A Different Approach to Hiring?

Over the years I have hired a some stars and some near misses as well.  Upon reflection my hires generally fall into four groups:

  • Intelligent, motivated, with great interpersonal skills (IQ, MQ, EQ).  These are our stars, who are promoted quickly.
  • Intelligent, motivated, with poor interpersonal skills (IQ, MQ).  Despite their talents and eagerness, they irritate their fellow workers.  They come across as smug, self-important, or bossy.  This is especially irritating when they are the new kid on the block and they dismiss the collective wisdom of their peers.  They may actually have a better way, but they are resisted at every step by the coworkers they have insulted.
  • Smart, gets along with peers, but does just enough not to get fired (IQ, EQ). These unmotivated employees stubbornly refuse to go the extra mile or take on a project that would showcase their capabilities.  The attitude seems to be “show me the money” first.  Without eagerly stepping up to demonstrate or enhance their skills they are never promoted.  Which in turn means they usually become sour and resentful, often accompanied by a sense of indignant entitlement.
  • Friendly, willing but cannot think for themselves (EQ, MQ).  I have hired a few employees who demonstrated all the soft qualities needed to be a great employee.  Unfortunately it turned out that they were never able to work independently.  They seemed to require their assignments to be a kind of rote “paint by numbers” deal.  This kind of employee always trips me up, because I think if I could just train them better, or send them to one more workshop, things would turn around.  Things seldom do.

I have come to see that three basic qualities need to all be present to be a successful employee: intelligence and aptitude (IQ), interpersonal skills (emotional intelligence, or EQ) and intrinsic motivation (MQ).  I googled MQ, and yes, it is a term in use.  It is generally short for Motivational Questionnaire.  I use it here to mean motivational quotient.

I think it is fair to say that if a person possesses none or only one of the three qualities they are fairly easy to spot and reject during the interview process. The risk is in selecting a candidate with just two of three qualities, and suffering the consequences later.

So now I am asking myself, how should you go about interviewing candidates?

First, I don’t recommend personality tests.  I am aware of the Myers-Briggs assessment, and have been required to take this test from time to time.  I seem to remember I was an INTJ.  What that tells a prospective employer about my potential success in the job I don’t really know.  Surely we need a range of personalities at a worksite.  Is one type more motivated, creative and emotionally intelligent than any other?  I rather doubt it.  Vladimir Putin is supposedly an INTJ, which makes me shudder a bit.  I am certain that I don’t have his raging ego.  So if we are both in the same category then I say that the categories don’t mean much.

Second, you must decide what level of minimum job skills you require, and then test for those.  Everyone who possesses the required basic proficiency moves on as a candidate, even if they don’t have exactly matching experience in your industry.

Third is the interview itself.  The purpose of the job interview, then, is to score candidates on the three qualities, and choose a candidate who sufficiently demonstrates all three.

Copyright: FiscalShare January 4, 2014

Copyright: FiscalShare January 4, 2014

In pondering this, I realize that my job interview questions have probably been lacking, or perhaps even more likely, I have been listening for the wrong things in a candidate’s responses.

I could see having three columns on a scoring sheet (IQ, EQ, MQ) and adding or subtracting points as the candidate responds to questions.

  • IQ: demonstrates creativity, problem solving skills and ability to learn, and adeptly applies specific job knowledge.
  • EQ: demonstrates the ability to get things done with and through other people in a constructive way while maintaining a positive work environment, and
  • MQ: demonstrates passion for the work, a desire to do it well and has great follow through (actually buckles down and does it).

Probably the best way to score a candidate in this manner is to ask for specific and detailed examples of how they handled past challenges, and keep pushing for more detail.  Asking what they might do in a hypothetical situation is more likely to elicit something they read in a book, or some other “right” answer.

In a unionized environment, the hiring process is bargained to some extent, so changes are harder to make.  I’d love to know if anyone else has implemented anything similar to the above, and what have your results been?

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