Saturday, March 1, 2014 , business management, by Rich Rafdahl

Identifying and selecting the very best individual for a key role within the company can be the ultimate challenge .  When considering candidates for a critical position, I have always felt a little uncomfortable basing my decision solely on a resume and 45 minute interview.  As a manager over the years who has hired many talented individuals and a few “not so talented”, I have learned how crucial hiring the right person is and how costly it can be for all parties – if a mistake is made.

DSCN0055If we are honest, not all information shared between the candidate and hiring manager during the interview process may be totally accurate or complete.   For example some hiring managers may, from time to time, embellish the opportunity or withhold information regarding some of the darker sides of the position and company while some candidates may have an exaggerated perspective of their skills, ability and experience.  I am not accusing either party of intentionally being dishonest, but each party has a vested interest in serving themselves which may not always align with the objective of hiring the “best person” and “best fit” for the position.  Even though some may not think of it this way, the interview process can be a little bit of a dance but a Very Important Dance. I cannot think of any one decision a manager or company makes that is more important than the selecting and hiring of the best person for the job.

One of the tools I have used which has helped minimize the risk of a wrong hire – is to provide the final candidates a “pseudo”  inbox” with includes 15-20 separate documents  – each detailing a unique situation or issue that the prospect may have to deal with during their time on the job. For example, the inbox may include examples of a minor customer complaint, a major supplier issue, a personnel issue, a serious internal data or software problem, a production line problem, a vacation request that falls outside the normal vacation terms, a personal issue at home, an employee from your department is having a problem with another employee outside the department, a serious Human Resource issue etc. The examples I use range from serious to minor but all are something the candidate may have to deal with eventually and are situations that are relevant to the position. Obviously, you can make up your own that relate to your business and experiences.

I advise them that I am going to allow them 15 minutes, on their own, to prioritize the 15 or so situations from most to least important.  I time them and ask them to stop working at the 15 minute mark even if they are not done.   I then sit down and ask them to explain their reasons for prioritizing each, which gives me insights into their logic, priorities, ability to handle multiple projects and sense of urgency on specific issues.  Some of their choices and responses can help me discern their values, experience, character and ability to handle stress while rationally defending their decisions.   In essence I can learn a lot by asking the right questions and listening to their responses.

Separately, I have often share with the final candidates a scenario of a complex business situation which has occurred or could occur. For example, with a purchasing candidate I might suggest that their primary supplier has had an unexpected fire and plant shutdown.  In addition, their supplier contact is out of the country and product is desperately needed for the increase in business. The secondary supplier has only a small portion of your current business and has not been fully tested or approved for all products yet. I ask them to explain how they would handle this situation. I also ask how they might have avoided this situation.   Again, I believe by placing the individual in a somewhat real situation, I can better determine how they would handle themselves, address the situation, communicate and work towards a resolution.   By asking good questions and listening to their responses – I have learned much regarding the candidates business acumen, people-skills and potential fit.

In short, I create scenarios and tests that are relevant to the business at hand to help me determine the prospective employees’ potential to perform well and exceed expectations.  I believe by placing the candidate into a simulated situation, which is a close to real as is possible, you can significantly reduce the risk of a poor hiring decision. Obviously, these approaches are not full proof but I, personally, have experienced much better results when incorporating tools , such as these, in the interview process. If you have any questions, please contact Richard Rafdahl – Cost Reduction Specialists Inc. at

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