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Some hiring authorities have had the good fortune of being trained in various interviewing skills. I know I have, both as an executive hiring authority and as an executive recruiter.

One of the most common interviewing techniques, behavioral interviewing, is designed around the premise of past behaviors being some sort of an indicator of future performance. The problem with behavioral interviewing is it focuses on how someone – behaved – in a given historical situation; it doesn’t get into how someone drove an outcome.

Most all professional positions within a corporate hierarchy have a set of business objectives the position is designed to impact or achieve. That set of business objectives logically imply a certain set of capabilities and attributes the individual occupying the position had better possess if they are to have any chance at successfully executing against the business objectives the position is designed to impact or achieve.

What someone has accomplished, or been responsible for, only communicates an individual may or may not possess the requisite scope and scale of experience. It is simply a sanity check to make sure a prospective candidate is not stepping into a role over their head from a scope and scale of responsibility perspective.

Focusing on – how – someone accomplished the business results they have produced tells a hiring authority if the candidate might possess the capabilities and attributes necessary to successfully execute against the business objectives a given position is designed to impact or achieve.

Ultimately, you are hiring – how – someone produces results and – not – what results they have produced.


Hiring Authority: What – did you produce against your annual quota objective of $100M in revenue?

Candidate: I was able to drive 35% growth and produced $135M in revenue.

Hiring Authority: That is great. That is similar to the growth we believe we can drive (i.e., check in the box). Now tell me, how did you do that?

Candidate: I leveraged my knowledge of strategic sales process and ability to ensure a strategic sales process is implemented an individual contributor level. Specifically, I implemented a standardized strategic sales process, associated process metrics, and deal triage/strategic sales planning process ensuring we were deploying limited resources on opportunities we had the best chance of winning, and cutting bait earlier on those we realized we lacked significant competitive advantage. As a result, we spent more time not losing deals we knew we could win, and less time chasing deals we shouldn’t have been chasing to begin with. The outcome also reinforced the whole process with the individual contributors who became much better at assessing our critical qualifying criteria much earlier in the sales process as a result.

Another Candidate could simply have said: By firing the sales people that didn’t deliver against their forecasted numbers.

For hiring authorities, getting to – how – someone produced a result can be a challenge. Why? Because we live in a world that rewards results – not capabilities and attributes. As a result, most candidates most likely not thought about, and are not used to answering questions about, what capabilities and attributes they leveraged to produce a given business result. Unfortunately, this translates into a typical response to any question asking a candidate how they accomplished an outcome usually being prefaced with “Um, well let’s see, I uh,” with a not well thought out response following.

Candidates desiring to make a better interview impression should spend more time assessing how they actually drove the outcomes they are claiming to have driven. This will not only give a candidate more confidence going into an interview, it will also set them up to interview infinitely better. This level of awareness will also enable a candidate to better assess if an opportunity is going to maximize the leverage of their associated unique capabilities and attributes.

Hiring authorities desiring to make better hires should spend more interview time understanding how someone produced all the great results they claim to have produced. This will also blow away the smoke from candidates that really played no role in the outcomes they are claiming to have driven.

The ability to identify if a candidate possesses the capabilities and attributes necessary to successfully execute against the business objectives a given position is designed to impact will ultimately lead to better hiring decisions.

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