Does Past History Help to Predict Future Performance?

May 16, 2018
Mike Lejeune
Alter your hiring practices by solely concentrating on "skill" but focus on how a potential employee handled the situation and make sure that what you are looking for is a part of their character.

The recruiting process is supposedly designed to ferret out talent a potential employee possesses, to provide insight in selecting the right person to join our team. So why do people appear to succeed in previous roles, then fall short of expectations when we hire them? Development of recruiting approaches in recent years has honed the process of behavioral style interview techniques to minimize this experience. Simply put, interview questions should prod respondents to explain where in their employment history they have exhibited similar skills and capabilities to your needs. If they successfully accomplished it for someone else, wouldn’t it make sense they would be successful with you?

Jamey Rootes, President of the Houston Texans of the National Football League, and I discussed interview questions that provided insight into successful hiring. I was anxious to visit with Jamey, given his success with IBM, Proctor and Gamble, developing a professional soccer team in Ohio and then leading the front office for the Texans. He joined when the franchise license was first purchased for $700 million (only the right to develop a team, not purchasing an existing team!) and in less than fifteen years amassed a leadership team that built the Texans into an organization recognized globally as one of the most valued franchises in professional sports.

The Texans are building a world-class organization, comprised of exceptional athletes and a support staff who understand the importance of creating special moments for their fans. Their focus is on selecting people for their organization who believe in working as a team, off the field as well as on, and identifying talent where customer service is a part of the person, not just something someone could do.

When asked about favorite interview questions, Jamey explained: “you hire attitude over skill and you make sure that what you are looking for is a part of their character”. On the surface, it seemed like he was looking for previous experiences or as I phrased it “behavioral style interviews”. He corrected me by pointing out that we ask the question of where they may have dealt with a customer service situation, what was the environment, what was the result, what were the parameters of their role in the process. His focus was on how they handled the situation, not just looking for a particular skill. The key for him, however, was the follow-up question. “Give me another example”. After they completed their response, he followed again with “Give me one more”. His view was that successful hires center around confirming that the criteria we were seeking had to be a part of a person’s character, of their natural tendency and not simply an experience they had.

How many times do we breathe a sigh of relief, checking off a box that someone appears to have the difficult skill or knowledge we are seeking? Successful interview questions unveil repeatable, sustained experiences that begin to show how a person thinks, approaches circumstances and reveals attitude. Because someone appears to possess talent in an area does not indicate how effectively or how consistently they will use it, especially under deadlines or pressure.

“Give me another” should be a standard part of our interview process (unless you are hiring a bartender), to help us determine how much impact the past will truly have on the future.