Assessing Team Skills Has These Two Surprising Hiring Benefits

team leader and team in office

Sometimes the people with the best team skills are quiet, reserved and introspective when you first meet them.

Sometimes the people with the worst team skills are friendly, warm, outgoing and affable when you first meet them.

And sometimes people on-the-job are just how they seem when you first meet them.

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Unfortunately when we overvalue our initial reaction to a person we tend to hire the wrong person 50% of the time: those with good first impressions who underperform. The other mistake is not hiring the right person the same 50% of the time: those with weak first impressions who are top performers.

Here’s a simple approach for improving your hiring success rate by 100% by replacing luck with logic.

Script the opening of the interview to increase objectivity. When starting an interview, don’t make any yes or no hiring decision for at least 30 minutes. We tend to ask people we like questions to confirm their ability and people we don’t like questions to confirm their incompetence. The Appendix to The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired has a complete set of sample scripts that cover the first 30-60 minutes of the interview.

Measure first impressions at the end of the interview. Whether the impact of first impressions is important for on-the-job success or not, it’s important to assess it when you’re not being seduced or biased by it. At the end of the interview ask yourself objectively whether the person’s first impression will help or hinder on-the-job performance. If you wait, you’ll discover that 50% of those with the best first impressions aren’t necessarily the best performers and 50% of those with the not-so-great first impressions are great performers.

Shift your point of view 180°. Assessing team skills before individual strengths is another way to minimize the impact of first impression bias. You can do this by first conducting a work history review looking for the Achiever pattern and then asking this team question:

Can you please describe a major recent team accomplishment?

Role playing this question will help to better understand its value. Start by describing one of your major team accomplishment then answer the following clarifying questions:

  • Who was on the team and what roles did they play?
  • When did it occur and what was your assigned role? Did this change at all during the project?
  • How did you get on the team and did you select any of the team members?
  • What were the objectives of the team and were they met?
  • Describe the plan or project and how the team was managed. Were you part of this?
  • What was your biggest contribution to the team? How were you recognized formally for this?
  • Who did you influence the most? Did you coach anyone? Did anyone coach you?
  • What did you like most about the team? Least?
  • What would you change if you could about the team makeup?
  • Who were the executives on the team and did you influence them in any way?
  • What was the biggest team problem or conflict you faced and how did you handle it?

By itself, this type of question and fact-finding reveals a lot about the team skills of the person being interviewed. Now imagine I ask the same questions about two other major team accomplishments within different timeframes. The purpose is to see if the candidate’s team roles are growing in importance. The point is that the trend of a person’s team accomplishments provides tremendous insight about the candidate. Growth in the size, scope, scale and importance of the teams indicates the candidate is respected and trusted by senior people in the company. How and why the person got selected confirms work quality, reliability, cultural fit, the ability to deal with customers, vendors and executives and if the person has developed a cross-functional and strategic perspective.

Focusing on team skills this way is vital, especially since too many interviewers overvalue a candidate’s first impressions and his/her individual contribution and technical skills when deciding whether to hire someone or not.

You can improve your hiring success rate by more than 100% by putting your first impression bias in the parking lot for 30-60 minutes and focusing on the person’s team skills and team growth. If you can wait, you’ll discover some of the best people in the world aren’t great interviewers and some of the least best are.

Permission has been granted from The Adler Group and Lou Adler, author of Hire With Your Head and The Essential Guide to Hiring & Getting Hired, to reprint this article.

About the author
Lou Adler is the CEO and founder of The Adler Group – a training and search firm helping companies implement Performance-based Hiring℠. Adler is the author of the Amazon top-10 best-seller, Hire With Your Head (John Wiley & Sons, 3rd Edition, 2007). His most recent book has just been published, The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired (Workbench, 2013). He is also the author of the award-winning Nightingale-Conant audio program, Talent Rules! Using Performance-based Hiring to Build Great Teams (2007). Adler holds an MBA from the University of California in Los Angeles and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University in New York.