Assess Motivation to Yield Better Hires

By Theresa Minton-Eversole Apr 22, 2013
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LAS VEGAS—If behavior-based interviewing is such an effective method of identifying qualified candidates for a job, why does so much research show that employers are regularly dissatisfied with their new hires? asked Carol Quinn, CEO of the Delray Beach, Fla., hiring consultancy Hire Authority Inc.

“Traditional behavior-based interviewing does a reasonable job of assessing the candidate's skills, but it is not effective as a predictor of future performance because it fails to take motivation into account,” she said during her session at the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2013 Talent Management Conference & Exposition, held April 15-17. “Just because people are good at doing something doesn’t mean they love to do it. If hiring for skills and competency alone were enough, all organizations would have in their workforce would be high-potential employees.”

But that’s not the case, she said, so there are still holes in the hiring process that need to be filled. Companies must move beyond assessing job candidates’ skills and assess how motivated applicants will be to go above and beyond average achievement, Quinn explained.

Motivation-based Interviewing

There are three components to motivation-based interviewing (MBI), which Quinn said her company designed 15 years ago to help identify potential high performers. The three things that all high achievers have in common are attitude, skill and passion. “When these three come together they create a synergy, or self-motivation, that is greater than the sum of the individual components,” she said.

“Passion generates energy and motivation; it kicks a person into high gear. It pulls a person in and personally involves them. For people to be highly self-motivated, they must have a high degree of interest and passion for what they are doing. No substitute for passion exists.”

Achievement levels are influenced by individuals’ “Yes, I can” or “No, I can’t” attitude when someone faces obstacles on the job, she said. “We all have a bit of both optimism and pessimism in us, and our yes/no split decisions are a learned way of thinking often based on whether or not we think we know how to do something.”

The trouble is, both responses are self-fulfilling prophecies, Quinn said. “There are people who believe the presence or absence of obstacles determines one’s success. But obstacles are constant; it is the attitude that’s the variable. The ‘I can’t’ attitude blocks self-motivation because it unconsciously stifles one’s problem-solving ability.”

MBI enhances the information-gathering process by adding to and improving the interview questions to help reveal candidates who have that positive, can-do attitude.

Case in point: Unlike behavior-based questions such as, “Tell me about a time you went above and beyond to satisfy a customer,” the MBI approach requires the following questions to assess not only skill but attitude and passion when the candidate is presented with an obstacle or a difficult job situation:

“Tell me about a specific time when… .”

“Tell me about the actions you took.”

“What were the end results?”

This line of questioning, which Quinn calls the OS-E-A method (pronounced “Oh say”), assesses candidates’ skills and ability to handle the job requirements, as well as their attitude toward or predominant reaction to obstacles.

Career-Fit Assessment Needed, Too

Quinn said it’s also important to ask questions that will reveal an applicant’s likes, strengths and goals and what doesn’t motivate them. Compare that information with job duties and responsibilities.

The energy that a person’s passion generates needs to be expressed, she added. “When the job duties match with what motivates an employee, this energy is released into that job.”

Finally, Quinn said that to improve the quality of their hires, companies must train interviewers and implement a minimum hiring standard. She recommends that the standard for each potential candidate require a minimum assessment of a 3 for skill level (based on a five-point scale) and show predominance for self-motivation and a predominant career-fit match.

“You can’t learn how to hire high achievers and then not have a minimum hiring standard!”

Theresa Minton-Eversole is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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