Human Resources News & Insights

2 innovative strategies to try in your next interview

These unique hiring tactics might give you a leg up on your competitors.

The work history angle

Author Jeff Haden and Accolo CEO John Younger suggest taking a systematic approach to applicants’ past job history.

Now, we know what you’re thinking: Of course every HR pro asks candidates about previous work experience.

But Haden and Younger believe there’s more to learn.

They advise HR pros or hiring managers to start at the beginning of candidates’ careers and ask three simple simple questions regarding each position, moving quickly and not asking any follow-up questions.

Those three questions?

1. How did you find out about the job?

Most people find their first few jobs via online listings or job boards.

But keep an eye out for people who continue to find work via general postings.

Haden and Younger say those people haven’t figured out what they want to do yet, and are likely looking to take any old job – and won’t hesitate to jump ship when something “better” comes along.

Younger adds:

Plus, by the time you get to Job Three, Four, or Five in your career, and you haven’t been pulled into a job by someone you previously worked for, that’s a red flag. That shows you didn’t build relationships, develop trust, and show a level of competence that made someone go out of their way to bring you into their organization.

2. What did you like about the job before you started?

Next, follow up with questions about why candidates took each job.

The key: Look for more specific reasons than “it was a great opportunity” or “it was the next step in my career.”

Great workers should point to things like “I know the environment I thrive in” or “I wanted a job that would motivate and challenge me.”

3. Why did you leave?

Yes, people leave jobs for all sorts of reasons, but watch out for issues with management, disagreements with other workers or issues about taking responsibility.

The beauty of the quick three-question format is that applicants who’ve gotten into the rhythm of answering the questions quickly may be more candid here – and share something they wouldn’t have otherwise shared.

Younger notes that: “It’s a quick way to get to get to the heart of a candidate’s sense of teamwork and responsibility. Some people never take ownership and always see problems as someone else’s problem. And some candidates have consistently had problems with their bosses — which means they’ll also have issues with you.”

The walk and talk

For an alternative interviewing technique, Lou Adler suggests getting out of the conference room and into the workplace via this six-step plan.

  1. Instead of sitting down face to face in a room, invite candidates to walk around your office or facility while you chat.
  2. Along the way, give an in-depth explanation of some issues your company’s having, maybe even stopping near the area where you’ve been having issues.
  3. Ask candidates: “If you were to get this job, how would you fix it?” Have a 10- or 15-minute give-and-take discussion around applicants’ ideas.
  4. Next, ask candidates’ to describe something they’ve already accomplished that’s similar to a situation or challenge your firm is experiencing. Get specific details about what was done and why certain decisions were made.
  5. For any other operational problems or typical workplace issues, ask the same two questions.
  6. The interview should last about 60 to 90 minutes. When you’re finished, send candidates on their way and let them know you’ll be in touch.

What’s the benefit of this approach?

Adler explains that “if you know what you need done, it only takes two questions to figure out if a candidate is competent and motivated to do it.”

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  • Parker Daw

    Agree with Cynthia. And especially true if you have moved, changed career paths or industry. While it occasionally happens, it is rare when it does. The exception is at the senior management level, where a new CEO will often look previous subordinates to fill VP positions. Most job seekers aren’t in that category. I suspect the “two question” Adler is also one of those interviewers who say “I just know in my gut when I see a good fit,”

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