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How to ask behavioral interview questions with Ryan Englin

Luke Szyrmer December 15, 2020 51

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Ryan is a recruiter and marketer focused on blue collar hiring. 
This is a continuation of previous discussion with Ryan Englin

  • why 99% of all job ads aren’t fit for their intended purpose
  • the right way to do reference checks (most people get this wrong, if they do them at all)
  • why some people interview well, but act like a train wreck when they show up for work
  • how to help candidates get beyond a stage face when interviewing, so that you have a better assessment of cultural fit
  • What two main factors to consider when hiring remote workers

About Ryan Englin

Engaging, strategic marketing consultant and recruitment marketing expert. Blends talents in brand development with a consultative approach to efficiently recruit and create the ultimate employee experience. Project manager and client advocate. Driven to provide excellence in every interaction and project. Talents in both business management and marketing enable me to coach clients on various aspects of their business so they can generate even stronger results.


I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when hiring remotely is they aren’t focused on the output, they’re focused on the input, how much screen time, how much time are available to answer the phone? Nobody cares about that. If you really think about it, I don’t really care. When you’re available to answer the phone, I hear that when the phone rings and it’s a customer that you’re answering, yeah, it’s. You are listening to the online remotely podcast and the show dedicated to helping lead distributed teams under difficult circumstances.

I’m the host Look Sharp and I’ve participated in a run distributed teams for almost a decade. As a practitioner, I’m speaking with experts on leadership, strategic alignment and work to help you navigate the issues start facing after you get. Welcome back. Today, we have a continuation of the previous discussion with Ryan England, and we cover topics like why 99 percent of all job ads aren’t fit for their intended purpose, the right way to do reference checks. And most people get this wrong if they do them at all.

Why some people interview well, but act like a train wreck when they show up for work. How to help candidates get beyond a stage face when interviewing so that you get a better assessment of cultural fit. And also what the two main factors to consider are when hiring remote only workers. Let’s get right into the show. You mentioned job ads.

When they’re written up, should they be relatively generic to capture everything which a person might be doing? Or are you trying to get people into the culture right from the moment they read the job, getting people fired up and.

Oh, yeah. So this is so I’m very passionate about job ads. OK, OK, great. We have very strong opinions on this. OK, I believe that job ads are a marketing piece. They are a marketing piece. You would never see a car commercial that says, hey, here’s this amazing car. Look how nice it is and luxurious it is. Oh, and by the way, at three thousand miles, you got to change the oil every 5000 miles.

You have to rotate the tires. You would never see that in a car commercial.

Why? Because nobody wants to focus on those details when they’re excited about this new thing. Right.

And so I call that the three cars requirements, responsibilities and rewards, which is ninety nine percent of the job ads out there. Here are the responsibilities. Here’s what you need to do every day. And here’s how we’re going to pay you for it.

Scrap that like get rid of that stuff that is not in the job ad. I think a job ad should be focused on your culture, on that vision I was talking about where’s the bus going? Get people attracted to that and they’ll show up and they’ll do the work. Especially when it comes to front line employees, there is not a lot of employers out there that aren’t willing to teach how to do it your way, but they all focus on skills first and then they’re mad because people work for three weeks and then don’t work out.

And if you focus on that cultural alignment first, you would focus on the vision and you would focus on that, what I call with them, with what’s in it for me and really sell the opportunity. You’ll get higher quality applicants. Now, a lot of people will disagree with me and say, well. If I screen people this way and I put this stuff out there, I’m going to get less applications. And if you really want a lot of applications, be more generic about it, and I’ve never yet met an employer that said, hey, I want more garbage applications, I just want your numbers.

Yeah, but a lot of the industry is focused on that. So I fight with applicant tracking systems all the time about their process because they’re like, oh, well, that’s going to severely limit the number of applications. You get them like perfect. I only want the five applications that I want to see but are going to be relevant if I don’t want hundreds. But there’s this belief that if I don’t get hundreds, I might miss out on a couple of good ones.

But I’ve never had the employer argue with me when I’m like, hey, let’s just focus on the five good ones. And then that’s where you put your effort.

