Would you like to know how to spot the most important trait during the hiring process? Read on!
When we hire an employee, either for our own company or for our clients, we employ a simple but effective exercise within a rigorous hiring process.
While the majority of the employees we hire are either in sales or marketing, you could easily use this exercise for other job functions as well. It’s not perfect, but it’s proven to work.
The first thing we encourage is that you design a hiring process that determines the level of talent, experience, and chemistry you are looking for. We have all sorts of tools and techniques for interviewing candidates to spot these traits, but my favorite by far is the chemistry test.
The Chemistry Test
Typically at the first interview, assuming they have passed the initial qualifying questions about their work experience, we ask prospective hires to give us a very simple presentation.
The reason we do this is to get to know the person at a deeper level. This includes understanding how they think on their feet, how they might present themselves with clients, and how they interact with the interviewing team. Yes, I did say “team”—this is usually the time we suggest bringing in other members of the team to interview this candidate, such as the head of marketing, the head of operations, perhaps the CEO, and certainly the hiring manager.
What do we ask the candidate to present specifically? Well first, we put the candidate at ease. We may have even told them at the beginning of the interviewing process that they will be asked to deliver a short presentation. The key is to make this exercise easy, yet very telling, without spooking them.
OK, so here’s what we do. We say something like, “We’d like you to give us a short presentation about you. We are going to put up some headings on the whiteboard (or flipchart), and we’d like you to go to the board and just write down your responses.” Typically we write the column headings for them. These are:
Column 1: “What are your core values?”
Column 2: “What don’t you like to do in your job, but will do anyway?”
Column 3: “What is a personal and/or a professional win for you?”
Column 4: “Anything else you want to communicate to us.”
Then we hand them a marker and ask them to write in their responses under each heading and give us a presentation. Meanwhile, we interact and observe!
The Hiring Process: Test Results
It’s amazing to me how much gets discovered in this simple exercise during the hiring process! Since candidates don’t know what you’re looking for and don’t know what the “right” answer is, they cant help but think on their feet.
As they write down their thoughts in each column—mostly in bullet summary form—the interviewing team is observing body language, asking the candidate to expand on a thought, or give examples. For instance, I often see “integrity” as a core value. I almost always ask, “What does that mean to you?” or “Could you give us an example where you put that into practice?” This allows me to see how they react to questions, how well they explain and clarify their thoughts, what their eye contact is like, and how “likable” they are. Ultimately, this primary purpose of this exercise is to determine if the “chemistry” between them and us is good!
Ask yourself: how often has someone been hired who had tons of talent and experience, but just didn’t fit in? I would argue that in most cases, good chemistry just wasn’t there.