Archive for August, 2008

How Do You Know They Can Cut It?

August 12, 2008

Your job spec calls for the ability to accomplish specific goals.  Whether it’s selling through the enterprise to multiple constituencies, crafting and implementing a global re-branding strategy, or successfully deploying technology at a client site with disparate computing platforms, you need to know whether the candidate has the wherewithal to successfully carry out the role.  So how do you find out?

Naturally, people’s interpretation of enterprise sales, global re-branding, and implementation in a heterogeneous computing environment, will differ widely.  Thus, when a candidate enthusiastically tells you that they can do it, how can you drill down to be sure?

Over the years, behavioral interviewing techniques have enabled hiring managers to gain greater insight into a candidate’s tendencies, decision-making, problem solving, and results.  As is usually the case, past performance is a fair indicator of future results.

Start with a situational question, such as “To help me better understand your selling style, can you walk me through an enterprise deal?”  Sounds simple, but in that simple request, you have much to uncover.  The long used acronym is STAR:  Situation/Task, Action, and Results.

Situation/Task:  Have the candidate provide you with the foundation of the event.  In the case of an enterprise deal, I want the candidate to tell me the company name, how they came across the opportunity, and how they uncovered the extent of the opportunity.  Next, uncover the pain point or need the prospect had and how the candidate ferreted that out.  If you hear generic comments, such as “Generally, I would…,” insist on a specific situation.

Action:  What specifically did the candidate do to push the sales process forward?  What resources did they marshal?  What happened in meetings or presentations?  What objections or hurdles did they face and how did they overcome them?  If the answers consist of “we,” push back and insist on what they did themselves to produce a favorable impact.  Keep asking:  “What did you do?”

Results:  Have the candidate tie a direct correlation between their own actions and the results of the situation.

In a similar vein, you can have candidates walk you through a recent failure, a time when they got into a conflict with a colleague, or a sudden project with a tight deadline.  While this technique covers merely one facet of interviewing, it should help to better judge a candidate’s ability to be successful in your organization.

Action Items:

  • Incorporate the STAR technique into your interviewing approach
  • Insist on specific examples from the past
  • Separate the “I” from the “We”