Ep. 8 An In-Depth Look at The Power Interview Guide

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Ep. 8 An In-Depth Look at The Power Interview Guide

The Power Interview Guide is a 30-minute review of your candidate’s past work history and accomplishments that allows you to learn about everything you’ve ever wanted to know about a candidate in a timely manner. The guide provides a repeatable and objective method to follow for interviewing any candidate for any position and industry so you can quickly decide if they’re a fit for your business or not.

Transcript

Fletcher:

Welcome to our episode eight, Interviewing: Another One Bites the Dust. That’s what Stephanie and I say after 8,000 interviews.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Fletcher:

Today I want to begin to introduce the idea of the power interview. The power interview is kind of a compilation of some of the best ideas in interviewing and recruiting. Lou Adler, my father, as well as Brad Smart, the top grading guys, all of them have really great ideas in relation to hiring. I think bringing them all together and simplifying some of their concepts is where we began to develop the idea of the power interview guide. Most hiring managers that we know of are lazy. Sorry, guys. I mean, most people. I’m a little bit lazy. We don’t want to take the time that’s needed to investigate candidates, to go through super in-depth, complicated interviewing technique training. Most hiring managers aren’t trained on-

Stephanie:

Yeah, just not aware. They just don’t know how to do it really effectively.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Most MBA programs, most large organizations, they really don’t teach people how to interview.

Stephanie:

Yet it’s one of the most important things that we do in business.

Fletcher:

Selecting the right people is, right?

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Fletcher:

And interviewing is the tool kit needed, in order to help make those decisions, right?

Stephanie:

Right.

Fletcher:

It baffles me to this day. That’s why we spend a lot of time teaching and training our clients on best interviewing practices. That’s a human-to-human assessment style.

Fletcher:

One of the reasons why people are challenged in that is they don’t stick to a script. Their interviews change and evolve. They don’t follow the same practice. They don’t ask people the same interview questions every time. So they never get to compare candidates answers from one to another, nor do they get to practice or learn to hear the differences in those answers.

Fletcher:

That’s the theory of the power interview guide. Over the next couple episodes, we’ll talk more and more about some of the key questions associated with it. I think today, though, I want to introduce just kind of maybe the high level goals that we’re hoping to achieve in any interview, but maybe we’ll keep it focused on the initial meeting with the candidate.

Fletcher:

Step one, my number one goal the first time I actually speak with, meet, whether it be over the phone or in person, with a candidate is, number one, I want to understand and gauge their interest in the opportunity.

Stephanie:

Okay, job opportunity.

Fletcher:

Yeah, in the job opportunity. Have they bothered or taken the time to investigate our organization, the company, try to understand what the position is? I don’t expect them to learn and research every last detail about our organization, but I want to see that they’ve made a thorough attempt, to some degree. So my first line of questioning is around that.

Fletcher:

The second part of that is to help fill in the gaps, help engage the candidate. As much as a first interview is there for me to evaluate and assess the candidate to decide whether I want to spend more time with that person, it’s equally as important for the candidate to be making a decision whether they want to spend more time with us, or me, right?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Fletcher:

So step one, figure out their level of engagement. Step two, help build engagement. So figure out where they’re at and then build it, make sure that they have all of the information, at least preliminary information, they need to make a decision on whether this is a good fit for them as well, right?

Stephanie:

Right.

Fletcher:

The next piece is it goes right back to the same things I was looking for in the résumé checklist. Right off the bat I want to understand the person’s level of achievement. Well, in order to do that, I need to understand the context of what they were doing. Start learning about their previous roles, what they did, what was entailed in those jobs, what the environment was like. I need context, right?

Stephanie:

Right.

Fletcher:

Even if I think I know about the context of their environment-

Stephanie:

You always want to ask a followup to clarify.

Fletcher:

I want to ask anyways because their perception of the environment might be very different than mine. You know what our mothers told us about making assumptions.

Stephanie:

Right.

Fletcher:

They make an ass out of you and me. One of the number one interviewing techniques that I could ever teach any interviewer is never assume anything.

Stephanie:

And keep asking questions until you really understand. A lot of the time we ask and we get an answer, and we’re like, “Okay, moving on.” You really don’t fully understand.

Fletcher:

So that’ll be the third technique that we talk about is how do we dig deeper effectively. The third objective I have in my initial interview, kind of going back to that, is understanding the person’s level of achievement and promotion in their past roles. In order to do that, I need to understand the context of their roles clearly, so how clearly they can explain the environment and the context and the metrics and what was considered significant achievement, in relation to others in the role or past people in the role. It will really help me gauge whether they were an achiever or just another cog in the machine.

Stephanie:

Right.

Fletcher:

Depending on where I’m at in the interview process, I want to do that with every job they’ve ever done, ideally. Early in the process, I might just do that with the last maybe few years worth of work.

