Ace the Interview: Keys to Getting to the Core of Interview Candidates
by Jon Player

In the spa and hospitality industry, where relationships make a difference, selecting successful team members can distinguish a good business from a great one. And yet, hiring managers report that selecting and interviewing team members falls low on their priority list. Given the difference between the importance of selection and the lack of emphasis, mistakes can create significant consequences.

Hiring successful people, in short, is difficult. Managers resist investing time in a process that often yields low results. Even then, when leaders give selection the time it deserves, understanding a candidate at their core and how they might fit into the organization takes time and intentionality.

The fundamental challenge for most managers is finding a way to devote the resources needed to hire right. How then, do we efficiently identify which candidates will have the highest probability of success in a role?

The key in successful selection is finding “the match”—the synergy between the needs of a job and the skills of a candidate.

Finding the Truth of the Job

We can think of each role in a business as a single unit within the whole—a specific job that requires a specific set of skills. Most job postings and job descriptions focus on technical competencies, duties, education, experience and certifications. And as experienced leaders know, success in a position rarely depends on technical skills alone.

A therapist most certainly needs technical skills to deliver a great massage and succeed in their position. But the greater degree of their success depends on factors beyond their technical skillset. They need to be committed to your specific job and your organization. They also need the skills to work well with a team of therapists and professionals with varying personalities, while understanding the mission of a company.

We think of every job as needing a combination of three unique sets of skills:

1)Technical skills required to execute the job.

2)Demonstrated commitment skills.

3)Personality and leadership skills required for excellence in the role.

Each skill set has an impact on the success of the candidate in a specific job—some more than others depending on the position, the amount of influence across the organization and the interaction required with customers and your team. As a hiring manager, understanding and detailing the specific skills that influence a candidate’s success enhances your ability to find the match for the job.

Finding the Truth of the Candidate

The face-to-face interview is the single most impactful time to evaluate a candidate. In most cases, interviews flounder on the surface. Candidates prepare rehearsed answers and put on their “best self” for a short period of time. Not to say that candidates intend to obscure the truth, but their goal is singular: to get the job. And uncomfortable, rushed or desperate interviewers can make significant hiring decisions based on inadequate information.

Because of this dynamic, a well-structured and contemplative interview provides the primary opportunity to cut past the shiny veneer of the candidate. Yet most hiring managers overthink the interview, confusing effectiveness with cleverness. Lines of questions intended to keep the candidate off-balance or break the cycle of rehearsed answers often tend to cause the candidate to protect the truth even more. Instead, allow the conversation to build on information the candidate shares—creating depth of a topic rather than redirecting them. Focusing on what the candidate says, rather than what you want them to say, will place them at ease and more likely to reveal their true motivations.

We see the goal of an interview as an opportunity to know the candidate deeply and determine whether they make the best fit for your job. In practice, getting to the truth of the candidate is quite simple. A strong interview starts with structure – understand and focus on the specific skillset that will make a candidate successful in your business. Are they committed to serving a retirement population, interested in a specific style of massage, have the personality skills to deal with demanding clientele or unique personalities in your group? Those factors deepen a candidate’s potential success in a role.

For the candidate, the single strongest predictor for future results is past behavior. In the interview, ask the candidate for examples of how they’ve handled situations that would inform your specific circumstances. Ask simple questions, such as “Can you tell me a time where you had a client who was not satisfied with your services, and how did you handle that?” When talking about “weaknesses,” resist the urge to ask the candidate to self-assess. Instead, ask them about a “time when they were unsuccessful and what they learned from the experience.”

Ultimately, the most successful candidates will “match” your job, creating a win-win relationship. Identifying the unique skill sets needed for your specific job and conducting an interview where both you and the candidate feel invested will increase the likelihood of you finding a candidate who not only can do the job, but also leverage their unique skill sets to excel in your organization.

JON PLAYER is a lawyer-turned-leadership trainer, speaker and coach at the Bell Leadership Institute. He spoke at the 2019 ISPA Conference & Expo on best practices for hiring; he also led a separate session on performance reviews.