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How do you identify exceptional candidates? The person-focused interview

You want to hire the right person. Someone who can deliver both short-term and long-term results, someone who can grow, do their job well and be dependable.

A broad smile lights up your face. If you succeed, profits will increase, the team will thrive, customers will be more satisfied, and... even if you don't say it out loud, finding the right person for the right role means more freedom. You're already starting to daydream about what you could achieve if you weren't so tied down by operational tasks and daily minutiae.

Inspired by this thought, you straighten up and go through the CVs on your desk. You've quickly sorted the candidates who have applied. Now, it's just a matter of choosing one from the five shortlisted candidates. And then you have two superpowers that have brought you to where you are today and that you're determined to use in the selection process: the entrepreneur's instinct and the ability to make decisions quickly. Your intuition has never let you down. You've always somehow felt what the next step should be. And you could make a quick decision and take action. Ultimately, this is a necessity if you want to stay in the market.

However, no matter how counterintuitive it may sound, intuition and quick decisions won't take you very far when it comes to personnel selection. Without a clear and rigorously followed plan, the temptation is to hire someone who closely resembles you. It's comforting to choose a candidate who went to the same school as you or has a similar personality. Without realizing it, you end up hiring a copy of yourself, when what you need is someone who brings a different perspective to the team, a different set of experiences, and complementary skills.

How do you identify exceptional people?

To make hires with a success rate of over 90%, you need a process to gather data on which to make the right decision, namely: The Person-Focused Interview. This interview is the key in the selection process. It's like taking a magnifying glass and analyzing a person's entire professional history through its lens. You start by exploring their academic background, then ask five simple questions about each candidate's job in the last 15 years. The order is important. Go chronologically from the furthest job to the present position so the candidate can enter the story and gradually expose it. As a result, the professional pattern becomes clearer and it's easier to gain a realistic perspective on their strengths and weaknesses.

Present the interview structure to the candidates, the questions you will ask, and the fact that they will have the opportunity to ask questions at the end. When candidates know what to expect, they can relax. You don't want confusion and intimidation. You want them to provide as coherent and accurate information as possible for the hiring decision.

Some recommendations drawn from practice

Pay special attention to how you ask the questions. Be curious. You aim to gather as much concrete, verifiable data as possible to make predictions.

Conduct this interview in tandem with another person (it could be someone from HR, a team colleague, or another manager). This tandem approach greatly facilitates the interview process. One person can ask questions while the other takes notes. Notes and an additional perspective will be extremely useful in the candidate evaluation phase based on the scorecard. They will add objectivity and accuracy.

In the screening interview, the goal was to quickly eliminate mediocre candidates. In the person-focused interview, you're speaking with qualified individuals. Here, the recommendation is to slow down. Review the scorecard to know exactly what you're looking for. Go through the entire process. Take time for thought and evaluation. The average duration of a person-focused interview is about 3 hours, depending on a person's professional history and the number of jobs they've had. This can extend to up to 5 hours for a top position or be shortened to 1.5 hours for an entry-level position. When you don't take the necessary time to understand a person's story, you expose yourself to the risk of making wrong and costly decisions. If you want to improve your predictive abilities, you need to truly understand a person's patterns. Chances are that the same pattern will be repeated in your company, and it's important to decide whether you want that or not.

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