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Hiring the Right Candidate; Know What Makes a Person Tick

what_makes_you_tick_by_speechlessly-d4qo5m8One of the key factors that will determine whether someone will be successful as a member of your team is how well your environment connects with their core motivations.

Early in the conversation with a prospective candidate, I want to get to the heart of what drives them.

Of course, I ask the question “What motivates you?” at some point in the interview (I also corroborate this with a candidate’s references), but throughout the interview I am listening carefully to their answers to other questions – and to their questions – to gain insight into what makes this person tick. I compare all the other information against the response to the “motivation” question to see if it all matches up.

The best way to find out what really motivates someone is to take a look at the factors that influence how they make decisions and choices.

Here are the questions that I ask BEFORE I ask “What motivates you?”

  1. Why did you think it would be worthwhile for for us to talk? (I ask this question because 99% of the prospective candidates I speak with are people I approached, not the other way around. If you are interviewing people that responded to a job posting, then you can change the question to something like “What was it about this job opportunity that got your attention?”
  2. If you could change one thing about your current situation to make it more ideal, what would that be?
  3. When you are at the point of deciding whether to accept a job offer, what will be the top three criteria you will consider in making this decision – the make-or-break factors?
  4. Of all your jobs so far, which one stands out as the one in which you were most passionate (or fulfilled)? Of course, then you unwrap the reasons for this.

Finding out the reasons for leaving jobs is standard in interviewing, but in this case, the purpose is to gain insight into motivations. In walking through the resume, find out what attracted the candidate to each job – and why he or she left – with your antennae up for what this tells you about the factors that influence important career-related decisions for this individual. Find out what happened (or didn’t happen) between the time they started and the time that they left that caused them to part ways.

If you see discrepancies between the responses, then try to find out if something happened to change their motivations — such as personal or professional growth or some sort of significant life change, however, note that base motivations don’t change as often. If a person is motivated by achievement, or by making a difference, or solving big problems, or by a sense of security, this may take on variations, but you will see a common thread that highlights this.  On the other hand, discrepancies may point out that the person just isn’t very self-aware, or they are saying the things they think you want to hear. This does happen in interviews.

What do you do with this understanding of the person’s motivations?

  1. Well, first of all, you take an honest look at how the person’s motivations will match your culture and what your company and the job have to offer. If the person thrives on autonomy but would be reporting to a micromanager, it won’t work. If the person needs a clear career path for a sense of achievement and you can’t offer this, it is not a fit.
  2. In extending an offer, you can present the offer in such a way as to reinforce the person’s thinking around how the new opportunity will fit with their motivations.
  3. If the person joins your company, understanding motivations will help you to create the best situation for retaining a valuable team member.
  4. Understanding motivations will help you to avoid falling prey to a counteroffer. For instance, if you know that the person is motivated relationally, then you can find ways to begin to solidify the person’s relationships with the new team while waiting out the two-week notice with the old company.
  5. Understanding motivations may influence your decision to hire someone who doesn’t meet all of the qualifications you were ideally seeking, or to turn down a candidate who looks perfect on paper.

I am not encouraging you to become an amateur psychologist, but rather to ask the right questions and to pay attention to the implications of what an interview reveals. For each of us, our motivations influence how well we perform in our work and the strength of our commitment. Building a winning team requires hiring people who are firing on all cylinders and who have the greatest potential for thriving in your company. Thriving people build a thriving company. Right?

Donna White

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