Maybe I’m thinking too much from a white collar and a big company perspective, but is there a regulatory implication to what’s in a job description? If you spend too much of your time not doing something you should be doing or that kind of thing? Yeah, so.

So I’m not a compliance expert or an attorney, so that’s great.

But here’s what I’ll tell you, because I tell you, a lot of organizations have used their job description, what they post on the job boards. They’ve used that to hold employees accountable. And I don’t believe that’s its purpose. I believe its purpose is to get someone to raise their hand and say, hey, I’m interested. If you think about a company in a customer relationship, there’s marketing ads all the time that don’t go into the fine print.

And then what happens when you sign them? When you actually close the customer, there’s a contract. Yeah. And that’s where all the fine print is. And I believe that that process for recruiting should be the same. Your job and your interviews, all of that stuff is it’s akin to the sales and marketing process. The job at is the marketing piece gets people to raise their hand. Then they sit down with the recruiter, who is the salesperson in this example, and then you have this conversation.

Can you provide what we need? Can we provide what you need? Yes, great. Let’s sign an agreement that has all the fine print in it. So from a compliance perspective. Depending on whether or not how much is regulated by EEOC. There is some debate around the job, out around the types of words or phrases you can use as to whether or not they’re inclusive. So I’ve seen a lot of reports that say stop using the word we need a ninja our team, because it’s decidedly masculine.

And they’ve seen that when you use words that tend want to one gender or the other, it reduces the amount of people that would apply from the opposite. And so there are things you have to be careful on in the wording and the phrasing.

From a regulatory perspective, I don’t know that there’s any national laws that say you can’t use the word ninja, but if you do have an inclusion program, you want to make sure that you’re not biased in the ad from a compliance perspective around holding people accountable. How do you fire them all that? I think that happens later on in the process akin to a contract. Here’s your offer letter. Here’s what’s expected of you. Here’s how we’re going to measure results.

Don’t do that in the job. And you don’t need all that stuff in the job at your job as the recruiter is to to figure out can this person do the job? Because the thing about job descriptions. Anybody can apply and anybody can tell you what you want to hear when the rubber meets the road, can they actually prove it? And that’s what I think the recruiting process is for.

Should the recruiting process include some kind of a trial period trial task or is that a bad idea?

So I think it depends on the position you’re hiring for and what that looks like. I think that one thing employers need to be doing is reference checks.

And I’m not talking about the references that are submitted by the employee that’s their best friends and the people that are going to say the best things about them. I love the idea of doing reference checks and saying, hey, these three employers, I want to speak to your old boss, help me set that up. So I think that’s one component of it. In our process. We have what we call the disqualifying interview, which is a skills assessment.

So we’re either going to give you some tasks to do to prove that you can do the work or we’re I have one client that does what I call demo days. They bring the person in for four hours and they put them to work. And it’s a structured process. It’s the same for every applicant for that position. So they know exactly what’s supposed to happen throughout that so that they can have an objective measurement across candidates. And that’s just part of the interview process, is making sure they can do the work.

A lot of times, though, in front line employees, we see that their ability to do the work is usually relegated to one or two tasks that are really easy to test.

So if I’m hiring someone to work with steel and they’re going to well, I can do a welding test in five minutes and know what they’re going to be a decent welder. It’s not like I have to do some big process. So, yeah. So we do include that as part of our process. Hire slow and fire quick. That’s my motto. Take time recruiting people and making sure that vetting them and making sure that you’re validating that can do the work.

Earlier on you mentioned aligning the team around the values.

How does that typically happen in practice when we’re building out what we call our job models, which is essentially the marketing and sales plan for a specific position, we look at how those values should show up in that position. One of our clients, one of their values is if it’s not right, we’re not done. And so we actually go to every position in that company and say, how does the journeyman electrician exemplify if it’s not right, we’re not done?

How does the inside sales rep do it? How does the accountant do it? How does the salesperson do it? And so we look at the ways they would exemplify that. And that’s part of their quarterly reviews. Are they following through on these values? Based on the way we’ve described it, it’s always a conversation with the employee.

