Ditch the Interview Litmus Test: It’s Time to Figure Out What You’re Really Looking For
Every company has its go-to hiring process and list of interview questions. Google made headlines when it abandoned the traditional hiring process and started asking “crazy” questions designed to challenge a candidate’s ability to not only answer questions critically and analytically, but also creatively – e.g., “Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco.” (In other words, a Google employee is clearly the friend you want nearby when the world ends.)
Google eventually dropped the brain teasers from its process, but the company’s willingness to get creative has led other organizations outside of Silicon Valley to rethink the traditional interview process.
Motivus CEO Matt Zolbe weighed in on the current state of interviews and gave us an inside look at his method for hiring the best possible employees.
According to Zolbe, the traditional HR interview model is designed first and foremost to minimize legal risk, rather than find the most talented candidates – something that Zolbe believes limits one’s ability to build a great team.
“We were trained on what we could and could not ask,” he says. “HR didn’t care whether I got the finest administration assistant on the market. They just wanted to make sure I didn’t break any laws hiring somebody.”
Instead of posing questions that have no correct answer, Zolbe has spent the better half of his career trying to formulate an interview process that helps determine a candidate’s work ethic, attitude, and intelligence. For Zolbe, the goal for any employer is hiring “an individual who strives not just to do the job based on the job description, but to exhibit such a great attitude and work ethic that others are motivated to be better.”
So, what should an interviewer look for in a candidate? Here are Zolbe’s thoughts:
1. How Positive Is the Candidate?
“‘Positive’ is knowing there are 1000 people on the street that would love to have this job,” Zolbe says. “If a candidate isn’t jumping out of their chair, saying ‘Sign me up,’ they’re not going work. They’re not the right fit.”
Even if the job doesn’t involve curing cancer, employers should still look for candidates who steer the conversation toward the positive aspects of what the company is doing – and how they can help to build on that.
2. How Productive Is the Candidate?
You can only find out how productive a candidate is going to be if the goals of the company are spelled out from day one in the interview. Do they offer solutions to potential hurdles the company is facing? Does the candidate seem like they’ll contribute ideas and help elevate the team? Or, after knowing the goals, does the candidate appear hesitant, not ready to engage?
“When you think of a dance floor, you don’t want any wallflowers,” Zolbe says. “We want everybody out dancing. We want everybody doing his or her best.”
3. How ‘Fresh’ Is the Candidate?
“Fresh” refers to a candidate who shows they are adaptable and open to change.
“We’re always looking for fresh ways to deal with difficult customers. If we don’t do that, we’re going to become stagnant,” Zolbe says.
A candidate that makes you say, “Wow, I never thought of that,” is the person you want on the team.
The final sign of any potentially potential employee is whether or not they are enthusiastic. Do they seem excited? Are they looking for ways to contribute? Are they happy with the level of involvement the job needs?
“If I think about anybody I’ve ever respected, they’ve been enthusiastic,” Zolbe says. “Whether a boss or a colleague, if they were really good at what they did, they applied it with enthusiasm.”
Seeking the best out of a large pool of candidates is hard for any employer, but according to Zolbe, if an employer knows the goals they’re looking to achieve for the company – and can adequately express those goals to a potential employee – the process alone is going to reveal the right candidate for the job. The key is in creating a conversation that steers towards achieving those goals – a conversation that allows an employer to see whether or not a candidate can motivate and contribute to the whole team.
If a candidate can do that – and if they’re positive, productive, fresh, and enthusiastic in their answers – you’ve found what you’re looking for.