Business Leaders Hiring Qualified Candidates

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“What motivates you?” is one of 5 questions interviewers should ask job applicants.

Business leaders are often tasked with hiring new employees, but making the decision can be difficult. The process is full of uncertainty, and candidates who appear to be the most qualified may not be the best choice. The issue is particularly acute when it comes to management hires. According to Gallup, companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for management positions 82 percent of the time—which means organizations hire the best managers fewer than 2 out of 10 times.

How can leaders successfully navigate this process? It is a 2-step challenge. Interviewers must be able to understand and avoid certain pitfalls along with having the skill set to identify top candidates. By doing so, they can put the right people into the right jobs and position their organizations for long-term success.

On the other hand, one reason hiring the best candidates is so tricky is that many leaders never formally learn how to conduct an interview; they just wing it. This deficiency can be addressed by programs such as Washington State University’s Online Master of Business Administration. Offering the benefits of an MBA degree within the framework of a flexible learning environment, WSU’s Online MBA degree can provide a solid foundation for career success and help you bring in the right people for your organization.

5 Questions to Ask

Most large companies use a screening process to get the right types of candidates through the door. In such cases, pretty much every candidate who leaps the screening hurdle will be suitable for the job, at least on paper. The leader’s responsibility is to drill down further and figure out which of all these acceptable candidates is the best person for the job. According to Craig Cincotta, senior director of marketing communications at SAP, 5 must-ask questions can help determine if someone is the right fit for your organization:

  • Why do you want to work at this company and what are your expectations? You need to know if people want to join your company for the right reasons.
  • Who inspires you and why? The answer to this question tells you a lot about behavioral patterns the candidate admires and likely emulates.
  • What’s your superpower? Everyone excels at something. A huge part of successful hiring is making sure the employee matches the position.
  • What motivates you to come into work every day? Candidates have many ways to answer this question, but those who mention curiosity should move to the head of the pack. Great hires know that learning never ends and they maintain a high degree of intellectual curiosity throughout their day-to-day work.
  • How do you rely on others to make you better? The best hires know that they don’t know everything. They cherish collaboration and the development of a transparent working environment.

Avoid Hiring Bias

Along with asking the right questions, interviewers must also avoid hiring bias—the ingrained and largely subconscious tendency to prefer some candidates over others.

“Unfortunately, the human mind is wired to instinctually prefer some people based on meaningless characteristics. Don’t let common interview biases fool you into choosing the wrong candidate for the job,” says Erin Coursey of iHire.

Coursey explains that understanding the different types of hiring bias and taking proactive steps to counteract them can keep the interview process on track. She identifies 5 common types of bias and recommends ways to avoid them.

  1. First impression bias. Some candidates make a great first impression through handshake firmness, smile, and other largely meaningless factors. Interviewers are biased toward liking and preferring these candidates. Reduce this bias by asking behavior-based questions to understand how each candidate operates normally, when they aren’t under pressure in an unfamiliar setting.
  1. Similarity bias. Research shows that people prefer others who are similar to themselves. Reduce this bias by assembling diverse interview teams and getting multiple opinions on candidates.
  1. Stereotype bias. We judge others on things we don’t even realize are factors, such as facial structure and vocal pitch. Reduce this bias by conducting blind resume reviews or interviews.
  1. Halo/horns bias. This bias refers to a knee-jerk tendency to see a candidate as all good (halo) or all bad (horns) based on a single comment. If, for example, the candidate mentions loving a certain sports team, this can strongly flavor the interviewer’s perception in a positive or negative direction. Reduce this bias by using work sample tests as part of the interview process to provide a clear picture of a candidate’s potential.
  1. Intuition bias. Interviewers may claim they just “have a feeling” about a candidate. This “feeling” can overwhelm the facts. Reduce this bias by using an interview checklist to take notes and compare candidates objectively.

Green Flags

A good interview incorporates plenty of objective facts—but gut feelings and even first impressions do have a place at the interview table. Most recruiters are aware of the red flags they should watch out for in candidates: showing up late, trash talking a past employer, excessively vague answers, and so forth. But according to Emily Moore of the website Glassdoor for Employers, “We don’t seem to talk about ‘green flags’ as much—indications that a candidate is perfect for the job.”

What are these green flags? Moore identifies 6 signs that can tell leaders when they have found the right candidate.

  1. They know their stuff. A top candidate has done their research on your company, your culture, and the position in advance. Informed candidates tend to be better culture fits, come in with the right expectations, and are able to get ramped up more quickly.
  1. You can sense their enthusiasm. Great candidates are genuinely interested in your company and they show it through their body language and tone of voice. They seem to be truly interested in their field instead of just looking for any way to pay the bills.
  1. They’re honest. Every candidate has flaws. The truly phenomenal ones, though, will own up to it. They will have enough self-awareness to understand their own weaknesses and how they are working to overcome them.
  1. They communicate quickly and clearly. Candidates who respond promptly and well throughout the hiring process make a powerful positive impression. An efficient candidate will probably be an efficient employee. And of course, the reverse is also true: a candidate who is a shoddy communicator during the hiring process may behave the same way as an employee.
  1. The interview flows perfectly. A great interview feels painless for both the interviewer and the interviewee; the relationship just seems to click. If you’re looking forward to working with someone before you’ve even hired them, that is a great sign that the person will fit in.
  1. They bring ideas to the table. The best candidates are forward-thinking and show what they could specifically bring to the role. By doing so, they demonstrate that they understand the work and want to make contributions as soon as possible.

Even when these “green flags” are present, leaders can’t guarantee a perfect hire every time. But by asking the right questions, avoiding missteps, and paying attention to certain key behaviors and personality traits, they can increase their chances of hiring the best candidates for the job. 

About WSU’s Online Master of Business Administration Program

Washington State University’s Carson College of Business is home to one of the top-ranked MBA programs in the nation. WSU offers an Online MBA course curriculum designed to equip students with the tactics, knowledge, skills, strategies, and other resources utilized by today’s high-profile business leaders.

WSU’s Online MBA degree program offers four MBA concentrations—marketing, finance, hospitality business management, international business, and a general MBA. For more information, visit WSU’s Online MBA website. 


Recommended Reading:

Managing Human Capital

3 Employee Retention Tips

3 Ways to Better Prepare for an Executive-Level Interview 



Failing to choose the right candidate – Workplace

Five questions to ask – Entrepreneur

Types of hiring bias – iHire

Green flags – Glassdoor for Employers