3 tricks to find out if an applicant is the right fit

how to tell if an applicant is the right fit

Most of us have seen the damage a bad hire can do. It’s not pretty, and it can usually be avoided, if the hiring manager knows what to ask. This is not a matter of finding “the one question you must ask every candidate.” The hiring process is much more nuanced than that.

The key here is to make the most out of the 30- to 60-minute interview process. Can this person fill a skills or knowledge gap in your organization? Will they fit into the culture and group?

Here are three ways you can tell if an applicant is the right fit.

Ask something that shows you they have the skills for the job

Okay, this seems obvious, but the key word here is “shows.” It’s easy for people to tell you they have the skills for the job, but if you ask something that relies on those skills for an answer, it will be next to impossible for them to bluff their way through.

Here’s my favourite example of this in action: a friend (we’ll call her Amanda, per her request) was interviewing for a job as a Private Investigator. Really. She goes into the interview, sits down, and starts answering her potential boss’s questions. Then he asks her, “So, what was the receptionist wearing when you came in?”

Luckily, Amanda was a natural investigator, and could tell her interviewer exactly what the receptionist had been wearing. She got the job.

In a completely different setting – a boutique clothing store – the hiring manager can ask potential sales staff a similar skills-based question: “Why are you wearing the outfit you have on today?” The way a candidate answers this question can reveal a lot more than their personal fashion style, including the way they talk about clothing and style, their passion for fashion, and if they would fit into the culture of the store.

Find out what matters to them

Major tech companies like Google and Apple are known for their intensive interview processes and think outside-the-box interview questions. This question comes straight from the mighty Google itself: “If you could be remembered for one sentence, what would it be?”

This is a stunningly beautiful question. Simple, but so incredibly complex. The answer will tell you so much about a person: how they think when faced with such a big question, how they express themselves, and what they care about (or what they think you’ll care about, potentially).

This idea that the things a person cares about – and how that shows up in their work – is the important recruiting tool at the heart of “values-based hiring.” Values-based hiring brings a candidate’s values into the equation, with a view of gauging how well they align with an organization’s own values and culture.

Zappos is another company that has integrated a values-based approach, and their full assessment guide is available at Inc.com. The guide carefully lays out each of Zappos’s core values, along with questions that shed light on if a candidate aligns with them. It also leaves for the candidate’s personality to shine through. Under the heading Create Fun and a Little Weirdness, it asks: “On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you? Why or why not?”

Catch them off guard

While they may not know exactly what you’ll ask, it’s fairly easy to prepare a strategy to answer all of your “Tell me about a time…” questions. So, to really find out how a person thinks and expresses themselves, ask a question that they can’t anticipate. Here are some real-world examples that can help you see how a candidate thinks on their feet.

“Would you rather fight 1 horse-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized horses?” – asked at Whole Foods.

“If I gave you $40,000 to start a business, what would you start?” – asked at Hubspot.

“Design a spice rack for the blind.” – from an interview at Intel.

An interview isn’t very long to make an important decision, but the right approach can give you a lot of information.

Start by identifying what it is you’re really looking for, and then take the time to come up with a screening plan that can shed light on the right applicant. This is about way more than skills or experience – it’s about finding out who a person is and what they can bring to your team. And sometimes, that includes asking them what animal they would most want to be.

See also:
How to write targeted job postings that save you time (and money)
Job posting basics: what is an intake meeting?
7 telling questions that reveal a candidate’s true potential
The do’s and don’ts of writing job postings for small businesses


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