When you’re hiring someone for a job, it’s natural to make a decision based on applicants’ résumés. But experience isn’t always a good predictor of the future. Instead, it’s important to hire based on behavior, which requires a different hiring process and mindset, says Omar L. Harris, author of Be a J.E.D.I. Leader, Not a Boss: Leadership in the Era of Corporate Social Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.
“A lot of times, we ask for advanced degrees or certain years of experience, but none of that is ultimately relevant,” he says. “You can probably find examples in your own company of people who had far less experience than you’re requesting in a job description, but they learned the job and did very well. You can take people from all walks of life and help them thrive.”
Behaviors Over Experience
Arbitrary skillsets and a certain amount of experience aren’t objective measures of how someone will perform on the job. Instead, Harris says managers should rethink the hiring process, going back to the basics and reexamining job descriptions.
“Consider what are the true requirements for the job,” he says. “Then begin looking for the behaviors that make someone successful instead of looking for educational pedigree or experience. High-performance DNA in employees is very important because most of today’s work is done in collaboration with teams versus superstar individuals.”
Harris suggests looking internally at your best performing teams and employees and analyze what they do that makes them so valuable. Then source people who demonstrate similar behaviors, such as having passion for the work, company, and the purpose of the organization.
“You’re looking for people who are solution-oriented versus problem-oriented, and that are mature enough to deal with the inevitable conflict that happens on the job,” he explains. “It basically comes down to people who have stamina to work to get work done. Then source high-performance DNA in your candidates right from the beginning, versus focusing on pedigree or previous experience as a proxy for what someone’s going to do at your company.”
A Three-Step Hiring Process
Once you shift your search from experience to traits, Harris suggests using a three-step hiring process. The first is the HR screening which makes sure the candidate has the minimum mandatory experience to do the job. While experience shouldn’t be the major focus, candidates should possess basic skill sets.
Once a candidate moves to the next step, which is the interview phase, Harris asks them business case questions about how they would solve specific problems they may experience on the job.
“In 20 minutes, you see them think on their feet,” he says. “You see them in the role, and how they would solve problems that are relevant to your business.”
The final step is what Harris calls the WHOM interview, which stands for work-ethic, heart, optimism, and maturity. Hiring based on WHOM prioritizes work-ethic, shared purpose, passion, solution orientation, and maturity over previous experience and educational background.
During this phase, Harris asks behavioral-based interview questions instead of asking a candidate to expand on their résumé. For example, “Tell me about a time where you had a deadline to complete on a project, but your boss asked you to do something that took you away from your work. How did you handle that?” Or “Tell me about a time you had to work closely with someone who had a different working style than you. How did you make it work?”
“I have 32 questions and I ask 16 of those them, rating each answer on a scale of one to five,” says Harris.
Taking a three-prong, behavior-first approach allows you to make sure candidates meet the mandatory minimums during the screening, see them on the job in terms of tackling a business case, and look for high-performance DNA.
“When the privilege of expensive unattainable education and résumé-friendly experience is diminished, you can truly see the human you are hiring for the role,” says Harris.