How to tell if a potential hire will benefit your business

The economies of the so-called ‘Developed World’ are on the cusp of another radical technological revolution – one that promises to transform the nature of work more radically than ever before. This transformational process certainly accelerated during the Covid-19 crisis but didn’t begin (and won’t end) there. 

The technological metamorphosis underway is, of course, the advance of digitalization processes in all walks of life, processes that are rapidly automating time-consuming but necessary manual tasks that human labor has traditionally fulfilled.

As cited in a recent Forbes article, KPMG has warned that these new technological capabilities are developing at such a breakneck speed that they’re outstripping the availability of human talent with the credentialed knowledge and aptitudes necessary for implementing and overseeing them. Sadly, the competitiveness and viability of businesses and organizations that fail to keep up are under threat.

A pressing question begins to insert itself into the priority list of all employers seeking technologically competent new talent. Not only must they ask, “Do candidates have the requisite credentials and experience for the role?” but “given how high the stakes of recruitment mistakes can be, how can interviewers tell if the candidate before them is going to benefit their business?”

Let’s explore some key methods of finding out.

How to tell if a potential hire will benefit your business 

Preliminaries: Are candidate credentials in order?

Authentic credentials for a highly skilled post in an era of increasing specialization are, of course, a necessity today. A large, complex business in search of, say, a competent manager will need someone with a sound knowledge of intricate business processes and operations as well as the ability to communicate that know-how to non-technical colleagues. 

A Master of Business Administration degree, for example, remains a strong indicator of such abilities. And, with established brick-and-mortar seats of higher education excellence like Walsh University offering an advanced online MBA in Management, interviewers can be confident that candidates graduating from such a program come equipped with all the required managerial expertise. From in-depth knowledge of the different facets of all managerial roles in complex organizations to a thorough understanding of global business conditions and innovations, graduates arrive at the interview with business competence soundly ‘embedded’ within them. 

But what next? How can one discern which candidates with the same level of qualifications have “what it takes” to add value to a specific business?

Explore more about the candidate’s experience than the resume permits space for

Resumes have limited space for educational qualifications and previous experience. The interview is an opportunity for the candidate to expand on these One way of doing so is to go beyond an invitation merely to recite previous roles and credentials. How? With behavioral interviewing. 

The guiding principle of this interviewing technique is that previous performance is the most reliable indicator of future performance. In other words, ask the candidate to tell a story from their previous work experience that highlights their ability to perform essential job functions for the role under offer. Using the “STAR” approach to formulating such questions can bring this to life: inviting the candidate to describe the Situation they were in, the Tasks required, the Actions executed, and the ensuing Results. 

This provides interviews with a solid basis for ranking whether the candidate’s answer far exceeded, exceeded, or met current role requirements or was below them or significantly below them.

Go beyond formal interviews: how does the candidate interact with team members?

Some people are rather good at interviewing well, and while that’s a skill that’s not to be scoffed at (illustrating, for example, how personable the interviewee is, how adept at communicating, and so on), it’s not necessarily the “be-all-and-end-all” of candidate evaluations. 

Some businesses include one or more psychometric tests in their selection processes. But to see if an interviewee is likely to be the best fit for the role on offer, it’s often more enlightening to introduce them to a range of workplace situations and observe the interactions with existing team members. How well do they mesh together? 

Varying these situations can be illuminating. Arrange informal one-on-one chats over coffee, participation in task simulations, etc. Team members can also add to the decision-making input by giving their impressions of the candidate. Candidates who are amiable, relaxed, and willing to listen but also curious, questioning, and active in generating potential solutions are generally ones to watch for.

Try a “live” real work experience

This is related to the previous interaction exercise. But instead of a simulation, ask the candidate to help “brainstorm” ideas to improve a real-world project or even an aspect of the role under offer. This gives an immediate and direct sense of what it will be like to work with this person, yielding important clues about the candidate’s work ethic, style of teamwork, process and their ‘fit’ with the organization’s existing culture.

If a critically important hire is underway, one sure way to make an informed choice of candidate is to try working with them first. This kind of exercise allows at least a snapshot of that experience.

Assess culture fit (but know your company culture first)

A key consideration when making a significant new appointment is, “Will this person ‘gel’ with the company culture?” But in order to answer it, interviewers have to be thoroughly informed about company culture first, or they’ll be shooting in the dark and looking for fuzzy vagaries like “warmth, humor, collegiate approach”, etc. Each of these can be important, but the key here is to know company culture precisely and specifically if genuine compatibility is to be evaluated.

It can be useful to have a clear checklist of desirable traits for prospective employees if they’re to segue into company culture smoothly. Questions should be asked highlighting these characteristics (e.g., interpersonal abilities and values), as most, if not all, will not be discernible in a brief resume.

Inquire about the “negative”

While a candidate’s strengths and talents should be sought during an effective selection process, it’s wise to remember that nobody is perfect and that we all have our weaknesses. One way of gaining some insight into a candidate’s honesty and integrity is to directly invite them to share with the panel what they know they’re not particularly good at. 

The way in which they answer can be very instructive: look for an ability to name the problematic area clearly and a recognition that it’s something they wish to improve. A candidate who can identify problems and specify personal goals suggests an admirable work ethic.

Ask yourself: “If the roles were reversed, would I want to work for this person?”

This is one for the selection panel rather than the candidate. It’s reputed to have come from Meta Platforms/Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who maintains that he only hires people he’s confident he could also work for. 

This is a rather sound rule of thumb for candidate selection: during interviews and observations of interactions with colleagues, a good question to hold in mind is, “Would I be comfortable and confident working for this person?” If the answer is affirmative, the candidate is more likely to be a good appointee.

Insist on patience in the section process

An important role requires an appointee capable of fulfilling it. The issues explored in the preceding paragraphs confirm one crucial observation: selection is an intricate, multi-faceted process rather than a single, discrete event. In other words, if it’s to prove fruitful, it will inevitably take time to complete.

While appointments are often made with a degree of eagerness that the role should be filled as quickly as possible, haste is the enemy of wise decision-making. Taking a cautious approach may be time-consuming, but it’s time well spent on weighing up a multitude of complex variables which require thought and careful judgment. 

The additional payoff to adopting a steady and cautious approach to candidate selection is that it also shows existing staff that care is taken to select the right person to work with them. This is especially important, of course, if the appointee is about to adopt a managerial or leadership role. 

Attend to what your instincts are telling you

While it’s important to be guided by logic in candidate selection, the evidence of your eyes and ears often activates another dimension: so-called “gut feelings” or instincts. Of course, selecting people solely based on ‘emotional resonance’ can be unwise (and unfair); but ignoring it entirely can lead to equally errant decisions. 

This is related to the “Would I be comfortable working for this person?” question posed earlier; if a candidate checks all the requisite objective criteria but insistently mobilizes intimations of unease and doubt, it’s a sign that these affective responses need to be attended to and reflected upon. Brushing them aside may well mean that you’ve dismissed important clues about a candidate’s suitability for the role because they seem intangibly subjective.

Body language, posture, facial expression, tone of voice, hesitance bordering on evasion – all these “non-verbal communications” are data requiring careful consideration and thought. “Gut instincts” are often far more rational than we imagine them to be and dismissing them as personal quirks or “subjective noise” can turn out to be an unfortunate mistake.