Stephanie:

Okay.

Fletcher:

My other goal is, in an attempt to determine whether the person was an achiever or not, to determine if this person can get references from their past direct supervisors. It’s pretty much nonstarter for me. Anybody who knows me, I’m really dead set on this issue. I only want to speak to past direct supervisors. They were the customer of that employee, right? I am going to be that employee’s customer. How they interact with me and my perception of them, as well as their actual hard KPI performance, which I began to assess earlier in the interview process. I started asking questions about achievement and promotion, right?

Fletcher:

But questions about reference tell me right away, yes or no, whether this person is somebody who’s really worth considering. People who were well liked will get references from their past bosses. People that weren’t will not. Period.

Stephanie:

What do we say? Even if it’s against company policy, typically.

Fletcher:

It’s against company policy, yeah.

Stephanie:

Yeah, so, think about a really great candidate that you’ve had. If the company has a policy against giving references, you still really like that candidate or that employee. You want to see them succeed, if they’ve moved on. Chances are you’re not trying to break any rules here, but you want to help your employee as much as you can, right?

Fletcher:

The way he helped you.

Stephanie:

Yeah. If you can’t give maybe a formal business reference, you could give a personal reference. At least to give their next job opportunity some help along, I guess. Right?

Fletcher:

Yeah. You want to see that person succeed. There’s no top performer that I’m aware of that doesn’t get many glowing references from their past direct supervisors. If there’s the occasional they got four out of five and one person just adamantly wouldn’t provide it, I still have four out of five-

Stephanie:

Really good ones.

Fletcher:

-previous supervisors willing to strongly endorse my candidate. If only one out of five? There you go. There’s the evidence.

Stephanie:

Yeah, you have to wonder why that’s the case.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Why does this person consistently find themselves in situations where people are unwilling to put their neck out on the line to endorse their work, right?

Stephanie:

Yep.

Fletcher:

Anyways, we’ll talk a ton more about references in one of the next episodes. That topic never ends for us. That’s the fourth big thing. First, understand level of engagement. Two, help build engagement. Three, understand past achievement and promotion. Four, get-

Stephanie:

References.

Fletcher:

Or begin to set the stage for checking references. Then the last piece is begin to understand some of the basic fundamental things that I need to address. Salary, desired income. State of California, some of the other major metros, we can no longer ask about salary history. I want to understand what the salary expectations are. What would you like to be paid, right?

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative)- It’s an easy way around that.

Fletcher:

Yeah. What are your expectations? In other states where I can, I want to understand about past salary history. I want to see if there’s growth. That also is an indication of achievement as well, somebody who keeps going up and up in income. Certain roles, that’s an indication that they’ve been rewarded and recognized. That also helps me understand whether I can afford the person or not, in a lot of cases.

Stephanie:

If they’re a fit salary or compensation-wise, with what you’re offering.

Fletcher:

Yeah, exactly. Whether they’re a fit there. That’s one big piece there. Understanding the deal-breakers and any sort of very specific components or needs. That could be specific skills or experience. If I need those things for those roles that I’m hiring for, then I want to verify those upfront, early in the process. The further I go in the process, the more detail I want about it.

Stephanie:

About the deal breakers?

Fletcher:

Well, the deal breakers or the specific skills and experiences.

Stephanie:

Oh, okay.

Fletcher:

Deal breakers is the next piece. Those are cut and dry. Do you have a valid drivers license? Can you pass a drug test? Are you no better than an ax murderer?

Stephanie:

Yeah. If they don’t meet those, then you know you’re done. It’s over.

Fletcher:

Do you have certain educational … If I need an MBA, do you have an MBA? Certain kind of certifications. Do you have that certification? Yes or no. It’s really quite simple in some of those cases, right?

Stephanie:

You talk a lot about that, too, I think, in one of the earlier episodes. I want to say it’s like episode two or three, where you’re building a candidate profile. That kind of helps you evaluate what your deal breakers are. So be sure to check that out if you haven’t.

Fletcher:

Yeah. Having a really good candidate profile. It’s important for that. So I want to check on those things. I want to take care of any final questions that the candidate might have. It’s very common that candidates will be very nervous in the beginning of an interview. One of my goals in all the interviews is ideally to sort of set the candidate at ease. You know, build a rapport, make it as natural of a conversation as I can make it. So that by the time I get to the end, again, I’ll give the candidate an opportunity to ask any questions.

