Interviewing: Screen Candidates for Their Ideal Job

In 1988, my husband and I went sailing in the Bahamas with our friends, Shawn and Sandy, who were experienced sailors. We successfully navigated from Florida to the island of Bimini, on to the Berry Islands, and then to San Andros Island, which is surrounded by a 3-mile-wide reef. Our map warned us that all markers or signs in the Bahamas are unreliable, so when we found what seemed to be the channel entrance through the reef to the island, we were nervous. To be certain we were in the right place, we exited the channel and spent several hours sailing around to identify landmarks on the island, passing shipwrecked boats along the way. Finally, skirting the edge of the reef, we headed back toward that reef entrance, only to end up with our keel lodged in a cavity in the coral reef as the tide went out…all because markers are unreliable.

Just as we needed more than our map to land safely, you’ll need more than just a candidate’s resume to make a good hire. While the resume lists a candidate’s skills, education, and experience, it doesn’t tell you anything about the candidate’s ideal job preferences, which you need to know in order to determine the candidate’s long-term fit with your company. If you don’t ask the right questions, and if a candidate hasn’t given this any concrete thought, your ship is headed for a collision.

To help avoid a mismatch, we recommend using COBS, an acronym from our industry consultant Bob Bassman, to cover four areas of questioning in this facet of your interview. Remember, since past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, you’ll want to ask behavioral questions to help draw vital information from your candidates. Here are some examples using COBS:

Company: In the past, how large or small were the companies you’ve worked for? What about that size worked well for you? What didn’t you like? (Objective: Learn what size of company the candidate has thrived in or not, to compare it to your company size and structure.)

Opportunity: What about this position motivated you to apply for it? In what ways do you hope to grow if we hire you for this job? (Objective: Learn if the candidate is looking to develop certain skills, move into a different marketplace, or be promoted to a management role.)

Boss: Tell me about your previous boss’s management style. What did you like about his/her style? What challenges did you face? (Objective: Learn if the candidate prefers a hands-on manager who jumps into the trenches to work alongside him, a mentor who coaches him and cheers him on, or a boss who sets him in motion and leaves him alone. Compare the candidate’s preference to the style of the person who will manage him.)

Significant Incentive: Some people are motivated by having an important title, a closer commute, or flexible hours, while others prefer the tangible reward of their paycheck. In your most recent job, what has been a key motivating factor in your going to work every day? What is it about this position that attracts you? (Objective: Learn what your open position and/or company have to offer that will specifically motivate this candidate.)

For more sample behavioral questions, we highly recommend reading Steve Tulman’s article, The 2nd Most Important Interview Question. He deals with the revealing issue of why candidates left their last place of employment, which ties right into this subject of a candidate’s ideal job.

Here at Amtec, we encourage our candidates to actually create an itemized checklist for their ideal job and bring it to the interview. We also remind them to prioritize those items and be prepared to make compromises. Just as you, the employer, cannot expect to find a perfectly ideal candidate who matches every single one of your requirements, neither can a candidate hope to find exactly the ideal job.

Will asking these questions guarantee a perfect fit between you and your candidate? Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in hiring! But it will help ensure that your candidate’s career trajectory is closely aligned with the opportunity your company has to offer. Seldom will you both find the perfect fit, but if the channel markers are clear, you’ll at least both end up on the same island.

What is the ultimate employee motivator? Click here to find out!

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