The ABC of Great Hiring

The ABC of Great Hiring

Clichés generally arise from repeated validation. Take hiring; “You’re most important decision is who you hire.” Or, “The biggest mistake a business can make is a bad hire.” Those truisms acknowledge few hiring managers have the skill to get to the real core of their candidate and have confidence in how a job will be done in the future. So why are so many bad hires still made?

Many hiring managers do bring other resources to bare such as 3rd party assessments, “test” assignments, and multi-employee interviews searching for consensus and reference conversations (though opinions can be limited by law). Even consultants, like my company, can be asked to interview and weigh in. Still, the decision to hire or not hire is usually coming to a faith point based on what the candidate has done, or says he has done, in the past and how his or her response to questions along with subliminal body language in the interview process play to that faith.

There is a way to improve your odds of accurately predicting future performance. That is to recognize that there is more to everyone that what they have done and what they say about themselves but you have to know where to find that insight. The following A, B, C of hiring presents an inquiry framework to add to, not replace, any hiring process.


One of the reasons that ageism is a reality in hiring is that ambition can often wane as workers see life, experience business cultures and come to terms with who they are, what they want, and what they are willing to do. Ambition can be double edged and many hiring managers fear that someone who is too ambitious will be a disruptor or will take your training and soon bolt for your competition. While all that is possible the key is to recognize how ambition will play out in your future employee, how it will fit with your culture, and whether it is an asset or a detriment to the role being considered. A person without ambition can be a dependable turtle for you, a person with ambition out of line with ability can be a high maintenance challenge if not worse.

Ambition is the measure of the desire to become something else. Know what your job needs, how your culture is and should be and your tolerance for managing people to align your hopes with their desires. Ask the question directly, probe from distant future to near term and project a desire, or at least acceptance, as ambition being a desirable trait. It needn’t be only about promotions, ambitions can be varied but if you know what a person wants in your life you have a much better guess at how they will fit in your open job.


Too many interview questions are either too hypothetical or historic to get a behavior prediction picture. Use realistic challenges in your company and ask your candidate to go step by step and present a process of how they approach demanding situations. Add questions to bring out emotions, “What is the frustrating part?”, “Where is the satisfaction…?” etc. Rather than focus on past accomplishments try to get a break down on how that result was accomplished based on what the applicant actually did—when, how and why. Did your candidate do everything they were told or did they work it out for themselves. How do they prioritize? How do their actions contrast in team efforts versus individual efforts. Getting into the motivation, strategic thinking, habits and challenges of a person are the greatest predictors or success or failure in future endeavors. Digging deep with these questions may seem intrusive, guess what, they are and they need to be.


A resume tells what you did, what you were asked to do. The tried and true belief of hiring managers is if you did it enough you can do it again. If you had success at steps one and two the time may be right for step 3. Sure, that’s not wrong but it doesn’t speak to what a person is capable of. The hazard lights always go off when we ask a candidate to self-describe their capabilities as potential is theoretic. Again, using a distant future question about capability can lead to conversation about the possible gaps and how the candidate imagines they will fill those. The hiring manager can get right into a person’s self-esteem by learning the view of what capabilities are perceived.

Each type of question in these ABC’s should be seen as a preliminary and needs to be drilled down with at least two follow up questions that go deeper down the road presented. Silence is a useful part of assessing characteristics and never rush to get to an answer. Learn the skills of making interviews more progressive conversations than fact finding missions and as comfort builds more is revealed.

Think about it, if you know what your hiring prospect’s ambitions were, what they have proven capable of, what they believe they are capable of and how their professional behaviors have been systematized wouldn’t you feel more comfortable when you make that leap of faith to say, “You’re hired.”  And then be proven right you made a good decision.


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