Think Like A Coach to Improve Your Interviewing Process

Face it, your interviews are boring and stale and probably pretty ineffective. You ask the same kinds of questions. You do the same limited preparation. You just want to find someone who is reasonable, so you can just be done with interviewing.

In my informal poll of the many CEO groups I speak to, nearly two thirds of them say they, and their organizations, don’t like interviewing. They do it because they have to. They do it out of habit instead of intention. And their results show it. Low engagement. High turnover rates. Poor workplace culture.

So, shift with me for a moment to understand how a coach prepares and hosts a coaching call or meeting to learn from it for improved interviewing and hiring success.

First, coaches prepare to coach. In our preparation for every client, we first look inside ourselves and center ourselves; we work on being present and ready to deal with whatever comes up in our coaching sessions. We eliminate distractions, clear our minds, become aware of our biases and choose to be ready to gather and use the information in our coaching session to help our clients. We do this on purpose. We are tuned in, ready and thinking.

Let’s use this approach with the interview. To interview well, you must be ready to interview. This means you must be present, clear and eliminate any distractions that will take you away from the purpose of the interview, which is to gather enough of the right information to determine whether this candidate could fit the role and your company. For that, you must make the time to fully understand the role – what it does, its performance expectations, its performance success attributes and your role in the interview process – and understand the workplace or organizational culture – what it believes, its mission, its values and its focus on customers.

Second, as coaches, we gather information. Jumping right into issues is generally too much too soon for a coaching conversation. Using a few well-thought out questions like, “What’s the best thing that has happened to you today?” or, “What challenge have you successfully dealt with today?” sets a positive tone and encourages the client to talk. Talking is how they share information, which is necessary to help a coach to determine what to ask and do next.

It is the same in an interview. With clarity of the attributes, skills and experience you need a candidate to have to be the right fit for the role, create the interview – the meaningful interview questions and activities – to deliver this information. Today’s interviews need to include activities to provide greater information about a candidate’s abilities; it’s more than simply asking them what they would do or have done in a particular situation. Though questions are important, gather greater information about behaviors and skill levels by having candidates demonstrate their abilities through activities. These could include providing feedback, creating a spreadsheet/memo, selling a product, assessing a challenge or problem, etc. The purpose of the interview is to gather information, so ensure each component or segment of the interview delivers meaningful information. I call it the Prove-it-to-Me Interview.

Third, as coaches we assess what we hear from our clients to determine what to say and do next. Well-crafted questions and intentional listening prepare us to be fully present in the responses from clients. From that information, we can then guide, challenge, support or encourage – whatever we feel the situation requires – to help the client move closer to their goal.

In the interview, use the information gathered from the questions and activities to assess and evaluate the candidate’s skills and abilities. Those involved in interviewing must know what successful responses or behaviors look like to effectively evaluate. Be ready to drill down into any candidate’s responses the way a coach does to fully understand, to be able to wisely assess for fit and alignment. Then, as an interview team, come together to share your assessment and evaluation of each candidate.

Those who interview can learn a lot about interviewing from coaching. The process shares similar goals of being fully present, understanding the situation and gathering and assessing information. What in your interviewing could benefit from coach-like thinking?

Take Action
Stop and notice what works and doesn’t work in how you interview. Then, using the ideas presented, make improvements to your interview process to hire talent that is well-aligned to their roles. Small improvements that result in hiring the right people can yield exceptional organizational results.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Stop Promoting the Wrong People into Management Roles

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3 Ways to Win in the War for Talent

People are the hands, heart and soul of all organizations. This requires you to have a plan to attract, hire and retain the best because they are the connection to your customers and the drivers of your results.

With record low unemployment rates, many organizations are feeling the pinch for talent. Those people who want and can work are nearly all employed, leaving a small available talent pool to choose from. This, for many, means we are in a war for talent.

The war for talent isn’t as much about hiring the few people available. It is more about winning in to your organization the talented people who are disengaged in their current organizations. The Gallup Organization shares that nearly 70% of the workplace is disengaged. This isn’t because they are average employees. Rather, it is more likely that their current organization isn’t doing what it takes to attract, hire and retain the best talent. This means that today’s war for talent is more the result of a branding problem than a supply problem.

