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Interviewing Around the Edges

By: Michael Shugarman

Man being interviewed by a woman

Making a hiring decision is one of the riskiest propositions in the consulting business. A bad hire can end up threatening a valued client relationship your company has worked so hard to build, so saying “yes” to a candidate carries a high amount of risk. Saying “no” also carries the lost opportunity risk if you’re too restrictive on your hiring decision. The goal of a strong interview process is to minimize that risk for both the company and the candidate by focusing on three primary areas; skill set capabilities, cultural fit, and motivation.

The skill set interview

  • The “What” interview.
  • Value Proposition: What value will this candidate bring to their role at our clients?
  • Are the candidate’s skills (both hard skills and soft skills) and experiences what we expect them to be?

The cultural fit interview

  • The “How” interview.
  • Value Proposition: What value will this candidate bring to their role in our company?
  • Will they collaborate and embrace the employee ownership model that has made our company successful?

The motivation interview

  • The “Why” interview.
  • Value Proposition: What value will the role bring to the candidate?
  • Do they really enjoy doing what we want them to do? Will they stay long term?

Cover the Easy(er) Stuff First

The first two interview areas are typically easier to assess for a very valid reason: both the interviewer and interviewee have the same purpose. Every candidate comes to an interview ready to put their best face on; dressed well, ready to engage, resume’s polished with the most impressive set of experiences, answers prepared. The job of the skill set interview is to determine if that “best face” is really good enough. Both the interviewer and interviewee are focusing on the same thing.

During the cultural fit interview, the shared purpose is expressed explicitly in the word “fit”. Both people are talking like…”Hey, here’s how I like to do things. Here’s how you like to do things. Are we pretty similar?” In both instances, the interviewer and interviewee are assessing the same thing, the candidate in the ideal situation.

The Motivation Interview

Successful skill set and cultural fit interviews will get you 80% there, but you still have significant risk remaining. Being able to assess motivation during an interview process will help you close that risk gap even more. The biggest difference with a motivation interview is that now the interviewee and interviewer are at cross-purposes. The candidate still wants to put their best face on, because it’s an interview after all!

As the interviewer though, you now want to get behind the mask, peek around the edges, and see what lies behind. What are they passionate about? What do they want to spend their discretionary time and energy on? What makes them go and, sometimes more importantly, what makes them stop? Do they really want to work for your company? Or are they just running away from their current job? Are they just looking for something different? Are they just looking for a stepping stone to the next phase of their career or a resume/experience builder?

Anybody can be happy doing something new for 1 month, 6 months, and maybe even 12 months. But ensuring that you’re hiring someone who naturally wants to do what your company does, you‘re one step closer to creating a long-time, high-value employee, eager to take on the challenges your company and clients present. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where we’ll provide some helpful tips for performing a motivation interview.

Michael Shugarman-headshot

Michael Shugarman


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