Category Archives: Interviewing

The Art of Interviewing – These Tools Can be Your Best Friends!

imageInterviewing can be tricky. You may spend a good amount of time with a candidate and still feel that you hardly know the person. The problem could be on the either side. Maybe you’re not asking the right questions to elicit good response from the candidate, or the candidate may not be good at articulation. Either ways, the issue is related to communication.

So, how do you break this communication barrier? Here are two tools that can prove handy:

1.      The “5-Why” Principle

2.      The “Tell me more” Probe

Conversation Tool #1:

The “5-Why” Principle was devised by Toyota and is used to find out the root cause of a problem. The idea is to ask “why” multiple times, such that the answer to the first “why” forms the basis for the next “why,” and repeating it till you get to the underlying cause of the problem. It is believed that one can achieve this in 5 iterations.

You can use this principle in your everyday interview conversations to understand your candidate better. For example, use it when you want to know:

  • Why the person is looking out for a new job
  • Why the person has applied specifically for your organization
  • Why the person feels she is a good candidate for the role being offered

Just pick up one question at a time and keep asking the why-based follow up questions till you have got the desired answer.

Conversation Tool #2:

The “Tell me more” probe is when you ask the candidates to provide more details about something. It can be about a project, topic, person, or situation. This tool can help you get more clarity on the candidate’s answers, understand his underlying thought process, and also verify his claims.

Here are some of the “tell me more” variations that you may use:

  • Tell me more about it.
  • What exactly do you mean by XYZ?
  • Can you give me an example?

Try using the above more often and you’ll see yourself mastering the art.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Please share your comments in section below.

About the Author: Vineet Arora is the Chief Executive of TalentNiti, a boutique talent search company catering to IT, Hi-Tech, and Consulting/Research sectors. He can be reached at



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3 Key Hiring Principles for Startups


Hiring the first set of employees can be a daunting task for any startup. Having hired for various clients, many of them being startups, and also for our own organization, we believe the following can be easily considered as the key mantras for successful hiring:

  1. Hire Slow, Fire Fast

As a startup and especially if you’re investor-funded, you may be under extreme pressure to scale up quickly. “We need to quickly ramp up the team and launch the product at the earliest” – is a common conversation point in discussion rooms.

However, hiring too fast can actually prove to be counter-productive and you may run the risk of decreasing your “Talent Density” (a concept made popular by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings) i.e., the percentage of high performers in your organization. You should be very careful about the talent mix your organization should have. The right mix can help you roll out products timely, have more meaningful investor discussions, smoothen operations, and most importantly, shape the cultural DNA of the organization.

Having even one bad hire can put some serious brakes on your success journey. Rather than procrastinating in the attempt to make the relationship work or surrendering yourself to escalation of commitment, it’s better to immediately let go of the employee. For one person, you can’t risk affecting the morale of several other employees. Some people might get offended by the term “firing” but laying off doesn’t mean you have do it in an insensitive manner. You should always be compassionate during such layoffs and may also consider offering severance packages. 

  1. Hire the “Best Fit,” Not the “Best”

Hiring the best talent seems like a cure-all solution to many startups for their talent acquisition ailments. As a recruitment consultant, we often hear such statements from our clients:

  • “We want to hire from first rate Institutes only.”
  • “Let’s just poach people from Company X [market leader in the industry].”
  • “We are willing to pay handsome package to rockstar developers. We can even buy-out their notice period if that’s an issue.”

While strong credentials and impressive track record on the CV may seem like the most reasonable factors, they may not be sufficient to predict the future performance of the candidate. For example, the person might have performed well in a team earlier but may not be able to take full ownership of a work stream independently. Or, the person might have successfully led a large team of programmers in the previous organization but may not feel comfortable doing the heavy lifting required to get things done in a smaller setup.

So what you actually need to look for is someone who can be “good fit” for your organization – both technically and culturally.

  1. Hire Objectively, Not Based On Gut

Hiring managers would agree that hiring decisions are often taken within the first few minutes of the conversation with the candidate. You get a feeling whether you’re going to hire the person or not. Sometimes, it all boils down to the “likeability” of the candidate. However, such decisions based primarily on a gut instinct may go wrong. Have you ever been in a situation when you almost believed that the candidate would turn around the fortunes of your company, only to find later that the person couldn’t perform even the basic tasks?

To avoid such surprises and minimize error, start including more objectivity in your hiring process. Look for the actual skills and behaviour of the potential hires by creating coding challenges, conducting technical and behavioural assessments, performing psychometric analysis, and including role plays.

What best practices do you follow while hiring for your organization? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Posted by Vineet Arora, Co-founder, TalentNiti

Image courtesy: Mashable

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Hire for ATTITUDE, Not Just Knowledge and Skills

AttitudeHave you found yourself in a position when you hired someone who was extremely impressive during the interview but didn’t perform well after joining the organization? Ever wondered what went wrong?

Well, you hired the wrong person, and it’s the hiring process that needs to be blamed. You probably focused on the candidate’s knowledge and skills, but missed one key component – ATTITUDE.

A “successful” hire is the one who possesses all the three: Attitude (A), Skills (S), and Knowledge (K), or simply put “ASK.”

  1. Knowledge – It is the understanding of the domain related to the job. If you are hiring someone to work in the Telecom industry, you would want the person to have at least some basic knowledge of that domain.
  2. Skills – These reflect the ability of the person to perform tasks associated with the job. If the job requires the person to manage projects, you need to evaluate for project management skills. If it’s a customer-facing role, communication and negotiation skills become most important, and so on.
  3. Attitude – It is shaped by the intrinsic beliefs of the person. It defines the person’s behavior i.e., how well the person will use his knowledge and skills to perform the job. It influences how well the person will adapt to the new work environment, respond to and internalize new teachings, deal with failure, work with colleagues, and so forth.

While it’s easy to coach the person to acquire new knowledge and skills, it’s hard to influence and shape his attitude.

Therefore, it becomes even more prudent to assess for attitude. So, how do you really find out if the candidate has the right attitude for the job? Here’s a two-step process that you may find useful:

Step 1: Identify key job-related attitudinal behaviors – First, define what are the key behaviors required for succeeding in the job. For example, if you are hiring for a high-stress customer-servicing role, your ideal hire would be someone who is patient and has a calm and composed temperament. If you are hiring for a teaching profile, the best fit would be someone who is caring, has empathy, and encourages creativity.

Step 2: Ask targeted questions to test for those specific behaviors – Once you know the desired behaviors, you should focus on behavioral questions to identify suitable candidates. Ask them how they reacted to/dealt with a similar situation in the past.

Here are some sample questions:

  • Tell me about a situation when you had to deal with a difficult customer and how you handled it. [Temperament]
  • How do you make out what your team members are feeling? [Empathy]
  • What did you do when you received negative feedback from your manager? [Resilience]
  • Have you had an experience of working in a team that didn’t get along well? What did you do?  [Team playing]
  • Describe a situation when you were able to save yourself time or money? [Resourcefulness]

So, what are your thoughts on the ASK principle. What techniques do you use to assess candidates’ ASK? Let us know in the comments below.

Posted By Mallika Arora, Co-founder, TalentNiti


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