Potential – Interviewing with a Different Goal in Mind

This month’s article is about the ongoing issue that I hear about almost daily: “I can’t find and keep good staff!” In rural areas this can be a major issue, because there are literally less opportunities to find or recruit people. However, I promise it CAN BE DONE!

I recently read an informative article. I liked it partly because of what it said, and partly because of what it didn't say. This article was initially shared on the Tap The Potential Facebook page. The author is Claudio Fernandez-Araoz. His complete article can be found here.

There are 5 areas to assess to help business owners spot talent. Talent is a necessary ingredient in every business, and it is something that all business owners should be striving to find and develop. The 5 areas are:

1. Motivation
2. Curiosity
3. Insight
4. Engagement
5. Determination

When these 5 elements are present in greater amounts in a potential employee, greater levels of talent exist. Simple enough, right? But, how do you assess these 5 areas in an interview?

Motivation: a/k/a drive, desire, an internal craving to do or complete a task or tasks.

Asking about motivation in an interview will almost always produce the same thing – a canned answer from the person interviewing for the job. Instead of asking a vague question that will only produce a vague answer, have the person give you a specific answer.

Instead, you might ask: “Can you describe for us how you demonstrated motivation at your last 2 jobs?” This will ensure they cannot give you a canned or generic response – they will have to describe what they did that exemplifies the concept.

When calling their references, ask specifically about the scenarios the candidate described. If the reference can, ask them to give you an additional example of how the candidate demonstrated motivation. You can also ask the person you are speaking to, “On a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best, how would you rate this person’s motivation?” If the person says, “I would rate them at about a 5” – that is 50% of the 1-10 scale – do you want your new hire to be performing at 50%? No!

Once hired and under your probationary period, watch for the new employee to take action – actively involving themselves in the new job. Comment and praise the employee for this. In other words, reward the behavior you want more of!

Curiosity: generally thought of as being related to the desire to learn or grow; think of this person as being inquisitive or asking the “why?” question. In the interview, this is where the use of scenario or application questions comes into play. Ask the candidate to describe aspects of previous jobs in which he or she felt dissatisfied. Follow that up by asking the candidate to describe his or her role in the situation, what was learned and what the candidate is doing differently now because of that experience.

When contacting their references, ask one of the people you speak to, “Did this person bring new ideas and solutions to the table? Or, “Were they good at generating new ideas?” “Does this person ask why things are done a certain way?”

Once hired, you want to encourage the new candidate to bring a ‘fresh pair of eyes' to the complex challenges you are facing. If you have hired someone with an inherent curiosity, you just might be surprised!

A word of caution about curious employees: sometimes when a new person (or any staff member) asks “why do we do this?” often, it can become unnerving or irritating to management. Try to remember that necessity is the mother of invention, and asking the ‘why' question often leads to new perspectives and insights. Without someone asking the ‘why' question, new innovation is highly unlikely! Managers can focus on re-framing their thinking to see curious employees as an asset that helps to move the business forward.

Insight: the ability to synthesize lessons from experience and then apply them in day-to-day life. The author suggests that this is the ability to gather and make sense of new information so as to give new direction to your business. Both definitions support the notion that learning and forward movement are key.

So, how do you assess this during an interview? Ask it directly. For example, “You worked in such-and-such industry for X number of years; what are your thoughts about where the industry is going?” Or, “Knowing what you do about this field, if you could predict the future, where do you see things going in the next 5 or 10 years?” Here you are listening for the integration and application of knowledge, experience, and a bit of wisdom stirred in.

When calling their references, ask them about their impressions of the candidate’s skillset in utilizing and learning from experience. You could ask, “How did you see them learning from experience?”

Once hired, watch for this person to outperform those with less knowledge and experience – their work should truly speak for itself. Your inclination may be, “this person would be a good leader.” Others may ask them questions or bring them in on existing projects because they too see their experience as immediately valuable.

Also, watch for this person to be skilled at ‘thinking on their feet' and learning from mistakes. People with insight and curiosity will ask for feedback on their performance and appreciate when you point out areas for them to grow and improve. In other words, they are COACH-able! People with insight rarely make the same mistake twice.

Engagement: Engagement is gaining a LOT of attention because people who are engaged do just about everything better! Engagement means being fully connected to the circumstance at hand. Think of this as the opposite of multitasking. People who are engaged in their work are very much “into” what they are doing. When engaged, losing track of time occurs, and hours pass quickly. This is often referred to as being “in the flow.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian psychologist who writes extensively about this topic, and his work is worth a look to learn about specific situations that create engagement.

In the interview, you could ask, “Tell us about how you handle multiple projects at the same time.” The best answer is going to be something along the lines of, “I break them down into manageable parts and give each my full attention.” Anyone who tries to convince you that they can do 12 different things well is not likely to be skilled at completing any one of those projects thoroughly. For you, this means time and money down the drain.

Another area to explore here could involve exploring likes and dislikes in previous jobs. In this area, you are listening for what they identify as engaging for them. If your position has some of what engages them, you are likely to be a good fit for them, and vice versa.

