Tag Archives: Recruitment

To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Locus of Control

locus of controlThis is the third in a three-part series on identifying great candidates through the interview process.  First, we talked about evaluating candidates on their sales skills, even when hiring for non-sales roles.  Then we explored how to determine if a candidate fits within your organizational culture.  Now I want to talk about what I think is the single most important thing to look for in a candidate:

Internal Locus of Control.

Okay, I realize “single most important thing” is a bold statement.  But before I make my case, let’s make sure we’re on the same page as to what locus of control is all about.

Locus of control is an element of personality referring to the extent to which individuals believe that they control the events that affect them.  Individuals with an external locus of control believe that results derive from external factors – other people, situational factors, fate.  Individuals with an internal locus of control believe that results derive primarily from their own actions – from within themselves.  As with other personality traits, locus of control is measured on a continuum.  While none of us are ever all one way or the other, we generally tend toward one end of the spectrum.

What does this mean in the workplace?  Individuals with an internal locus of control believe their actions directly impact outcomes.  They have an attitude of personal responsibility and take ownership for their actions.  They are goal oriented and are persistent in problem solving.  Where individuals with an external locus of control are looking for someone else to tell them what to do, those with an internal locus of control feel empowered to make decisions and act on their own.

How do you identify candidates with an internal locus of control?  Using specific questions can be difficult and a bit transparent.  (You can try a locus of control test here)  So the key is to listen for locus of control cues throughout the interview.  You should be alert for repeating patterns in the candidate’s responses:

External – Excuses, blaming, rationalization, focus on obstacles

Internal –
Optimism, persistence, ownership, recognition of obstacles but focus on how they are overcome

I’ve found the following questions, and particularly the elements in bold, useful in eliciting locus of control cues:

What are your professional goals for the next 2-5 years?  What steps have you taken toward reaching them?

What were the weakest areas on your last performance review?  What actions have you taken to improve those areas?

What are you most proud of?  Why?

Of your previous jobs, which was your favorite?  Why?

How would your former teammates describe your work style?  How would they describe your approach to problem solving?   (I like this type of question because people are more likely to give their true opinion when speaking for others.  Again, listen for actions taken and interpretations of end results.)

As I said, I believe internal locus of control is the most important thing to look for in a candidate.  Not because skills and experience are not important.  They are.  And you have to weigh the importance of each in the context of your business needs.  But the reality is that no candidate is ever perfect.  So at some point, you have to look beyond the resume.

In my own experience, my best hires – individuals who proved great at their jobs and added the most value to the organization – were not the perfect candidates for the positions I hired them for.  They lacked an advanced degree or their experience was in an unrelated industry, for example.  But I believed these candidate had the confidence, persistence and drive to succeed.  I felt they could master the specific tasks of the job over time and their willingness to learn, to perhaps struggle but keep trying, would help them take the job to the next level.  They had an internal locus of control.

 

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on locus of control.  And do you have a favorite interview question?  Please share it in the comments.

 

(Photo credit: Microsoft)

 

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To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Cultural Fit

culture models This is the second in a three-part series on identifying great candidates through the interview process.  Last week, I proposed that all candidates be evaluated on their sales skills, even for non-sales roles.  This week, I explore how to determine if a candidate fits within your organizational culture.

We all know organizational culture is important.  It gives our organizations their character and sets them apart from other organizations.  At the behavioral level, culture defines what is expected and accepted, and guides our action when there isn’t a policy, procedure or manager to tell us what to do.

Each new employee represents an opportunity to reinforce the organizational behaviors you’ve identified as driving extraordinary results.  So it’s critical to find a candidate who shares the organization’s core values and who can readily adapt to your standards of performance.

Entrepreneur and charter school leader Cameron Curry describes culture as “the actions, attitudes and achievement standards a leader desires for a team to strive for in obtaining excellence.”  These tangible elements of culture can be found in how we answer the questions of process and procedure that arise on a daily basis:

  • How do we approach new people and new ideas?
  • How do we prioritize our work?
  • How do we delegate authority?

