After interviewing dozens of potential people you have finally found the right person. Everything you are looking for she has. She is exactly what your team needs to go from good to great. You are so excited to have her get started you are even talking about her and the difference she is going to make with your family and friends.
Three months later you can’t figure out what went wrong. You were right, she does have all the technical skills you needed but it isn’t working. The team isn’t integrating her ideas and other members of your team have started coming to you complaining about your “perfect” person. What happened? What did you miss?
There are two things that may have gone wrong. Both are solvable (assuming the team, you and the new member are willing to work at it). We will talk about one this week and one next week. The one we are going to talk about today can be avoided during the interviewing process. It is important to interview someone not only to determine if they have the skills you need but also to find out how they will fit into the culture of your team and the larger organization. Additionally, share important aspects of your culture with the interviewee. You don’t want them thinking they are accepting a job in Camelot.
Here are a few of the questions I have used successfully during the interview process:
How do you handle conflict? How do you set expectations? How do you like to have expectations set out for you? What is your leadership style? What style of leadership is easiest for you to follow? If a member of your team made a mistake how would you handle it? How open are you adapting your methods? These questions can also be experience based by saying something like “tell me about a time you had a serious disagreement with someone, how did it end”. Just make sure they tell you about themselves and what they did. Rather than about how someone else had a problem with them.
The first thing you have to realize about these types of questions is most people have not thought about things in this way before and now you are asking them to think about them in the pressure of an interview. Don’t be overly critical about how the process of providing answers works. Granted, it is data about how your interviewee responds to stress. But it is more important to listen and take notes on the actual answers. There is a saying among consultants, “it is all there at entry”. It means everything you need to know is there at the start. You just have to be able to see and hear it. That is exactly what will happen when you ask these types of questions. Everything you need to know about the person will be there. You just have to be able to pick up on it and that isn’t easy. If you are interviewing for a very important role on your team this might be a good time to bring in some help.
I am NOT saying that anyone who provides answers that don’t exactly match your team culture should be out of the running. Not at all. Particularly if you receive answers that could fit, are the direction you wish your team would go or if the individual indicates he/she is open to adapting to the existing culture. Those types of differences can begin to be ironed out during the on-boarding process.
However, if you hear very strong stances that are worlds away from where your team is and where it is going, you might want to make note of them as red flags. Again, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring them in. But know what you are getting yourself and your team into. Bringing on a talented ‘bad apple’ or toxic person is not going to do your team any favors and it will pull valuable emotional resources away from your existing members. As long as you (and your team) are willing to deal with that to gain the talent, go ahead and make an offer.
One more thing to remember, sometimes someone who looks perfect on paper and even interviews well doesn’t fit. Know when to cut your loses and let them find happiness somewhere else.
Next week we will talk about the second thing that might have gone wrong if your perfect talent isn’t working out as you had hoped; how to bring new talent in so they can hit the ground running.
Do you have a story about a ‘perfect’ person not working out? Or maybe you have questions you use in the interview process to determine fit. Share them with us. We always look forward to reading your comments!
If you missed last week learn the 6 steps to having tough conversations here.