When speaking to their references, you could ask, “How well does this person stay focused on a topic or task?” This is more than a measure of attention span – in fact, it is an informal assessment of their ability to immerse themselves in one thing at a time to completion, with excellence in mind at all times.

Once hired, watch what types of work this person gravitates towards. It is best here to allow staff to select projects that they enjoy working with the most instead of assigning people to specific tasks. Once this person is able to find their niche, it will be very clear!

Determination: another intangible psychological construct. Determination is like motivation, but determination is more about how strongly the person feels compelled to do something in particular – like a job or task. Determination is persistence or “stick-to-it-ness.” Does the candidate give up easily or does she persist? Time and again, research demonstrates that persistence is the one personality characteristic found consistently in successful individuals.

Motivation and determination are kind of like horsepower and torque in an engine. Horsepower is about keeping you moving at a desired speed, while torque is about getting you moving to begin with. Determination is the underlying force behind motivation.

In the interview, ask the person, “What drives you?” This question allows you to get directly to the root of what makes them do what they do. In addition, their response is going to give you a bit of information about their motivation, and a bit of information about their determination. If they cannot give you a solid answer, this tells you they may not know what drives them.

When calling their references, ask the person, “I'm curious about his/her determination – can you describe a couple of times you observed the candidate to be struggling, but persisted to work through the challenge?” Do you know what drives him/her to do what they do at work?”

Once hired, watch for this person to persist when challenged. Also, do they do what needs to be done without requiring constant direction and supervision? A determined person works well without requiring a lot of your time. A determined person will try to figure things out on their own. Like motivation, determination comes from within.

Now that I've addressed what the article said, let me briefly touch on what the article didn't say.

The hiring practices of most businesses today are stuck in a style or approach that does little to provide useful information about the candidate. Good interviewing means shifting from “tell me all about how great you are” to “show me.” Since the purpose of the interview is to determine the goodness-of-fit between your business and the person, a move towards a more dynamic interview process is well worth your time. Applying the concepts noted in this article will facilitate this improved process.

Going into your next interview with these core ideas in mind will get you thinking about the new candidate in an entirely different way. Your thinking will move from “can this person do this job?” to “how can this person help move this company forward?” And, when the interview is done, you will know the answer!

At Tap the Potential, it is my intention to use the social sciences to help you solve your greatest business challenges. When business owners are talking and thinking about topics like leadership, staff development, and business evolution, work becomes less stressful and more rewarding for everyone.

Post by Dr. James Cummings:

Dr. James Cummings is a Private Platinum Facilitator at Tap the Potential LLC, America’s Leading Rural Business Growers.

James specializes in applying the best practices from the social sciences to solving complex rural business challenges. James holds a Bachelors in Social Work from the University of Wyoming and earned his Doctorate of Psychology in Organizational Leadership & Development from the University of the Rockies

Access our comprehensive video training 5 Secrets to Exceptional Employee Performance (our gift to you!) at www.tapthepotential.com
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About The Author

Dr. Sabrina Starling, The Business Psychologist and international best-selling author of the How to Hire the Best series and The 4 Week Vacation™, is the founder of Tap the Potential and host of the Profit by Design podcast. At Tap the Potential, we work to free business owners from the constant demands of a growing business.

We believe work supports life, not the other way around. Clients in our Better Business, Better Life coaching program have more time for what matters most and more money in their bank account than they’ve ever had. Next, we send them off on a 4 Week Vacation™ to celebrate their hard-earned journey to take their life back!

Dr. Sabrina and her team at Tap the Potential are on a mission to change the story of entrepreneurship from one of long hours, grinding it out, to one of sustainably profitable businesses that support and enhance life. The Tap the Potential Solution™ and our Tap the Potential Family of Business Owners are disrupting small business as usual. We are on our way to making the Tap the Potential Solution™ the mainstream model for growing business.

By 2023, 150 Tap the Potential clients will have taken 4 Week Vacations. These are the trailblazers, role modeling what’s possible for entrepreneurs. In many entrepreneurial circles, it is becoming more and more common for one entrepreneur to ask another, “Have you taken a 4 Week Vacation™?” (as opposed to asking “How many employees do you have?” or “What is your annual revenue?”). Taking a fully unplugged 4 Week Vacation is rapidly becoming the recognized symbol of entrepreneurial success.

Never one to accept the status quo or back down from a challenge, Dr. Sabrina’s How to Hire the Best series grew from her desire to solve the toughest hiring challenges interfering with her clients’ growth and profitability. What sprang from her experience working with entrepreneurs in rural areas catapulted her into becoming the world’s leading expert in attracting top talent in small businesses—no matter what hiring challenges those businesses are facing—and earned Tap the Potential’s reputation as the go-to resource for entrepreneurs committed to creating Great Places to Work with thriving coaching cultures and highly engaged team members working from strengths.

As The Business Psychologist, and with her years of driving profit in small businesses, Dr. Sabrina knows what it takes to find, keep, and motivate exceptional performance out of your biggest investment—team members.