In Like a Lion, but Really a Lamb?
Slowly, but surely here in the North, the great white expanses of snow are starting to recede until all that remain are large piles of snow around parking lots and driveways. Those ominous piles last for weeks and stand defiantly as grim reminders of the past and still sullen warnings that winter may not yet be over. As the slush starts to dry and daylight shines longer, our time outside increases as well. We linger whenever outside, soaking up vitamin D rather than sprinting between car and door and ingesting supplements. March is here and, as the old adage goes, it comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, or vice versa. Some people take their weather forecasts from clever old adages others from bashful groundhogs, but the general idea is that most people remain a little leery when it comes to springtime weather and no one wants to start packing away the winter wardrobe just to pull it back out to shovel the driveway one last time.
In the Settlement Services industry, there can also be a leery element to the hiring process. Adding new team members can have huge effects on company culture and the bottom line, so the pressure to make the right decision can be daunting. There may not be any clever sayings or omniscient rodents to act as oracles, but there are ways to tell a lion from a lamb and even to catch a lying lion or even a lion in sheep’s clothing. Some folks march in the door looking sharp and nailing every question. Others slink in, barely make eye contact, and stammer through every question directed at them. Some calls are easy to make. But there are those people who interview great, though never really live up to any of that hype and likewise there are those candidates who may be terrible under the pressure of an interview, but would be diligent, hardworking, and loyal employees. One great way to get to the bottom of this conundrum is to mix up your repertoire of questions.
People are, more or less, creatures of habit. In an interesting article from PsychCentral they point out that behaviors, routines, and habits are part of our adult personalities. These personalities are largely shaped by our upbringing, personal triumphs, failures, and tragedies throughout our lives. This development takes decades or even more. Changing any of those patterns is not impossible, but few actually change as it takes huge amounts of effort, willpower, and time. By and large, by looking at what people have done in the past and how they handled situations, you can get a pretty good idea of how they will continue to operate in similar situations. Enter behavioral interviewing.
Behavioral interviewing attempts to understand a candidate’s patterns as it is likely that they will continue to repeat them, both good patterns and bad. Often as individuals, we have the hardest time seeing our own patterns, especially negative ones, so it is likely that candidates may not even be aware they have them or they are in fact aware and have justified and excused them all. If they are aware of any negative patterns, they are likely going to gloss over or explain them away. Thus, it is important to approach a candidate from various interviewing angles. For example, repeatedly hammering “Oh and why did you leave that job?” for a string of short-term employment stints will likely elicit adjusted answers as the candidate realizes the pattern. There are hundreds of examples of great behavioral questions available online. Glassdoor provides a list of 11 well worded questions as a good starting point to address different behavioral issues.
Glassdoor Behavioral Question Examples
- Describe a time when you were asked to perform a task or spearhead an initiative that went against your values. What did you do? What was the outcome?
- Tell me about a time when you had too much to do, but not enough resources (this could include staffing, time, money). How did you handle the pressure, overcome the deficit and/or achieve goals?
- Describe a situation where you and a colleague whom you relied upon for support (e.g., to complete a project) were in conflict. How did you address the situation?
Mixing in this technique among the more traditional slate of interview questions which are required just to gauge how qualified a candidate is can help you sort the lions from the lambs.
Another approach, famously taken by Google, is outside the box brainteaser styled questions. Odd questions can be used to break the ice, add some levity, or throw someone off their footing to see how they react. How someone answers “What’s your favorite animal, or movie” can say a lot. Do they stumble trying to think of the “Right” answer or do they respond confidently and naturally? The answer may even reveal a little bit about the person as well. In an article by Mary Kosoff of Inc., she compiled a list of Google’s 41 off the wall questions which can be used to witness a candidate tackle an odd problem or issue right in front of you. They are all designed to be things that very few people may have ever thought of or had prepared answers to, some may not even have a set right answer. Some fun examples from Kosoff’s Inc article are listed below.
Google Interview Questions
- How many ways can you think of to find a needle in a haystack?
- Estimate the number of tennis balls that can fit into an airplane.
- How many haircuts do you think happen in America every year?
- Name a prank you would pull on 'x' manager if you were hired.
- Which do you think has more advertising potential in Boston, a flower shop or a funeral home?
Frankly, catching a lying lion as they smooth talk their way through rehearsed and honed answers to the standard interview questions can be made easier when you mix in behavioral and outside the box questions which force pattern examination and improvisation. This mixture can also serve to give a better chance to the sheepish, but dutiful worker who interviews poorly, but has desirable habits and talents if you dig a bit deeper.
Alas, despite all efforts and techniques forecasting the weather or the success of a new hire has a certain amount of feel and luck involved. People can change their patterns as can the weather, ask a our friends in Texas. Years of experience fine tunes the ability to read and interpret interview answers behavioral, standard, or outside the box. If you would ever like to discuss your interviewing technique with the team at Anderson|Biro, we have been applying these technics for well over a decade. We are here for You and look forward to a pleasant spring regardless of how March comes or goes.