Your key cultural drivers will be unique to your organization, but these are questions I’ve found valuable in the past:

Describe three key things you try to accomplish in your first week at a new organization. This question highlights the candidate’s approach to new situations and indicates their high-level priorities.  Is the candidate task focused?  Looking to understand work flows and organizational structure?  Eager to meet new people?

Imagine a situation in which you have multiple tasks due by the end of the day but it is unlikely that you will be able to complete them all. What do you do?  This question allows you to evaluate whether a candidate’s priorities and work style complement your culture.  Do they emphasize meeting customer requirements first?  Or is pleasing their boss top priority?  Do they focus on delegation and utilizing cross-functional teams?  Or do they power through on their own?

How does an employee demonstrate they are ready to take on more authority?  This question offers insight into how the candidate measures achievement, whether they emphasize seniority or merit, and what other factors they consider significant to leadership development (peer and cross-functional feedback, challenging assignments, etc.)

Of course, addressing culture directly is also valuable:

Describe the culture of your last organization. What did you like best about it?  What did you like least?
  There are many elements of culture a candidate can talk about.  Noting which they choose to highlight gives you insight into their own values.

And remember to consider what the individual can add to your culture:

What makes you unique?  Cultural fit doesn’t mean we are looking for cookie-cutter candidates.  Dynamic organizations always require fresh insight and new approaches.  Ideal candidates will share your core values while still bringing their own style and personality to the table.

 

Next week: The single most important thing to look for in a candidate

 

(Photo credit: Microsoft)

 

To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Sales Skills

salesThe key to a great organization is great people.

And identifying great people starts with the hiring process.  How well you evaluate a potential employee’s skills, cultural fit and overall personality will dramatically impact your team’s future performance.

To help you get it right, I’ve put together a three-part series on evaluating candidates.

First up: Sales Skills

In his book To Sell Is Human, Dan Pink posits that like it or not, all of us are in sales.  Or what he calls “non-sales selling“.  We might not all be selling a specific product, but we’re all trying to move others to do something.  Pink suggests that 40% of our time at work is spent persuading, influencing and convincing others.

Does it follow, then, that all job candidates should be evaluated on their sales skills, at least to some degree?  I think so.

I look for three things in an effective salesperson:  Resilience, Relationships and Relevance.  (Sorry, I can’t resist a good alliterative list.)

Resilience – Effective sales people respond positively to setbacks.  They accept rejections as a necessary part of the job. They are self-confident, tenacious and have an overall sense of optimism.

Relationships – Effective sales people are an ally for the customer.  They focus on long-term customer value and are able to work with all kinds of people.  They have the emotional intelligence to adapt to the needs of a particular situation or person.

Relevance – Effective sales people are able to identify key drivers of behavior.  They know how to ask the right questions and bring clarity to a situation.  They focus on the benefits of their product/idea/objective and easily convey them to their customer.

To evaluate these characteristics in the interview process, try these questions:

Describe a situation in which you weren’t successful.  How did you recover from this setback? Resilient candidates will focus on what they learned from failure and how they applied it to their future successes.

Describe a situation in which you built a positive relationship with someone very different from yourself?  This question is intentionally broad and open-ended.  It allows you to see how the candidate interprets and adapts to differences.

How would you sell me this pen?  This is a classic scenario in sales interviews.  For the non-sales candidate, this is a good way to see how well they think on their feet.  Did they start with questions?  Did they identify your needs?  Did they sell the benefits of the pen for your particular situation?

Other things to look for:

A good collaborator is an expert at asking questions.  During the interview, did the candidate ask follow up questions to topics you introduced?

And finally, remember the old ABC’s of sales?  Always Be Closing.  How did the candidate end the interview?  Did they express their enthusiasm for the position?  Did they identify where they could bring value to your business?  And ultimately, did they ask for the job?

 

Next week: Evaluating Cultural Fit

 

This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.

 

(Photo credit: Microsoft)