Personnel Selection: What Should Your Interview Evaluate First?

In a recent interview for the Law Office Administrator™, I was stating the vital importance of the “Achievement Mindset” in your selection criteria. It is indeed a crucial step to be able to determine how a candidate defines good performance. Before anything else you want to put all your attention on this primary selection criterion.

The successful hire is one with a mindset of achievement and results. There is a huge difference between achieving something and doing something. People are either more result-oriented or more action-oriented. And that makes the whole difference. You do not hire people to do things but to accomplish a specific result on a specific job.

One of the first questions to ask: “Tell me about some great achievement or results you have accomplished in a previous job (or in the past) that you are proud of.” Suppose the answer is: “I’ve been a customer service manager for the past four years and I’ve done a good job – my boss will attest to that! I have the right experience and I can handle problems.”

That does not answer the question. It merely tells you that this candidate was following a job description and maintaining some status but that does not tell you that this person is result-oriented. It is achievement that makes the difference. Where is it in this answer? Nowhere! Yet many recruiters will be happy with this kind of response.

What do you want to do then? You want to challenge such answer; you want more data, by asking for example: “Thank you; you did not give me a clear picture of actual achievements. So please can you give some factual example of something you have achieve that you could be proud of?

Here is the trick: if a candidate does not answer your question, it is because he/she does not understand the nature of the question. Please who are not result-oriented will not answer that question; they will hesitate, fumble, give another, irrelevant answer or try to avoid the question.

On the other hand, if the interviewed person cites a notable achievement, don’t accept it at face value. Find out the truth about it. With so many people fighting for employment, it is not unknown for a job seeker to take credit for something somebody else did.

So keep challenging: “Tell me how you did that. Was anybody else involved?” Anybody who actually did the work will know the full details and what the outcome was; anybody who did not really do the work will have blank spots.

You should even go further: “If I talk to your boss about it, what will that person say? Then sit back and watch the reaction. Does the candidate squirm? Look away? Get nervous? Try to avoid the question? Does he/she backtrack or make adjustments to the story? If so, there is a good chance the story was trenched or is even a lie.

Don’t get put off. If the answer is: “My manager does not know that I am talking to you,” keep challenging with “We would like to talk with your manager at some point before giving you a job offer, as this is a company hiring policy. Do you have any objection to that?”

Anybody who’s fabricating the story will get defensive (or even aggressive); and the more defensive, the greater the fabrication. It’s not even unknown for a candidate to come back with “I don’t know why you are so pushy about this” and leave the room.

And that is what you want – let them run away before they give you trouble!

Best success,

Patrick Valtin

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