Seeing this challenge from a new perspective can help you see that many of the disengaged employees in other organizations have the interest and capacity to be amazing in your company if you are able to do these three things.

  1. Attract. Spread your story about what makes you different, unique and a great place to work. We used to think that sourcing talent meant going out and finding them. Today, sourcing talent is more about them finding you. Work hard to create a dynamic employee-focused workplace culture that values, develops and engages its employees, then share your story. Let your website host a career or job center that tells your story through images, videos, testimonials and other interactive media. Great people want to work for great companies. Get the word out that you are a great company and the great talent will find and connect with you.
  2. Hire. Commit to only hire people who fit your roles, team and culture. With an expanded amount of interest in your organization, have a clearly defined and well-followed hiring process that clearly states the tasks of each role, and the specific attributes needed to be successful in those tasks. Then, develop an interview process that uses both activities and behavioral-based questions to have the candidate share and prove their skills and strengths, to assess for fit. Be sure that your interview process can assess for team and culture fit. This helps you hire the right people who feel aligned, engaged and competent in your organization, limiting turnover and the need to hire again.
  3. Retain. Guide, support, develop and coach your employees to give them a reason to perform and stay. By hiring wisely, you help employees feel capable and competent in their roles. Then, train your managers to think and act like coaches to build stronger relationships with employees to better understand, support, guide and develop them. This encourages employees’ engagement, which is a key driver in their decision to perform and remain or to do as little as possible and seek new opportunities.

Take Action
Win the war for talent by being an employer of choice, hiring wisely and helping your managers learn how to guide, support and coach instead of direct, control and manage. Commit to getting the best employees up front by building an employee-focused workplace culture that creates a dynamic employee experience that attracts top talent to come, perform and stay.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading 3 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Will Leave Your in 2019 (and What to Do About It)

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Don’t Drag Your Feet When Hiring New Talent

By Jay Forte

When it comes to hiring, you can’t drag your feet. Good talent is in great demand, which means if you have a slow or complicated hiring process, you will likely lose the best talent.

According to a 2017 Glassdoor survey, the average length of the interview process is 23.8 days. Some organizations may think that pace is just fine since it gives them room to leisurely interview each candidate or to build the hiring process around busy schedules. Other organizations pride themselves on the slow and methodical approach to hiring. Both do not take into account the current demand for talent and the speed that today’s employees need to make decisions.

At its core, the real issue is creating an effective and successful hiring process that is also efficient. So, how do you do it? Follow these five steps:

  1. Clearly define the tasks of each role and the performance attributes (strengths, skills, experience and education) required to do these tasks well.
  2. Build a sourcing strategy for each role, including conventional and non-conventional sources to find the best talent. A sourcing strategy defines the conventional and unconventional ways you will find candidates who have the attributes you need in the role.
  3. Define your interview components. As more and more organizations are using the “prove it to me interview,” define the segments and activities that will be part of each role’s interview. For example, you may have four segments in a role’s interview with two segments for questions, and two segments for activities that allow the candidate to share and prove what they know about the role.
  4. Define your interview team and train them. Your interview team must be masters at either behavioral-based interviewing or assessing skill levels through the activity portion of an interview.
  5. Develop a clear, sound and efficient interview process from date of contact to date of decision.

Take a minute to notice two the most frequently used words in the previous list: define and develop. Being intentional about each part of this process is the key to making it effective and efficient.

With a clear process in place, consider creating a timeline and stick to it. Not only will implementing a timeline help keep the process moving forward, it also ensures candidates are kept updated on their status in your process. As you build out your timeline, consider the following:

  1. Introduce the interview process to the candidate in the opening communication. Help them know the timing, what your interview is like, how to prepare and how to be successful in your interviews.
  2. Develop and follow a schedule of regular and clear communications throughout the interview process. Let candidates know where they stand. Define key dates in the interview process, including actual interviews, follow up dates and the date a decision will be made.
  3. Once a decision is made, send out start dates, how to be successful in your first week, key things to know about the job or the organization and connect the new employee to another employee (i.e. a buddy) to help them feel connected from the start.
  4. Gather personal information about the new hire to be able to create a personalized onboarding experience. Share the date of onboarding and be sure everything is ready for the new employee on his/her first day.

