Understanding the Importance of a Structured Interview
A structured interview process is critical to know if this candidate can succeed in the exact position, company, and industry you’re hiring for, especially given market challenges. Example: Can they be a successful National Account Executive, working remotely, selling your Enterprise Solution software to C-level executives in the Oil and Gas Industry against larger, lower-priced competitors?
The Flaws of Traditional Interviews
Most of us suck at the interviewing process. We’re lousy at picking successful hires. Here are the hard numbers: Traditional unstructured interviews are only 20% predictive. Highly structured interviews with defined questions, answers, and a scorecard are 57% predictive.
The Power of Structured Interviews
Structured interviews with predetermined questions are better. A highly structured interview process with scorecards by trained interviewers has the best results.
When you make all qualified applicants take a pre-interview sales-specific test with predictive validation that’s been independently verified and combine that with a highly structured interview with scorecards by trained interviewers, you have a 91% chance (a number we have statistical proof for) of hiring great candidates who love what they do, will love working for you and will meet or exceed their sales goals. And isn’t that what you’re looking for?
Choosing the Right Path
You’ve got a few choices at this point. Wing it as you’ve always done. Train your team members on how to interview. Read this post, take careful notes, and give us a free call if you’d like to run your planned interview outline by us first.
The Core Elements of a Successful Interview
Assuming you’re still with us – and if you’re reading this, we’ll take that as a “yes,” – you’re on board with pre-testing, sales assessment, and pre-interview phone screening. So, what should your interviews be about? You want to ask specific questions to evaluate each candidate’s:
- Job-related skills
- Behaviors, motivations, values, and beliefs
- Work ethic, cultural fit, abilities, and knowledge
The Importance of Consistent Interview Questions
You ask all candidates the same predetermined questions in the same order. You then rate every answer using a quantitative scale with an interview scorecard.
These interviews are not the warm-fuzzy interactions of old. A structured interview process can seem stilted. Hiring managers may need practice to make this type of interview work.
Team Collaboration: Crafting the Perfect Set of Questions
Each team member should come up with a set of questions they feel it’s important to ask. Do your lists separately before comparing, sorting, and editing each person’s separate list.
For example, your HR person might want to know how they will fit your culture. It’s up to the team to determine whether the question relates to the applicant and the interviewer. You don’t need the head of HR asking the candidate about sales situations – the CSO will cover those questions. So, while every candidate should face the same questions in the same order, each interviewer should prepare questions that differ from the other interviewers.
Decoding the Candidate: Three Types of Questions
The challenge is creating questions about the candidates’ sales skills and abilities to achieve top sales performance at your company. You do it by asking three types of questions:
- Behavioral Questions: reveal how applicants behaved in the past. Just remember, as finance experts say, “Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.”
- Situational Questions: Ask applicants to explain, or better yet to demonstrate, how they would handle a specific set of circumstances.
- Motivational Questions: Show if the applicants still have the proverbial “fire in their belly.” Life changes and motivation can wax and wane over time, so you are looking for what drives the applicant today, how strong that drive is, and whether that aligns with what is needed for the position.
Behavioral questions reveal how applicants behaved in the past. Just remember, as finance experts say, “Past performance is no guarantee of future performance.” What’s an example of a behavioral question?
Tell me about a time you faced a significant obstacle at work. What was that obstacle? How did you confront it, and what was the outcome for the company?
Situational questions ask applicants to explain, or better yet to demonstrate, how they would handle a specific set of circumstances. An example of a situational question might be:
Your biggest customer threatens to stop doing business with you and move to a competitor unless you give them better pricing for the next 12 months. How would you handle that?
Motivational questions show if the applicants still have the proverbial “fire in their belly.” Life changes and motivation can wax and wane over time, so you are looking for what drives the applicant today, how strong that drive is, and whether that aligns with what is needed for the position. An example of a motivational question:
Describe a time when you achieved a goal people said would be impossible. What motivated you to make it happen? What fires you up today, and how much will you stretch and sacrifice to achieve that?
The Importance of Sales-Specific Questions
Do you see how the questions are sales-specific? That’s the fundamental point of the structured interview process. You’re trying to get them all on a level playing field and ask them identical questions related to the job they’ll have to do.
Scoring System for Structured Interviews
How do you score it? For the question types above, a helpful scale would be:
- Give a Score of 1 for an unsatisfactory answer: If the applicant covered none of the points required by a quality answer
- Give a Score of 3 for a satisfactory answer: If the applicant covered half of the points required by a quality answer
- Give a Score of 5 for an exceptional answer: If the applicant covered all of the points required by a quality answer
Setting the Bar High in Hiring
You’ve got to decide in advance what a quality answer is. When Len Hecht was president of Chrysler, he had a rule that any new hire had to be interviewed by all the partners. After a grueling day interviewing a string of candidates, he met us for drinks afterward and laughed.
“Maybe we’ve set the bar too high,” he said. “I doubt I would get hired if I interviewed here.”
And that’s precisely the point. It shouldn’t be easy. Otherwise, what will you learn, and how will you learn it?
The Importance of Taking Notes and Scoring
Take notes. Interviewers need to have an identical list of questions in front of them in identical order. They must take notes during the interview using a scorecard with a notes section. Take notes for every answer, not just the ones you like, or candidates will notice that cue (like a “tell” in poker). Also, interviewers should conduct every interview at the same time, whether the team is interviewing as a group or individually.
Finalizing Scores and Reducing Bias
Summarize your impressions at the end of each interview and complete your scorecard. Score each candidate in terms of meeting your standards and give every candidate a final score. If you are using a panel of team members to interview applicants, have each interviewer finalize their scores before discussing each applicant. This reduces the potential for conformity bias.
Assessing Candidates: Key Areas and Techniques
Here are some more tough but fair ideas and suggestions that can help you determine which candidate has the right stuff:
Start by assessing each applicant in three key areas.
- Does the applicant get the job? Do they fully understand the job’s ins and outs, including the hard stuff?
- Does the applicant want the job? Are they very excited about the job?
- Is the applicant capable of doing the job?
If they get it and are capable but don’t want it, they are doomed before they start. Even if they don’t fully get it or aren’t yet fully capable, they will do whatever it takes to get the job done if they want it. That’s a critical factor in our assessments.
Additional Techniques for Assessing Candidates
- Assign tough homework
- Ask About Their Compelling “Why”
- Look for a Growth Mindset
- Elicit Examples of Guts and Courage
- Request Examples of Resilience
- Ask About Their Endurance Against Tough Odds
- Request Specific Examples of Initiative
- Get an Idea about Their Intuition and Instincts
- Assess Their Mental Toughness and Tenacity
- Gauge Their Position along a Matrix of Success
Again, tough…but fair. Also, assign each of these ten areas to different interviewers.
The Goal of Your Interview Process
Let’s remind you again of what you’re trying to do: Identify and hire an individual who will meet or exceed the goals set for them, rise to the challenge, understand your business, and represent your company to all your customers. Still think you want to ask them what kind of car they drive?