Jason Lauritsen - Crushing talent dogma to free human potential

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Interviewing for an Unpredictable Future

One of the blogs I follow that consistently provides me with new perspectives and ideas to chew on is Life in Perpetual Beta by Harold Jarache.  Harold has some great vision and ideas about how the organization is changing and what that means to how we learn and do work as part of that organization.

Yesterday, he shared a post that posited an idea that I think is worth some real reflection.  I grew up professionally in the world of recruiting.  And, recruiting as a discipline has been on a quest for years to apply more science and structure to the process, particularly the selection process where we choose who to hire and not hire.  One of these most broadly accepted structures or practices is behavioral interviewing.  If you have been in HR, recruiting or management for any period of time, you have probably been through a few training classes on this technique.

Behavioral interviewing essentially rests on the notion that past performance is the best predictor of future performance.   So, behavioral interviews use questions like, “Tell me about a time when you worked for a manager who you did not like.”  The technique is good and it works when applied skillfully to understand how a person is likely to behave when facing similar situations in the future.

But, what if the landscape we are facing is changing quickly and dramatically?  What if the problems we’ll solve in the near future aren’t problems that have existed in the past?  Does behavioral interviewing and other traditional structures of the selection process (like the resume) go far enough to help us find the right person?

Here’s the excerpt from Harold’s post that got me thinking:

One problem with a résumé is that it only looks backwards, on past achievements. Even behavioural interviews look at how we have dealt with past problems. What about how we prepare for new problems?

I think that asking, “What can you do for the organization today?”, would be a better way to start an interview. Considering that in complex, networked environments, where work is learning and learning is the work, would it not be better to find out how people are learning? Imagine an interview beginning with, “Good day, Mister Jones, please sit down and tell us about your PKM.” Other questions could follow:

  • How do you keep your learning up to date?
  • With whom do you learn?
  • How do you capture your learning?
  • How do you narrate your work? Please show us an example …
  • How do you stay current in your field?
  • How diverse is your network? Could you give us some examples?
  • How would you begin to look at the following problem, which is out of your normal scope of work …

PKM is a concept from Harold’s work called Personal Knowledge Management.  It’s worth reading more about.

I’m not suggesting the we abandon or change our approach to behavioral interviewing.  But, I think that it’s time that we start considering expanding our approach to test how an applicant will deal with a future that is unknown and how he or she will solve problems that they’ve never seen before.  Behavioral interviewing probably doesn’t get us there.   I think the questions posed above might be a great place to start.

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  1. Gail Miller

    In the world of work, where the only constant is change, professional education must be an ongoing priority. The globalization of work and technological advances will continue to change the nature of all jobs. Applicants should be able to explain both their past achievements and their process for staying one step ahead of the ever-changing business landscape.

Jason Lauritsen