Take Action
The opportunity to attract a candidate to your company, to share what the employee experience is all about, starts with the interview process. Make your hiring process clear and efficient, and be sure to share all of the critical information and dates up front. Nothing disengages a future potential employee more than an organization that is disorganized, unclear or too slow in its decision-making. Have an intentional plan so you never drag your feet when hiring new talent.


Consider reading People Are Like M&Ms

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Stop Promoting the Wrong People into Management Roles

You have a great employee. So great, in fact, that you are afraid you will lose her if you don’t promote her. So, you promote her. And she fails in her new managerial role. Why? Because being great at her current job doesn’t mean she will be great as a manager.

This isn’t a one-off example. According to the Gallup Organization, companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talents for management positions 82% of the time. They let old ways of advancing employees override a wiser and more results-focused approach. Think of all the resources mismanaged in this situation and think of the unintended consequences of putting the wrong person into a managerial role: employee disengagement, low morale, workplace drama and the inevitable turnover.

Today’s workplace success comes from talent alignment. Since most of our jobs are thinking jobs, we must know the brain of the job to know whether those we want to advance or promote to the job have a similar brain. People excel in roles that need what they do and like best.

But so many organizations continue to believe in promoting from within without using a sound and intentional review process to assess the existing employee’s attribute alignment to those needed in the new role. Having a clear process that is used for both new hires and internal promotions can help you both get the right people in the right jobs and build a workplace cultural value of alignment as the key to performance success. Promoting with inadequate assessment of fit and alignment is the key to disengagement and poor performance.

To be able to make wise promotion and advancement decisions, consider the following.

  1. Create a clear performance profile for all management roles. Clearly define the tasks of the roles as well as the attributes (the strengths, skills, experience and education) needed to be successful doing the defined tasks. Be clear of what is required to be successful in the role. Don’t deviate.
  2. Build and use your interview process to accurately assess the abilities of any candidate, both internal or external, new or promotion. Hold every candidate accountable to demonstrate the required strengths and skills as these are what it takes to be successful in the role.
  3. Be honest with employees about why a role is or isn’t for them. Being upfront shares that your hiring process is designed to create role alignment and is committed to getting the right person for the right job for the success of the employee and the organization.
  4. Help the employee who does not get the management role develop a meaningful development plan (including new value-add tasks) that better aligns to her core strengths that she finds both engaging and important.

So many times we automatically promote employees based on either time with the organization or success in their current role. The failure comes by promoting them from a high-performance area to an area that may be out of their core strengths. Both the employee and the organization then suffer.

Change the mindset by showing that alignment matters most, whether that means bringing in new talent or promoting existing talent. Rethink how employees can stay in their high-performance areas, continue to add value and see a career path in your organization. This is the new way to engage employees.

Take Action
Consider a new manager job opening at your company. Do you have an internal candidate in mind? Why? Take the time to really understand the role and its success attributes, then interview your employee the way you would interview an external candidate. The goal of the interview is to assess whether the employee has what it takes to do this new role. Do this to set them up for success.

Need help with this? Contact us to learn how we help companies hire and promote the right people to the right jobs.

By Jay Forte

Consider reading Are You Rigid or Flexible? 

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Even in Low Unemployment, Great Companies Are Finding Great Talent

By Jay Forte

The unemployment rate across much of the country is 4% or lower. This means it is difficult to find great talent, right?


Consider this: The Gallup Organization has been tracking employee engagement for nearly 20 years. Employee disengagement has hovered at nearly 70% for most of that time, indicating that nearly three-quarters of the people you meet anywhere in work or life are either disengaged or actively disengaged in their jobs. These people are interested in new opportunities, opportunities that give them more than just a pay increase. These people are looking for organizations that are employee-focused, that have managers who act like coaches, have a hiring process that aligns employees to the right roles, that provide employees with the opportunity to learn and grow, and share the value and impact of every role so employees feel – and know – that the work they do matters.

If this is not you, be aware: your people are looking for organizations that offer these things (and that is a discussion for another time).

If this sounds like your organization, you are in great demand.

So, when looking at the unemployment rate, the real challenge is not as much about supply as it is about branding. How can you get the attention of those disengaged employees in other organizations to show them you are different – you are a remarkable place to work because you create an employee experience that amplifies engagement and helps employees succeed?

