How Experience Cuts Both Ways
In your safari to bag talented personnel, you need to aim your hiring bow and arrow at the experience that potential employees can bring to your work Serengeti. When the right experiences match with the right job, great things can and often do happen. So, when you're conducting an interview, make it your mission to gather all the information possible on not only potential employees' work experiences, but also their life experiences and what they say about them.
Keep in mind, however, that experiences can cut both ways. An individual, for instance, who worked alongside a lousy manager is apt to have picked up a few messy work habits in the process. Experience gained — yes. Another person, who worked with a much wiser manager, also acquired a way of doing things. Experience gained, too! Which kind of experienced employee would you prefer laboring in your midst?
In the interview process, and indeed in all coaching communications, the anticipated first response of a prospective employee to a question is assigned less weight than the more meaningful exposition responses. That is, answers that are expanded upon are ordinarily worth more than predictable “what I should say” first replies to questions.
Paying Attention to Experience Particulars
So, naturally, you must pay extra special attention to the kinds of experiences that those looking to work for you have had. If an applicant is used to doing things one way — because that's his or her experience — and you do things a decidedly different way, then that's not the kind of experience you would value in a new employee. When you traverse beyond the resume and deal with an interviewee in the flesh, the questions you ask should take you well beyond the words on that piece of paper.
Experiences chronicled in an impressive list, or grand-sounding words about skills and abilities, must always be put in their proper perspective. Coaches are asked time and again to put things in perspective. There are so many gray areas in managing. Coaches are better suited than dinosaur managers in successfully navigating these various hues of gray.
Asking Questions about Experience
Here are some questions that draw out the substantive experiences of your prospective employees:
What are some of the work experiences you're most proud of?
How have your work experiences prepared you for the job you're seeking with us?
What do you consider some of your biggest achievements? Your biggest failures?
Do you have any ideas on how to avoid such failures in the future?
Why do you want to leave your present position? Why did you leave your last job?
Who was the manager you most enjoyed working for and why? Least enjoyed working for and why?
Of all your work experiences, what are some of the things that you've learned that make you qualified for the job you're interviewing for?
What are some of the specific things that you'd like to see in this job that you didn't have in past jobs?
Of course, don't forget to ask, “May I check your references?” Very often the most you get out of checking references these days is confirmation that the person in question did in fact work where he or she claimed to have worked. Don't expect too much information beyond that.
Lies and Liars Who Tell Them
Outright lies on resumes — about employment history, for instance — are bad omens, to put it mildly. It's one thing to inflate job skills and abilities (you know, to overcome obstacles and the like) with all the flowery adjectives in the thesaurus. It's quite another thing to create a phantom job history.
This degree of prevarication brands anyone an unfit candidate for a new job. However, once you confirm the validity of a prospective employee's job history, the open-ended questions previously cataloged afford you the opportunity to determine whether you believe the job experiences of the interviewee are more positive than negative. You've got to determine whether they are in sync with your present needs or way out in left field.