Smoking out imposters: Drilling Down
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Smoking out imposters: Drilling Down

Nobody has to tell you how tough the hiring process can be: the interviews, the searches, the headhunters, the cost and aggravation…

And the imposters: those seemingly-perfect candidates who are more than willing to tell you that they can do the job you’re offering, even if they have to learn how on your dime.

Imposters aren’t necessarily bad people; nor are they liars. They just think they’re smart enough and capable enough to do a job they may never have done.

Under their spell
It’s easy to fall under the spell of imposters, especially if they’ve got a great resume and a charming and engaging manner. And it’s even easier to get hypnotized by them if you’ve been going nuts trying to fill the position and you really want the person in front of you to be the right fit.

To foil imposters, we suggest that you make your choice of employee not on the basis of the things their resumes tell you, but on the outcomes you expect the successful candidate to achieve.

For instance, if the job requires that a candidate be able to successfully integrate four different databases, don’t go by the fact that she’s got a Masters in IT and five years of experience integrating databases; and don’t be impressed when she says she’s got the “leadership experience” necessary to do the job.

All kinds of applicants can make those claims.

Questions about process
Instead, do a Knowledge Drill Down. Here’s where you find out if the candidate can actually do the job by asking him specific questions about process — questions that you know he’ll have to be able to answer to get the outcome you want.

So if you ask, “were you responsible for table definitions, data modeling and normalization?” and the candidate hems and haws when you ask her to detail the process, she’s probably not who you’re looking for. If you ask, “do you think it’s sufficient to normalize a database up to 3NF?” and the answer sounds like a big maybe, it’s time to bite the bullet and keep on looking.

This approach applies whether you’re asking an IT applicant about data modeling or a carpenter about a dovetail joint. If they don’t understand the process well enough to lead it, they won’t be able to help you achieve the outcome you require.

As long as you remain focused on the outcome you want and stay away from the kind of loose, general questions that allow imposters to fake it, you’ll be able to weed out unqualified candidates with only four or five questions. Don’t be afraid to be relentless in pursuing specifics, details and clarifications that describe the process your candidate went through to accomplish past tasks and goals; questions about process will trip up an imposter every time.

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