The 3 things you need to know to select the right new hire.

The scariest part of recruiting is making a final decision, after interviews are complete.  Picking the wrong person to join your organization can cost thousands of dollars in lost revenue or production.  The good news is that candidates can be scored reliably on very tangible areas, and there are only three you need to consider.

  1. The ability of the candidate to perform the tasks related to the position.
  2. The willingness of a candidate to perform at an optimal level.
  3. How motivated a candidate is for the position and how well it matches company culture.

Everything boils down to ability, willingness, and motivation.  Each is equally important, and most poor hires happen when an interviewer falls in love with only one or two of the categories and ignores an applicant’s weak point.  All other considerations fall into subsets of the three main areas.  Your company can simplify interview scoring to grading A, B, C, D, F for each section.  With as much as is at stake taking a person into your company I would hold out for all A’s, unless business conditions demand lowering your sights.

Let’s consider what makes up each category, and how to evaluate.  The big key to evaluating is to only consider what you can actually quantify.

Ability, the technical skill of the candidate.  This is the largest pitfall, because it is overly relied upon for new hire decisions.  Prior education, certifications, skills demonstrated during job history, and job specific testing fall under this category.  The tool you can have to score this properly is a well thought out set of job responsibilities.  Match information gleaned during the interview to the list, and do not stop talking with the candidate until you have covered all of them.

Take interviewing sales reps as an example.  This tends to feel the most nebulous for sizing up technical ability, but if you stick to only considering quantifiable skills you will find it is easier than you think to size up skill sets.  Did the candidate get an advanced degree with related material, like marketing or communication?  If your company is using a CRM, test for computer skills and dig into programs that a sales rep has used previously.  Make them describe a prior system they used in a way that ensured the candidate can do more than dump a name in your system.  Have the candidate describe in detail a written sales process they had to learn previously and how it related to what happened in real world selling.  Can this person learn a process, and think enough on their feet to adjust as real world condition demands?

Willingness, how likely is it that an employee will show up every day and work to the height of their ability on what the company is asking of them.  Likes and dislikes in tasks, commute time, prior attendance record, personal obligations, and problem solving ability are the key elements of willingness.  Problem solving is one of the most important pieces.  No job is going to be perfect for a candidate, and a large key to their performance is how well they are able to overcome the differences by being creative and finding ways to meet the needs of the company.

Going back to my sales rep interview.  There are two types of salesperson, hunter and gatherer.  Hunters are immediate gratification people that find the most satisfaction in closing, gatherers are excited about generating leads and the potential of a future sale.  Part of the interview would be about different types of sales work, like sales you are most proud of and how they happened in detail.  If this salesperson demonstrates excitement for the finish of the sale, and little around how they generated the lead to track, and the follow up needed to get the client to the finish line they are a hunter.  Next questions would center around longer range activities like work at shows, that generate leads but little in immediate sales.  Is this sales rep going to be willing to use their skills on activities that do not fit their natural inclination, like networking.

Motivation, why does the candidate want our position and how well do we align with their future goals.  Key elements in this section are length of time at prior jobs, reasons for taking other positions and leaving them, types of managers that have worked with, investment goals, and desire for future growth.  If you use a profile index test the candidate and the managers they will be working under.  Profile indexes can help guide the steps needed for a new employee and their new manager to mesh into a cohesive working unit.

Rounding out our salesperson interview we delve into more personal questions.  Ask about family time and activities.  How well do outside obligations match your demands as a company.  Be realistic about the company’s ability to be flexible.  There are only so many times your employee is going to skip family functions for work and be able to keep both the family and company happy.   Dig into prior managers that did not help the candidate be successful.  Were they micro or macro managers, does this candidate need daily hands on support to meet their maximum potential and can your manager spend that type of time.  What does this candidate want to be able to add to their resume from their experience at your job?  What is the next anticipated step in career growth?  Is that simply being more successful at the current position or moving up the ladder in position?

Final notes on scoring.  The scoring categories work for any position.  Just adjust the questioning to fit the job you are trying to fill, but relate your questions to the same three areas.  Make sure to have more than one person scoring a candidate, preferably at least one person that is not a supervisor of the potential new employee, like an HR person.  Candidates with consistent scores across all three areas are better than ones that are extremely high on one or two categories and low on the others.  So a person you grade with B’s across the board is a more solid bet that a candidate that is an A+ on ability, B on willingness, and C on motivation, even though the aggregate is higher than a B.  The risk that motivation factors will cause employment to terminate or the new hire to become a zombie employee unmotivated to perform outweigh the higher ability.

Best of luck selecting your next great employee.  If you have questions about building interview questions and scoring tables just ask.  Use the contact us page, or email direct  We are always happy to help.




Gregory Gershman
Employer Brand Ambassador at Recruitment HQ
Working with employers to help connect them with the best people in their market. Thousands of interviews and consulting sessions performed, that have given me valuable insight into how to attract, hire, and keep the best talent.

Find me on Twitter @hggershman

Specialties: Automotive recruiting, training, management consulting

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