In the book, Who, A Method for Hiring, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street, there is a quote that hit home, "common interview processes are almost a random predictor of job performance...traditional interviewing is simply not predictive of job performance."

Why did it hit home? I've been parts of many interviewing processes where the process feels haphazard and too often the group feedback runs from "good guy" to "didn't like them" with little structure or sense that a systematic process was followed to ensure the right decision is being made.

Smart and Street suggest using four archetypal interviews that "collect facts and data about somebody's performance track record that spans decades." They kindly make available templates for each interview and examples here. The four interview classes are:

  1. Screening interview

  2. Topgrading interview (TM)

  3. Focused interview

  4. Reference interview

The screening interview, short and phone-based, is designed to cull the list of non-A players. Screening people out saves tons of time and money downstream. Example questions: what are your career goals, what would your last five bosses say about you, what are you good/not good at...

The TopGrading interview is a chronological review of a person's career beginning with education and then asking five questions for every job in the candidate's employment history. What were you hired to do? What accomplishments are you most proud of? What were some low points during that job? Who were the people you worked with? Why did you leave that job? They suggest digging into performance vs plan and prior years and performance vs peers.

The focused interview moves beyond generalities into an investigation of the candidate's specific skills. The goal is to understand their prior history of success and achievement directly related to quantifiable targets of success, cultural norms/fit, and vocational competenciesThe reference interviews are designed to validate what you have learned across past bosses, peers, subordinates, and customers. From the Topgrading interview, you will have learned the names of the key people who have worked with and managed the candidate. The author's stress the importance of "off list" references, ie don't just call the names the candidate provides but leverage professional networks to backdoor the candidate.

A few interviewee red flags are highlighted in the book; no mention of past failures, exaggeration, speaks badly of past peers and bosses, cannot explain prior career moves, etc.

If you feel your company's interviewing processes are too random, I suggest buying Who and implementing their gSmart A Method to Hiring. As with any internal process, using a well-documented best practice provides a common framework, vocabulary, and workflow that helps the team better understand how to work together to realize a common goal. The goal is getting A players on the team.