Interview: Hire Authority’s Carol Quinn Discusses How To Find Top Talent (part 2)

May 5, 2010 – Carol Quinn is an expert on interviewing and hiring high performers. She is the founder and president of Hire Authority and has more than 25 years experience in the corporate world. Ms. Quinn is dynamic, innovative, inspirational, and gifted at helping people breakthrough self-imposed limitations. Ms. Quinn offers several distinctively different keynote presentations, as well as a one-day Motivation-Based Interviewing (MBI) course and the three-day MBI Train-the-Trainer course. As an author, she has written four books that form the basis for her speeches and workshops. In her most recent books, Awakening Outrageous Potential and Outrageous Potential Unleashed – Leadership Edition, Ms. Quinn explains how to help maximize the performance of a company's most crucial asset – its people. In the following interview, Ms. Quinn discusses her company Hire Authority and her methods for motivating individuals to get the most out of their people.

Explain the approach you take in your books regarding motivating employees?

When interviewers do not understand how to accurately assess an applicant’s level of motivation during an interview, or should I say when they mis-assess it, they often end up hiring applicants who have the skill to do the job but not the initiative, drive or passion to do it. In other words, they hire candidates that are not highly motivated or high performers. Most interviewers do not realize they are improperly assessing motivation. Since they do not know there is a better way, they believe they are doing it right. When the new hire turns out to be a poor performer, the interview process isn't seen as playing a part. The applicant somehow changed or became unmotivated because of issues in the workplace or a problem with their supervisor. This mindset causes the natural next step to be a regimen of tactics and techniques to engage the employee to do their job. Unmotivated or under-motivated employees are given incentives to do their job. This is seen as being the best way to bring out the best in people and to maximize job performance. However, it really isn’t the best way. Incentive programs are a sign of poor hiring decisions. Worse, what happens when the incentives are reduced or taken away? Performance levels recede to pre-incentive levels. The employee hasn't changed. The bottom line is we do not have the power to transform anyone. People can only choose to change themselves. Some people say they are going to change but never actually do.

As the recession eases and organizations begin to hire again, do you believe there is a ‘perfect storm’ brewing?

First, there's been a vast improvement in the quality and abundance of information for job seekers on the Web. For example, there are sites that prep interviewees not only on what questions they will be asked but also how to respond with an answer the interviewer wants to hear. This information can make an average job performer mistakenly appear to be a good hire. Second, companies have laid off workers over the past two years and trimmed their staff to the bone. Some experts believe that many companies over reacted and laid off many more workers than necessary, all to meet their shareholders expectations. Third, many organizations are more vulnerable to hiring mistakes due to now being inadequately staffed in their HR department. Combine this with an increasing need to fill positions that were vacated during the recession. Companies need to hire in order to achieve production levels that are in-line with current and future demand. We see this initially in the form of increased activity in the temporary staffing industry – this is typically a very strong sign that companies are on the verge of filling permanent positions. Finally, add into this mix a lot of interviewers who are under trained and unaware of what they could be doing better — with an overwhelming quantity of interview-savvy applicants and you have the formula for a ‘perfect storm’ unlike any other time in history.

How can this ‘perfect storm’ of hiring polished, interview-savvy applicants who are NOT high performers be avoided?

The only way to avoid it is through education. First, make an assessment of your staff. If your interviewers aren't ready for what's on the horizon, it's not too late to take action. Through training, you can give your staff the tools they need to make sound hiring choices and not be fooled by the great pretenders. Whatever training program you put in place needs to be tailored for the conditions that prevail in this job market. Behavioral-based interviewing alone won't suffice. I recommend training that goes far enough to teach interviewers how to spot the polished, interview-savvy applicant and strip away any facade. This involves understanding why some people go above and beyond while others stop at average. Interviewers need to learn what information to gather, how to properly assess it and predict future job performance with some degree of accuracy. If a process or interviewing methodology doesn’t help the interviewer to hire employees who do their job well and who achieve their goals then the time spent interviewing becomes a waste of time. Your interviewing process must also be relatively easy-to-learn and use otherwise no one will. The MBI web course not only does it teach an interviewer everything they need to know, there are also practice interviews. The learner has the opportunity to build an interview guide, interview virtual candidates, make a hiring decision and then find out whether they selected the high performer or not.

What are some pointers an interviewer can use when screening candidates?

Interviewers commonly make several mistakes. One, they assume skill level will equate to a level of job performance so they spend most of their interviewing time gathering and assessing a candidate’s skills. Then, they base their decision to hire or not solely on this information. Another big mistake is to ask poorly phrased behavior-based interview questions. The Internet is filled with samples of these questions and exactly how to answer them. The questions themselves do not gather good applicant information and they often make it easy for applicants to provide “fluffy, feel-good” responses. Interviewers get blindsided without realizing it. If you phrase ALL of your skill assessment questions well, you will expose even more useful information. Interviewers can use each skill assessment question to gather two pieces of information instead of one. It saves time and it's easy. The extra information – it exposes the applicant’s habit of responding to difficult situations and challenges. Everyone is effective some of the time and not-as-effective on other occasions but one way of reacting occurs more often. Assessing “predominant” patterns of behavior is a much better predictor of future performance. Determining an applicant's predominant response to adversity will tell you how they will most likely respond when they encounter a challenge after you hire them. High performers achieve better results because they respond more effectively to obstacles. They seek more solutions and overcome more obstacles, where others complain, blame, and make excuses under similar circumstances. The evidence is there…if you know how to expose it. It’s up to the interviewer to learn how.

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