So if the employee thinks we don’t have it right, we have that conversation, but we know what to look for. Before we even hire them, because we’ve defined it up front. In terms of minimizing the people who leave, let’s talk about that for a bit, I’m sure I would guess having this cultural fit helps reduce that.

I’ve probably heard this before and people don’t leave jobs at the bosses. So my belief is if an employee if a new employee leaves in the first 90 days of employment, the hiring process myth’s something. It was a bad hiring process or a bad hiring decision. Someone leaves in the first 90 days. If they leave after 90 days, it’s a leadership or a cultural issue. It’s no longer hiring’s responsibility or koenigs responsibility. So it’s important to figure out when people are leaving.

A lot of times in blue collar space, they leave in the first 90 days. They just never stopped looking. They took the job and they just kept looking.

Yeah, well, that’s a hiring issue. We need to solve that. We need to really understand why people people don’t leave for 50 cents more an hour. People don’t leave for a dollar more an hour. They might leave for five dollars more an hour. That’s significant. But they’re not going to leave for a dollar or two more now looking for work.

Across all the surveys I’ve ever seen. Is one of life’s most stressful events for employees. Mm hmm. It’s on that same list as divorce, death of a loved one, relocation. It’s on that same list. So people don’t wake up in the morning.

Oh, I’m going to go look for a new job because I want to be stressed for the next six weeks. You just don’t do it.

So if we know that going in, we also know that people aren’t going to leave for quarter more an hour, 50 cents more an hour, because it’s not worth the stress. So people leave bosses, they don’t leave jobs. Most people you know, if I’m an electrician at one job, I go out and I look for being an electrician. Well, I’m already an electrician here. Why would I want to go be an electrician there? It’s the same thing because I have a different boss, because I have a different environment, a different culture, different purpose.

So when we understand what drives people to look for work.

And we understand that is our culture, that is our values, and we start hiring for that, we’re going to keep people longer because the electrician at one job is at one company is the same as being electrician. Another company, the job is the same. What’s different is the culture and the context.

So that’s a really important piece to retaining people, is understanding that as the employer, if there is a cultural mismatch, how do you handle that?

If the person so so working at the company, we’ve seen this happen.

Sometimes the cultural mismatch is more of a team mismatch than it is the company mismatch. Interesting. Most supervisors, most managers, they’re not the same.

So one leads in the way another leads could be different and it could be just enough off that it looks like it’s a bad cultural fit from an organization perspective, but it’s really just being on the wrong team. And what we’ve seen is we can actually take someone from one team moving to another team. They were low performer under this manager and a high performer under that manager.

That cultural mismatch of that perception of a bad cultural fit could go away just by getting them on the right team.

Really cool. Great. Hi there, this is Luke, and just for a quick bit of back story, this podcast is part of my process to create a book called The Line Remotely, which will cover roughly the same topics as we have on the podcast. If you’d like a free advance copy of the book, I’d be more than happy to give you one. Just to be clear, it’s totally free. There’s eight chapters as of today available for presell and people are buying it right now and this offer will go away as soon as the book is fully launched.

My main request is that you leave a review of the podcast using this podcast dot com slash a line remotely. It’s designed to work on your phone, but you can do it at your desk, too. And then forward me a screenshot of the to customer success at a line remotely dotcom. And I’ll hook you right up. Just take a quick break. Rate this podcast dot com slugline remotely and get your free copy now.

Tell me about your book.

So I wrote a book called Unmasked. It was in March of twenty twenty and we’re like, hey, wait a minute. There are a lot of people that are struggling right now. People were getting furloughed and laid off and there are other people scooping them up at them like they were moving so fast. I was like, how do we help people slow down this process? And so one of the things that I believe is that most people show up to an interview prepared.

To answer canned questions, the same questions they’ve been asked at every job they’ve ever had and every other interview him. Yeah, and I have a Pinterest board that I share with people all the time.

That is all the infographics of how to answer the most popular interview questions for the candidates prepared.

And what I hear a lot is, oh, my gosh, the person that I interviewed is not the person that I hired.