Fletcher:

Maybe more importantly, not only do I want to open the floor up to them now that I’ve made them more comfortable, I want to set the stage for what the candidate should expect next. Whatever the next steps and timeframes are in the hiring process, I want to be crystal clear. You can make them obviously conditional. You don’t have to commit to doing any of these things. If you move along in the process, will you have an in-person interview? Will there be a set of assessments? Am I going to need to check references? Will we be doing background checks and drug testing? Will we be doing any sort of certification verification? Will we be doing a job shadow, a sample project? Roughly how long all of these steps will take to complete and what will be the time intervals to go along with it.

Fletcher:

I’m sure most of us have been in a job interview situation before where we had a wonderful conversation with the other individual and the conversation concludes, we don’t know what the next steps are, and we’re left hanging for a week wondering. Are they going to call me back? Are we going to have another step? What are the next steps going to be? How long is this going to take?

Stephanie:

Sure.

Fletcher:

Right?

Stephanie:

Yeah, I think that’s natural if it’s not laid out and you don’t ask about it, too.

Fletcher:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

Which is another red flag, by the way, if the candidate doesn’t ask what’s the next step.

Fletcher:

Yeah. So if you don’t come out and tell them these things, it’s really good if your candidate asks. More important if your sales and leadership candidates ask. Sometimes your technical or administrative, introverted type positions, that doesn’t come naturally to them. If they’re asking, it shows that they’re pretty intelligent or that they’re very interested.

Stephanie:

Sure.

Fletcher:

But if they don’t ask? I don’t know if I hold that against introverts. That just doesn’t come naturally to them. But the sales people, that’s like closing the deal.

Stephanie:

Sure. It really depends on the position.

Fletcher:

Your sales people better ask what the next step is, or better ask for the job for crying out loud. You know? They’d better do a good job of dealing with your objections.

Fletcher:

So, I want to lay the groundwork for what’s going to happen next. Set clear expectations, both for the candidate but that’s also creating accountability for you, right? It will help you keep your great talent engaged in the process. It also might help you avoid losing that candidate in the process as well. If a candidate is interviewing with a bunch of other places, which in this current market condition, you can pretty much bet that they are, they’ll now know how long it’s going to take to navigate through your process. They might even, if they really are interested, if they’re coming up to a tough spot where they’re going to maybe have to potentially face competing offers, they might actually give you the heads up that that’s the case. Because they now have an awareness of where and when the next steps might take place.

Stephanie:

Right, and that benefits the client, too, or the interviewer.

Fletcher:

The hiring manager, yeah. For sure, yeah. If I were hiring somebody, I would want to know if they’re interviewing at other places. In fact, I’ll just ask people point blank.

Stephanie:

Right, yeah.

Fletcher:

“Hey, where else are you interviewing?”

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Fletcher:

“How do you feel about those opportunities? What do you think about those companies? How do they compare to my opportunity?” A lot of times we’re afraid to ask those things because we’re afraid to hear things we don’t want to hear, but one way or the other, you’re going to get an answer.

Stephanie:

Right, and it’s better to know and be aware so that if you really do like the candidate, you can take action and make sure your process is fluid and doesn’t have a lot of hiccups along the way.

Fletcher:

Yeah. The last piece that we didn’t get into too much yet, and this is just a general best practice. I think we’ll probably have an entire conversation around this at some point. We really want to practice asking more probing questions. For every interview question, we really need to answer the who, why, what, when, and how question.

Fletcher:

Another technique is digging deeper and understanding the motivators for things. That’s kind of like the five why style of questioning. Why did you do that? Well, what was motivating that activity? Why was that important to you? That’s one way to really understand the motivators and the drivers, but the who, why, what, and how helps you understand the context. Who else was involved in executing that project? What was the business results that the completion of this project resulted in? Why was that important to the business?

Stephanie:

How was it achieved?

Fletcher:

How was it achieved? How long did it take? What did your superiors think of your performance on this project? Constantly asking clarifying questions about people’s answers to understand the full context and reality, and how meaningful their achievements were.

Fletcher:

Since our questions are always going to be about what people have achieved and how they achieved it, we want to understand every detail behind that so we understand the magnitude and the context of it. Since our questions are always going to be about people’s references and what those people are going to say about them, then we want to understand every detail behind those comments. I’ve always said there’s no such thing as a bad interview question, that is followed up by the who, why, what, when, and how, and many whys.

Stephanie:

To get to the root.

Fletcher:

To get to the root of the true answer. The first answer is always the most superficial one. That’s natural for that to be so, right?

Stephanie:

Yeah. This comes in handy, too, a lot, when you ask candidates why are they looking for a new opportunity or what are they looking for in a new opportunity. They’ll give you the answer, one of our examples, actually, in the power interview guide, is, “Why are you looking for a new opportunity?” The answer they give is, “Well, I feel like my time here has kind of just run out.” You’re like, “Okay.” Most people would think, “Oh, okay. That makes sense. I’ve felt that way before. Moving on.” Right?

Fletcher:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

But no. Why?

