leads from scratch?

The best way to identify the right behaviours for your business is simply to ask yourself, “in your experience, what separate our great people from everyone else in the business?” or if you’re struggling with that one, think of someone specific in your organisation who truly represents your culture. Can you identify what they did  in terms of their behaviour(s) that made a real difference? If struggling with that one, look at in reverse: think of someone who works or (hopefully) worked in your business who did not represent your culture. Then define the opposite of that.

#2 Identify the behaviours that work for the role 

Repeat the above process for the role you’re looking to hire for now, as you did for your company’s culture.

The goal is not, in either case, to answer this with generalities but to establish the nitty-gritty details. You don’t want things like “leads by example” or ” treats customers as a priority”…that’s not specific enough. Being specific is, for example, stating that…

“Our high performers are highly collaborative. They help each other without being asked, and without any expectation of reward or recognition”, or…

“Our high performers are self-directed learners. If they don’t know how to do something, they actively find the necessary information or other resources to help them gain the skills and knowledge they need.”

#3  Your interview questions

Step 1: Pick your Behavioural Characteristics (from steps 1 and 2) – let’s use the one above on self-directed learners to work through as an example.

Step 2: Identify a differential situation to elicit a Behavioural characteristic. For this, you’ll need to identify the opposite situation – what behavioural characteristics a poor performer would demonstrate. For example…

“Our low performers have a negative disposition and, when faced with a new situation, they regularly respond with reasons why something will not work rather than to try to figure out how to achieve it.” 

Step 3: Begin the question by asking “Could you tell me about a time you….” and then insert the Differential Situation you just identified. You do this because past behaviour (in a similar situation) is the best predictor of future behaviour. So, the question, in this example, would be:

“Could you tell me about a time when you tried to fix or improve something but the solution just didn’t work?”

Step 4: Leave the question hanging – because we all have tendency to finish off a question with a leading phrase, something like, “…and how did you overcome that?”

#4 Creata a Scoring Scale 

Your need to accurately and objectively compare your candidates. Create a 7-point scale where 1 = Poor Fit and 7 = Great Fit.

If you’re using multiple people to interview, because different people might interpret different answers in different ways and score candidates differently, you might want to create a list of good answers (positive signals) and a list of bad answers (warning signs) for each question. In our example, these might be…

I ask lots of questions and if possible spread my queries out among many people” …and so on (positive signals)

“I have yet to encounter a situation that presents me with any real challenge. I simply don’t allow myself to make mistakes”… and so on.

Score your candidate’s responses accordingly. You’re evaluating the extent to which the candidate exhibits the required behaviours. In your 7-point rating scale, you should be looking at candidates who consistently score 6’s or 7’s. i.e are a great fit.

#5 Validate with Psychometrics

Whilst the statistics show that over 30% of people either lie or exaggerate at interview, this approach will limit embellishments due to the specifics answers required to the questions. If the requisite behaviours don’t exist in someone, they probably won’t have examples where they have applied them successfully in the past. However, in my experience, it’s always good to objectively validate a person’s behaviours using a pyschometic test, such as DISC.

So, there you have it, the 5-point plan I use when working with businesses to help them to hire effectively. It’s one that’s always more successful and accurate than the experience-based alternative. It’s different, but it’s better – I guarantee. So, don’t be afraid to do your recruitment differently!