Interviewing for Talent

Photo by Mina Rad on Unsplash

Interviewing for Talent

As I outlined in my previous post, The Four Roles of a Manager, the most critical factors to predict future success of employees are their talents. The book defines talents as “recurrent patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied”.

Defining the talents for the role

To select people with the right talents, first you need to know for which talents you are hiring. There are three sources that you have to study to define the needed talents.

The company

First, look at your company’s culture. Most likely, your company has defined a set of company values. The expectation for employees is that they align with this list of values. As a hiring manager your, it’s your duty to ensure this to happen.

The team

In a previous post, I’ve highlighted the importance of diverse teams. As a manager, you need to understand how individual team members think and behave. Besides, you need to understand how they relate with each others: the team dynamics. Look for gaps in that dynamic. Think how a new team member with a specific relating talent could be beneficial to the team and the work they do.

The position

Study your best people. Dive deeper into the minds of those that thrive in the job, and find out why. Don’t fall in the trap of analyzing people that have failed in the job. Moreover, don’t assume that whatever they are missing would have made them successful otherwise.

Try to identify three core talents that someone needs to be successful at the job. If that’s too hard, think of the top three outcomes that you expect from someone in the position. Look for people with talents that can enable them to consistently achieve those outcomes.

Once you have already defined what talents are necessary for the role, the question is: how to assess the candidates to ensure they are a good fit for the position? There are a few guidelines that can help you.

The talents interview

Discovering someone’s talents is not an easy thing to do. It’s an activity that requires your full attention and dedication. Make sure you setup an exclusive interview to dive deeper into the candidate’s way of thinking and doing things. Make this session happen at the beginning of the interview process. In that way, it gives both of you an opportunity to identify a lack of fit, without further expending your time.

Use open-ended questions, and pay attention to the answers

Remember that the brain tends to operate following its paths of less resistance. If you ask open-ended questions, the candidate’s mind will start drifting into familiar waters. This will bring their talents to surface. Use questions that offer different ways of responding. Be careful of not telegraphing the path that you expect them to take.

A few examples of open-ended questions are:

  • What do you like the most about your current job?

  • How do you think people should be supervised?

  • Tell me about a time when you felt successful?

  • Tell me what you do when you face a problem at work

  • Can you share an example of a problem you solved recently at work?

  • Do you speak to people with candor?

  • Describe a time when you spoke to someone with candor?

  • How do you organize your day?

  • Do you have a certain routine you live by?

Avoid further clarifying your questions, even if the candidate asks for it. If you provide too much details, it may bias the candidate towards what they think you expect them to answer.

It’s true that past behavior is good predictor of future behavior. Questions like “tell me about a time when…” are very useful, as long as you make sure the person provides specific examples. People often share why they think it’s important to act in a particular way, but can’t think of a specific example. In this case, the answer looses its predictive power. If you need to ask twice about a specific example, chances are the behavior in question is not a recurrent part of their life.

Other clues to talents

Rapid learning: Ask the candidate what kind of roles they have been able to learn in a fast manner. Also ask about the context in which this rapid learning happened. This can give you more clues to the person’s talents, and where they tend to thrive.

Satisfactions: Ask candidates about the things that make them feel fulfilled. Will this person be able to find this type of motivation in the job they want to get?

This is not intended to be an ultimate guide on how to interview for talent. I hope you consider it a good starting point to help you select the right people. Discovering what motivates someone and how they think can be a lifelong journey. Attempting to do so in an hour-long interview can sound naive. Yet, great managers rely on this interview to increase the chances of success when hiring people.