Hiring Interview

Focused Interview: How do I ensure accurate and consistent hiring of "A" level talent?

by Robert W. Adams, 2008 (updated for 2017)


focused interview


You want to hire superstars or "A" level players, not "C" or even "B" players. Your organization deserves the best. So why not invest the time and energy to jump-start your hiring program to make it shine and only hire the best? After all, hiring the wrong person, a "C" player, can cost you dearly. For years I have witnessed business failures that clearly could have been avoided had an A player been hired instead of a C player. One of the most insidious elements of ‘wasted or missed business opportunity’ goes to the heart of the matter. C players hire C players and drive away A players. Several clients carefully tracked the costs of C players mis-hiring people, and the cumulative costs through an organization where there are a lot of C-player managers were astronomical.” C players drive away key customers, impair customer loyalty, erode employee morale and trust, fail to enter new “hot” markets, fail to implement necessary measures, and waste money.

  • The quality of employee performance begins with the quality of the hiring process, specifically, your interview process. You must look at the past behaviors and patterns throughout the history of a person's career. That allows you to make very accurate predictions about what he or she would do in the future. This technique requires you to ask many targeted questions about the candidate's career and job decisions.
  • But first you need to document the critical skills, success factors and types of decisions required of the target job. Knowing this ahead of time will allow you to fine tune your questions and develop evaluation criteria to compare to your candidate's responses. Use subject matter experts to help you define your job success criteria. This way, you know it is accurate and candidates will be evaluated by comparing their behavior against evaluation criteria, not against each other!
  • The next step in evaluating and finding A players is to make sure that you observe and document behavior during the interview. Write down important behaviors described by the candidate as soon as they occur and document only those behaviors that occur during the interview session. Do not evaluate during the interview - your role during this phase is to record and capture all relevant candidate responses.
  • Be careful about making inferences and conclusions about the candidate. If you do write down an inference or a conclusion (e.g., unorganized, not assertive), you should always support that inference or conclusion with a relevant descriptive behavior (e.g., ignored critical deadlines and did not communicate upcoming dates with her team, did not ask customers probing questions to get the whole picture). Relevant behaviors should be used as the basis for evaluations, not conclusions about vague traits or characteristics unrelated to the job.
  • Be aware of common rating errors and interviewer biases which may influence our judgment process. Some of the most common are halo effects (judging a candidate strong in many areas because he or she is strong in one area), stereotyping (judging a candidate because of the people or group with whom he or she is associated), similar-to-me (judging a candidate because he or she is believed to be like the interviewer), and central tendency (viewing all candidates as "middle of the road").
  • For each job success factor pursued by your interview questions, use your performance standards and success criteria to help you make accurate evaluations. This way, candidates will be evaluated by comparing their behavior against evaluation criteria. Align the evaluation criteria with a traditional Likert scale of 1-5 or 1-3 with 5 or 3 equaling the highest performance. Behaviorally define each evaluation point (e.g., 1, 2, 3, etc.) with a performance description. Review your interview notes and compare the candidate responses to the Likert scale, noting the performance level of the behaviors (e.g., 1, 2, 3, etc.). Assign a numerical rating for each success factor.

Rank you job candidates and be confident that your A players will jump out at you!






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