Fletcher:

Yeah, why do you feel that way? Why do you feel your time has run out? Well, I don’t know, I’m not getting any new responsibility. I keep doing the same thing over and over again. Okay, well, why aren’t you getting more responsibility?

Stephanie:

There’s multiple layers to this conversation.

Fletcher:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

You just have to keep asking why.

Fletcher:

Yeah, well, they might not be getting more responsibilities because they might be maxed out in their ability, right? Or you might find that my time has run out means I was fired on Friday.

Stephanie:

Yeah, but I’m not going to say that because that looks bad.

Fletcher:

Yeah, exactly. No, their time really did run out. They were asked to see the door. You don’t know what the reality is behind a vague comment like my time has run out here, or I’m looking for a new challenge. I might be looking for a new challenge because I don’t have anything to challenge me currently. I might be unemployed because I was fired. You know, that would be maybe a more extreme situation, but.

Fletcher:

Ultimately, goals, just to recap one more time. We want to understand the level of engagement of the candidate. I want to help build that engagement. I want to understand the level and magnitude of that person’s significant achievements and growth. I want to understand whether they can get references from their past direct supervisors. I want to verify the person has the basic skills and experience that I need, in order for them to be successful. So clarifying any of those details. I want to make sure that any of my deal-breaker issues are dealt with. Then I want to understand and begin to lay the groundwork for a salary negotiation, so understanding the person’s salary expectations and past salary history, if appropriate, deal with any questions there. And then ultimately I want to practice really digging into the details of all the questions that I ask.

Fletcher:

The last piece I’ll leave you with is a few red flags that tend to come from this interview experience. Number one, the candidate doesn’t know anything about your company or your business, hasn’t bothered to investigate. Shows a lack of interest.

Stephanie:

Yeah, there’s nothing like asking them, “So, what have you learned about our company?” And they have no idea. Or my favorite is when they make something up completely because they think by the name of the company they can just-

Fletcher:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

Those are always fun.

Fletcher:

And they turn out to be dead wrong, right?

Stephanie:

Yeah, totally off.

Fletcher:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

It’s just awkward.

Fletcher:

This one might seem obvious, but if they don’t seem engaged or interested in the conversation. This one is a tricky one. You gotta watch out for the introverts out there.

Stephanie:

Yeah, they’re dangerous.

Fletcher:

Yeah, they’re dangerous, you know? They don’t tend to get excited, and when they’re nervous, they tend to be even less expressive. They tend to be even more reserved. Watch out for those, but generally they will give you some signs that they’re interested.

Fletcher:

Another red flag is the candidate talks to much. They go on and on and on about something that’s not related to what you asked them about.

Stephanie:

Or even just the lack boundaries in their communication. Maybe you asked them about it, but they can’t give you succinct answer.

Fletcher:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

A clear answer.

Fletcher:

You may make a few attempts to put them back on track. If they continue to diverge, they’re either trying to pull the wool over your eyes, or they lack basic communication skills, or they really are challenged from an emotional intelligence standpoint.

Stephanie:

Right.

Fletcher:

Doesn’t provide direct or gives very vague answers and is unable to provide any details about their answer is a huge red flag. Now, it is our responsibility as an interview to ask and followup, right?

Stephanie:

Right, that’s why we ask all those clarifying questions.

Fletcher:

Yeah, clarifying questions. How, why, what, when, how, and why, why, why, why, right?

Fletcher:

Lack of references from past direct supervisors. Four out of five previous supervisors aren’t likely to speak well on their behalf? Not a good sign, right?

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Fletcher:

I don’t care what the excuse is, guys.

Stephanie:

Yeah. You should be able to get at least-

Fletcher:

Four out of five easily.

Stephanie:

If not all.

Fletcher:

If not every single one of them.

Stephanie:

Regardless if there’s a policy, again.

Fletcher:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

No company policy is really going to bar a supervisor from providing a reference for a candidate if they were a great candidate. Period.

Fletcher:

Yeah. So people who are unwilling to admit fault. Shows a lack of awareness and a lack of humility. The book Ideal Team Players is rooted on the idea that you hire hungry, humble, and smart employees. Humility and self-awareness, emotional intelligence, are key in many roles in many jobs. Maybe not for all positions, but many, if not most. If you have a team of humble and emotionally aware people, that’s really important. Looking for people who can give me a realistic assessment of their own abilities and experiences and doesn’t feel the need to over-exaggerate or embellish those things.

Stephanie:

Right.

Fletcher:

So those are some good red flags to work on. I definitely encourage you to check out our power interview guide. You can find that on our resources section. We’re going to continue to talk more about some of the questions here in our next episodes. You can find us at www.thehiretalent.com or 714-582-2730. We look forward to connecting with you soon.

Stephanie:

See ya.

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