The Art of Strategic Interviewing Raises Human Resources to a Great Art

strategic interviewingTony Hsieh, Founder of Zappos, shared on an Inc. post to what degree cultural fit plays in a new hire.  Zappos will not hire people who are not great at their culture.  A separate human resources interview focuses on cultural fit, and 50% of the performance review is about whether you are inspiring your team.

Well, when you are a small business owner, you may not feel as though you and your business needs fit entirely into Zappo’s shoes.  But many businesses will face a daunting task to select that crucial first hire.

A book by human resources strategist William E. Miller covers the basics to make that task a bit easier.  Called The Art of Strategic Interviewing, Miller’s book caught my eye online while browsing publications from  Paramount, a small publisher in New York. So I asked for a review copy

The book’s topic sticks in my mind because of what is happening within digital measurement  – and in a number of industries in general. Many companies complain about the lack of qualified employees. But some of the lack in finding employees may lie in how the search is framed – such as the ideas suggested in Jamiliah Warner’s post, “Write Better Job Descriptions and Build A Stronger Team.”

A Different Interview Framework

Moreover if the skills in many industries are being upended, shouldn’t the strategy to interview shift as well?  Miller notes that a too narrow search is problematic:

“Companies that confine their job searches to their industry are limiting their selection to the prevailing standards of the industry—for better or worse. It’s far better to understand what it takes to succeed in the job than where the candidate worked.”

Fortunately Miller notes what business should do to attract and retain happy, skilled employees. Miller explains what human resource managers should be looking for in candidates within an interview framework.  A small startup that has funding is a great audience for this book, but some of the ideas can help a small business that is not VC-funded as well.  For interviews it means getting deeper about why a hire is needed:

“Interviews must be based on a plan and preparation. Interviewers should have a specific assignment: What standards should they be assessing and what questions should they be asking to engage the candidate in discussion?”

Know when a Behavioral Event Makes Sense

Interviewees may want to read this book to evaluate their own expectations as well. When Miller notes behaviorioral events, he summarizes a description that people should convey when interviewing or even seeing recommendations in LinkedIn. It’s about stating what outcomes within your background occur. Read the following to learn more about those outcomes, which Miller calls a behavior event:

A behavioral event is something that actually took place in real space and time. It is something that the candidate actu­ally did. It is not an opinion or vague answer. For example, here’s a question I frequently use when interviewing candidates for sales, “Would you give me an example of a difficult sale you’ve made?

Miller goes on to give an interview framework to access the honesty of a given answer:

A “behavioral event” is a complete picture of what actually happened. A complete behavioral event has three elements. I use a model to describe them to make it easy to remember – “CAR.” It’s an acronym for: Cause – Action – Result.

Miller also shares red flags, such as when a potential hire accepts lower pay:

If you’re thinking about hiring a candidate who will be taking a significant cut in pay, stop! Find out why he would accept lower income. You may not be getting the “bargain” you think. Sometimes, candidates accept positions for lower pay believing it’s only temporary because they plan to continue their job search after they’re hired. Sometimes they accept a lower-paying job, fantasizing substantial salary incentives or increases from you when given the opportunity to demonstrate their true abilities.

The book is small and can compliment other human resource books such as Dive In and Your Career Game.  These books contain slightly different topics, but combined they can offer some human resources perspective on each other.

For the best perspective to prevent hiring churn, I am sure The Art of Strategic Interviewing will get you and your team talking about the best ways to hire new talent.  For businesses regardless of industry, hiring is an art that will truly appreciate over time.

Pierre DeBois Pierre Debois is Associate Book Editor for Small Business Trends. He is the Founder of Zimana, a consultancy providing strategic analysis to small and medium sized businesses that rely on web analytics data. A Gary, Indiana native, Pierre is currently based in Brooklyn. He blogs about marketing, finance, social media, and analytics at Zimana blog.