Create a dynamic workplace and then build a job center on your website that attracts people to see who you are, why you are remarkable and what your current employees say about working for you. This can create a talent pipeline, a constant source of talent who are disengaged in their current roles and could therefore be dynamically engaged in your organization because you offer the things they want and need, things they do not have in their current workplace.

Instead of fixating on the 4% unemployment rate that frequently has you accepting talent that doesn’t fit your roles or your organization (because you feel this is all that is available), focus on creating the kind of workplace that would attract the large number of highly talented and high-performing employees who are disappointed and disengaged in their current situations. Be employee-focused and let the world know it. Build it and they will come.

Take Action
How are you sharing what is unique, amazing and exceptional about your workplace to get the attention of disengaged employees in other organization who could be great in your workplace? Challenge yourself – and your hiring team – to develop ways to better spread the word about who you are and what you do, and why every employee does work that matters.


Consider reading Stop Managing and Start Coaching 

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How To Help College Grads Succeed in Your Organization

By Jay Forte

We’re mid-way through the summer. Some companies may be looking at their summer interns wondering who will get the job offer. Some companies may be counting down the days to get rid of the useless interns they brought in. Where do you stand?

Many workplaces are disappointed with their college graduate hires, asking themselves how, after receiving [name of degree], they can lack the knowledge to perform some of the most critical functions in the workplace. It is as if they are from another place and time, unaware of how to work with others, think critically, own their performance and show up on time. 

Sure, they have some of the required technical skills, but their passion and interest for their work and their ability to work with others seems to be limited.

You are disappointed with them. They are disappointed with you.

So how can we stop this cycle of disappointment? It first starts with self-awareness – for you, the manager.

Here are three tips to keep your college grads engaged with your business.

1. Hire for fit. Most organizations still hire based on skill and experience, and since very few college grads have the requisite experience, skill becomes the hiring focus. But an employee’s ability to succeed in the workplace, to feel happy, confident and competent, has more to do with talents and interests than skills.

A wisely crafted performance profile that identifies the talents, skills, experience and interests required to be successful in each job can help you better source and more wisely interview candidates who are a better fit. Though it might take some time up front, think of the benefits later when you’re interviewing only qualified candidates and, hopefully, only doing it once as the focus on finding the right fit for the job may mean you’re not dealing with unnecessary turnover.

Remember: the better the fit, the more likely engagement and performance will improve.

2. Increase your connection time.Though internships have certainly enabled college grads to experience working in a professional environment, doing it full time is different. This means you will need to increase the time you spend with them, ensuring you’re providing guidance and support to develop them into a long-term employee. Offer consistent feedback in real-time and establish clear performance expectations. This will allow your college grad to better navigate their new environment with greater success. And the more successful they feel, the more engaged they become.

3. Be ready to teach them soft skills. Most employers I work with say that Millennial employees are conspicuously deficient in many of the core soft skills needed to be successful in the workplace. If not handled appropriately, they can quickly feel ineffective and, therefore, lose engagement.

According to Millennial specialist Bruce Tulgan in his book, Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, Millennials are missing skills in three areas: professionalism (self-evaluation, attitude, work habits, people skills), critical thinking (problem solving, decision making and proactive learning) and followership (respect for authority, service mindset, teamwork and performance accountability). They didn’t learn these skills in school, at home or in college, which means they need to learn them in your workplace. As they improve these, they raise their understanding of how to be in a professional workplace, get things done, work with others and advance their careers. Consider how your employee education and development plan can include soft skill training; there are great soft skill lessons in Tulgan’s book.

Your college grad employee comes to you well prepared in some areas and needing support in others. Get a great return on your investment in college grads by hiring wisely, managing them more personally and developing their soft skills. This helps them choose their jobs wisely, know what is expected and learn to be effective, efficient and extraordinary in the workplace. And as this improves, so does their level of engagement, performance and loyalty.

Important Questions from a Coach

1. What is one thing you and your hiring team can do today to be more effective to hire for fit?
2. How will hiring for fit benefit you and your organization in the short term? Long term?
3. What are three benefits to hiring college grads (i.e. new to the workforce)?

Originally appeared on LinkedIn, September 26, 2016.


Consider reading Generational Stereotypes Have No Place Here

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