How to Increase the Odds of a Successful Hire

October 28, 2016 – Increasing the odds of successful hires – and then finding ways to retain them for longer periods of time – is now the holy grail of talent management leaders. One top industry expert, Russell Riendeau, who also happens to be a behavioral scientist, is convinced that objective-based interviewing is one key way to get there. The technique, he said, “results in better desired outcomes and widens the talent pool beyond the usual suspects.”

In the following expansive interview, Dr. Riendeau takes us through the hiring spectrum, focusing on the need for better training and how to get more value, while reducing risk, using proven interviewing techniques. His objective is to create a system of accountability for hiring managers – and to increase their success in hiring at all levels within their organizations. His insight is compelling, straightforward and is likely to reset how many hiring professionals approach the one task that they do every day: speaking with candidates.

Dr. Riendeau is the author of seven books on executive leadership, peak performance and sales strategies. With a Ph.D in behavioral psychology, Dr. Riendeau has served as an adjunct instructor at Northwestern University and General Electric’s in-house university.

Objective-Based Interviewing

In this ‘Talent Talks’ podcast episode, Russ Riendeau speaks with us about how to increase the odds of successful hires – and then finding ways to retain these people for longer periods of time. His insight is compelling, straightforward and is likely to reset how many hiring professionals approach the one task that they do every day: speaking with candidates. Listen Now.


Russ, what are some of the big challenges, and disconnects, you see for hiring managers looking to identify great talent in a tight talent market?

A couple of critical areas need enhancing, interview training for one. According to our statistics, 75 percent of hiring managers have not received interview training in the past three years. It seems like everyone, even HR managers, don’t have the time to secure new training techniques, let alone deliver the training in-house to the team. Another area which needs improving is onboarding and training for new employees. Many companies lack robust onboarding programs, so they are forced to hire only ‘industry experience’ because their training is so weak. From my vantage point, I see that they can’t attract or educate smart, trainable professionals – thus the retreads and marginal employers are recycled back into the system. Lastly, CEOs need to allow, and in fact, demand, that hiring managers be taught to have the courage to ask the tough questions, demand documentation and relegate ego to the dustbin for a while. There’s far too much data available today to make an informed decision on hiring someone. Remember the old adage: when you see behavior, believe it. CEOs and all business owners need to allow the changes in hiring practices to happen and support this shift. The market is too chaotic and fast to wait for competitors to cough up viable candidates who, in actuality, are likely not very good and more likely to leave. ‘Hire the frontal cortex, not the rolodex,’ is the phrase I repeat often to emphasis the importance of seeing past the industry knowledge and going in the gray matter. And think about this for a moment: a person’s IQ is innate; industry experience can be learned in two weeks. Most executives don’t want to believe this because they are under such pressure to produce. Considering that the average CEO has 3.5 years in their role, it is no wonder to me why so many decisions are made with short term motivations.

So, tell us about objective-based interviewing.

Objective-based interviewing is designed to teach hiring managers to hire for desired outcomes of specific roles, compared to hiring to a job spec/job description or matching the person exiting the role. Experiential-based interviews are simple, default questions that do nothing more than compare experiences. This approach does not focus on things like whether the person was successful or adaptable. Objective-based interviewing, on the other hand, looks at the exacting actions, similar steps to success and action patterns that are aligned with the current spec of the job and the candidate’s recent experience and success in mind. If these are similar in, for example, sales cycles, pricing, level of contact, technical acumen, professional development training, self-awareness, critical thinking, geographic territory, communication style and status/power of decision-makers, as well as the income of the candidate, there’s a great chance this person will fit the into the role very well – even if they are unrelated to the industry under consideration. And these are all factors that can be tested for, documented and proven – which mitigates hiring risk. That’s what all of this is about: reducing hiring risk and recruiting star performers who have a predisposition to succeed in a particular, texted-for environment.

Russ, how can leaders get more value, and reduce risk, using this interviewing approach?

Objective-based interviewing creates instant accountability for the hiring manager to demonstrate and document what the key deliverables or ‘key initiatives’ will be expected of the person in the role. Remember, over 75 percent of hiring managers have not received any interview training, thus objective-based interviews are easier to conduct with more value gained. And, this can lead to hiring managers creating more compelling insights and deliverables for the HR team who can then better focus on the sourcing and screening of candidates with the success patterns, experiences and proof that these individuals have achieved similar success in the same areas. In the end, the hiring manager needs to own the responsibility or failure of the candidate. This means ‘consensus-based’ interviewing is not a proven good idea. By the way, managers should also verify W2 incomes. We do this to be sure the person is being truthful, but we are also checking to see if the income and experience ratio is accurate. If a person is not earning an income that a successful person should be earning in that role or industry, it is very likely a sign that they may not be the best of the litter. And look at this: did you know that 80 percent of hiring managers don’t check references or meet in a social setting? Even HR has a tough time persuading hiring managers to utilize the HR professional’s training and insights to objective interviewing and considering other data. Hiring managers clearly are under pressure to ‘get it done now…hit the ground running…find a competitor..’ and this is completely the wrong approach. The stats prove it. Thus the challenge with the experiential-based approach.

Objective-based interviewing, then, seems to be absolutely critical as a hiring technique.

Here’s a few factors to consider. The shifts in how a job is viewed and sourced actually widens the candidate selection pool beyond the usual suspects of competitors and referrals. Now, HR can leverage more connections and source candidates heretofore unknown to them. This shift to objective-based interviewing reduces issues of salary matching with existing workers, as well as conflicts with non-compete agreements. Counteroffers, bad will, lost customers, lawsuits, trouble with morale, overpaying and not checking references are also better prepared and controlled for.

How can CEOs, CHROs and hiring managers further educate senior executives on this concept of objective-based hiring?

All executives need training in interviewing to guard against ego-hiring; meaning, taking the time to prepare and not use simply default decision cues or accepting ineffective onboarding processes. Executives don’t have time to do the research on much of this interview approach, but HR professionals can assert their skills and data to help shift the conversation and approach to hiring. Objective-based hiring aligns with research that suggests, as I said previously, that hiring the frontal cortex is more important than hiring a fancy rolodex. Cognitive skills are innate. Product knowledge and industry knowledge can be taught – quickly – to a smarter person. And we, as search professionals, need to better question the client to be sure the assignments we take on have the right timing and needs expectations. Is it a valid, doable search? Is the manager unrealistic or naïve in their expectations of what candidates will look like? Can HR convince the hiring manager to make the needed changes to believe the market has the talent they need that may look different?

How do these changes affect recruiting professionals? And does it help the client do a better job if they fly solo and try to find candidates on their own?

These concepts allows the headhunter a better target to hunt, so that they have more specifics and detail to evaluate candidates skills and experience. There is also value in having a specific, agreed upon checklist, that the client and search professional agree on. This eliminates clients from changing the spec midstream, keeps everyone in the process accountable and also shows the client a strong representation of intelligent experience to broaden their employee skills. Also, there are now have more candidates to pull from, given the shift and green light to go after non-competitor people. Hiring managers increase the odds of a successful hire that stays in the job because we are using behavioral science, not merely a senior executive’s gut check or simplistic hiring approach. And research shows that raiding a rival’s ark of talent is not a proven long term successful approach. Search professionals can also deliver better consulting, thus becoming a trusted advisor, and this also helps justify our fees and reinforces the need to retain them for other projects.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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