A New Approach to Interviewing: How to Hire a Star Performer

Business.com / Hiring / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

How do you determine which applicants are a good fit for your company? Forget everything you know about the interviewing process.

A famous Sly Stone lyric contends that, “Everybody is a star.”

The problem is that not everyone who responds to your company’s job post is going to be one.

How can you determine which applicants might truly shine working for your company?

Here are some ideas on how you can more easily separate the brilliant leaders from a group of average joes.

Related article: 10 Interview Questions to Ask When Hiring a Product Manager

Ditch the Open-Ended Interview

You know the drill. The candidates come into a conference room, wearing the only nice set of clothing they own and that they only wear to interviews (and weddings and funerals). You and make some of your senior people ask a set of broad questions along the lines of, “Why do you want to work here?” and, “Tell us about yourself,” and, “What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?”

Then you and your staff pick someone using criteria that might as well have been based on who was wearing the nicest outfit as the answers to any of these standard interview questions.

Studies show that these kinds of interviews not only are a waste of time in determining an applicant’s job suitability but can actually impair your ability to find the right people. The Boston Globe reports that as much as we might feel we are good judges of character, studies since the 1980s show that “an unstructured interview—a changeable series of questions that elicits a somewhat random set of information—can cloud our judgment. Whatever your gut tells you about that job candidate you interviewed, the researchers say, you shouldn’t listen.”

Test Ability With a Real Work Sample

Laszlo Block, a Google senior vice president of People Operations (leave it to Google to come up with a cooler term for HR), cites a study that analyzed 85 years of research on various assessments to figure out which were the best predictors of on-the-job performance. The most effective tool was a work sample in which applicants had to demonstrate they can do something similar to that which they will actually have to do as part of their job.

Block notes that even this won’t tell you the whole story about an employee’s likely future job performance as it doesn’t measure the person’s ability to collaborate, adapt to uncertainty and learn. These, among other characteristics, can predict not only job performance but also how well a person will fit with your company culture.

Let Others Conduct the Interview

Google is famous for its data-driven job interviewing process, what Block describes as a combination of structured interviews and multiple assessments keyed to measure a prospective employee’s aptitude for a specific job role. It also disposes with the “brain teasers” that Google was once famous for.

In a New York Times interview, Block calls these brainteasers, “a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan?...They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.”

Related article: 8 Great Interview Questions to Ask to Hire the Best People

Another key component that differs from the traditional interview: using panels of employees who are not going to be the applicant’s direct supervisor or peers to conduct the selection process. The Washington Post reports that this removes the likelihood of subjectivity (e.g., the hiring manager won’t lean towards a friend of a friend who is owed a favor). Google’s analytics also show that conducting multiple follow-up interviews doesn’t increase confidence in employee suitability for a position.

Consequently, it’s capped the number of interviews it’ll put a candidate through. Some positions may require a faster interview process than others, but the company uses no more than four interview sessions and on average the entire process should take no more than 45 days.

The Koru Paradigm

We know, it sounds like an episode of Star Trek (though, come to think of it, bringing together a diverse group of people to work and live together to achieve a five-year mission is as good as an analogy as any for an effective hiring policy). Koru provides a job-seeking training program for new graduates and has developed a list of seven measurements that are most predictive of applicant/job compatibility.

According to First Round, those who have completed the Koru program have an 85 percent success rate in getting jobs quickly. This is attributed to using the same seven measures to screen and applicants to the Koru program that a potential employer should also use to screen them as potential employees.

Related article: 9 Stupid Interview Questions You Should Never Ask

According to the Koru paradigm, the interview and testing process should ask questions and pose tasks to determine applicant capacity for:

  • Grit. Determine if the person is resilient, can stick out a problem until it is solved and can meet challenges while still performing the day-to-day grunt work of the daily work pace.
  • Rigor. The ability to evaluate evidence, integrate information from multiple and sometimes contradictory sources, come to a reasonable conclusion and act upon it.
  • Impact. Can the candidate demonstrate how a task relates to the performance of colleagues and the company as a whole in concrete terms (e.g., revenues, market share, efficiency)?
  • Teamwork. Can the applicant recognize the emotions of other people and, moreover, respect and accommodate different cultural and social styles.
  • Ownership. The ability to take responsibility, “own-up” to making a mistake but, more importantly, move ahead to properly fix the mistake.
  • Curiosity. What is a person truly interested in, and how do they go about satisfying that interest?
  • Polish. Is the candidate poised, energetic and thoughtful? Will they bring energy and creative to your team?

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