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Sitting across the desk from you is Mary. Mary has applied for the role of a Customer Service Executive at your organisation. Her primary duties in this role will involve answering customers queries and dealing with complaints on the phone, extensive database management and creating reports. As a result, she’ll need to be comfortable on the phone, possess excellent customer relationship building skills, and be able to find her way around a database – all while working in a pressurised and goal driven environment.
Her CV tells you she has 6 years experience in a similar role for a large FMCG cooperation, she has excellent oral communication skills and she has experience managing databases from a previous role.
But, you’re not trying to figure out if Mary was good at her last job, the point of this interview is to find out whether or not Mary will succeed in this job, with your employer, in this culture and with these resources. But how can you successfully tell whether or not a candidate will be great for your company? How do you predict future success?
According to John Vlastelica, the founder of Recruiting Toolbox, in order to predict whether or not a candidate will be successful in their role with your company, great interviewers use two, very specific tactics:
Behavioural “Tell me about a time when…” Pivot Questions
Behavioural questions, are a technique used by great interviewers great. They’re what the vast majority of interviewers learn to ask when first learning how to interview, and they help us establish whether or not the candidate has the skills they say they have and if they were as good at their last job as they say they were. But therein lies a fundamental problem. These behavioural questions don’t always tell me if someone will be good at the job I have open at my company. They only tell me if they were good in their last job.
For example, if Mary explains that in her last role she used discounts on products to calm irate customers over the phone, and discounts are not something your employees are encouraged to offer, does that mean Mary isn’t a good fit for this role? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Either way, you’re left trying to mentally translate how what Mary’s just told you will apply to your role.
candidate successThe key to using behavioural questions effectively is to know when to pivot. When the candidate explains how they solved a problem or coped with a situation in their last role, it’s up to you to then pivot and probe further by asking them how they would solve the same problem but with a smaller budget, a tighter deadline or whatever constraint is most relevant to your company.
For example, if Mary explains that in her last role she used discounts on products to calm irate customers, ask Mary what she would do differently in the same situation if she didn’t have the option to use discounts. Or if she had succeeded in cleaning up a database in 30 days in her last role but, she would only have 15 days to do the same in this role, ask her what she would do differently to cope with the time constraint.
This pivot questioning should give you a much better idea of how Mary approaches tasks, goes about problem-solving and how she’d cope in the environment she would find herself in at your company.
Situational Role-Play Scenarios
If you were employing someone to bake your wedding cake, wouldn’t it be weird to only ask them “tell me about a time when…” questions to do with their cake making abilities in an effort to decide whether or not to employ them? Yes, they can make a chocolate cake and yes, they can produce a red velvet cake, but the chances are, you won’t feel fully comfortable employing them to create a masterpiece for your special day, until you’ve actually tasted one of their cakes. The same goes when it comes to interviewing a candidate who needs to be able to complete a very specific task on a day-to-day basis.
In Mary’s case, we need to understand whether or not she will be good on the phone dealing with our customers. But there’s only so much we can learn about Mary’s phone manner asking her to “tell us about a time when…” she spoke to a customer on the phone. In order to fully assess her phone capabilities, we will need to see her demonstrate some of her skills live, in person, in a role playing scenario under circumstances she’s likely to face in the everyday realities of this job. Only then can we assess how successfully she translates her existing experience into this role.
candidate successFor example, tell Mary that you’re the customer and you’re experiencing a problem with one of the company’s products. Then ask her to calm you down and help solve the issue over the phone. It may be helpful to leave Mary with the phone in the interview room and take yourself to another room to conduct this style of role play. Similarly, if you need to assess Mary’s database management skills, present her with a spreadsheet and ask her to perform a task she would be required to in this role like removing all the duplicate entries in the spreadsheet within a certain timeframe.
These role play scenarios should give you a clear insight into how Mary will cope with carrying out tasks that will be specific to this role in your company, and make it easier for you to predict if she would be successful in your organisation.
So, there you have it. Two tried and tested tactics great interviewers use that will help you predict future, on-the-job success of the candidates that come into your interview room. For more incredibly useful and detailed tips and techniques for predicting success, ask our sales team for a demo of Predicting Success.
[This is an updated post from Siofra Pratt]