And the the subtitle is How to Hire the Ones You Won’t Want to Fire and happens all the time.

I interview this person. I thought, where have they been all my life? I made them an offer. I hired them three weeks later. I’m like, what was I thinking? This is not the right person for me. And I believe that a lot of that happens because hiring managers don’t do a good enough job and unmasking candidates and getting them to show up authentically. And it’s that authenticity during the interview process on both sides, by the way, it’s that authenticity that sets proper expectations and creates a great runway for a long term healthy relationship, employee employer relationship.

And so inside the book, we talk about how do you do behavioral based interviewing? How do you dig deep into someone’s responses so that you make sure that you’re getting the real answer from them? And how do you knock them off balance just a little bit so that they have no choice but to show up authentically? And so it’s coming up with questions that fit your company. You can’t Google. So actually, the download that I created, that’s a supplement to the book, it’s twenty two behavioral based interview questions that you cannot find on Google.

Everybody does. Every employee is like, oh, I got an interview coming in. A couple of questions and they’ll Google.

They’ll like interview questions and they’ll get the same laundry list that all of the job seekers are getting so and so we have to rethink that process and and be different. You know, people do that all the time in marketing. How do I be different? How do I stand out? So they never think about that from a recruiting perspective.

So what exactly do you mean by behavioral in this case, like the behavioral angle behind the questions?

Yeah, so it’s really focused on their natural traits. So we all it’s human beings. We all have what I call a natural self. It’s our natural behavior when we don’t have any stress or outside influence. This is how we naturally behave. And a lot of people may have heard things like, are you an extrovert or an introvert? Naturally, I’m an extrovert. I love people. I love talking to people. I love being in front of crowds of people standing up on stage.

I love that.

But if there’s a lot going on in my life, things like relationship issues or lack of sleep or health problems or those kinds of things, they can cause me to change my behavior temporarily to resolve those other stressors. As I just said, that looking for a job is one of life’s most stressful events.

So if you know that looking for a job is a stressor, odds are people are adapting and becoming their adaptive self to get through the stress in a way that they feel can sustain them. And so what we want to do is we want to break that down. We want their adaptive self to go away.

Because a lot of times that’s what people hire on the hire that adapt itself, well, once you’re done looking for a job, the stress goes away. Guess what? Now I get to show up naturally again. And if you hired me based on that, that’s stressful. You’ve heard of fight or flight. There’s danger. Imagine that someone was in danger and you were making a decision about whether or not they’d be a good fit. And then they come work for you and they’re no longer in danger.

That’s going to be a different person. Yeah, totally. So we really need to look at what’s their natural self. How do we get through that? That. Facade they’ve put up to handle the stress and how do we get to who they’re actually going to be and then three weeks go by and they’re no longer stressed. But we interviewed them based on that person, not the person that was under stress.

So what would be an example of a question like that?

Yeah, so one of them that I think a lot of people talk about is you’ve probably heard this question, where do you see yourself in five years? There’s the behavioral component to that. But I think the context is often misinterpreted is with this employer. And so what we do is we say, you know what? Forget work. Where do you see yourself personally in five years? What are your personal hopes and dreams? And we’ll often find people say, you know what, I want to buy my first house.

Well, great, let’s talk about how we can do that together and now we get to have a conversation about can I as the employer, support them in buying their first house? And when we have that conversation now, all of a sudden we’re focused last on the work, which we’re not focused on right now. We should be focused on cultural fit and we’re focused on is what motivates this person. Getting to buy their first house, is that a motivation that I can fulfill as an employer?

Because if I can’t, then we need to have that conversation or we need to stop the conversation because it’s not going to make sense. Another one that we do is we put a lot of processes in place. So one of the things that we like to do as the process is see how people react. Differently, depending on who they’re talking to. We have a process that will actually walk an employee or a prospective employee around and meet the team, and one of the people that we go to meet is in on the interview process.

We will walk away as the hiring manager and let them have a conversation. And that employee knows be asking behavioral based questions. And they’re actually going to come back as part of the interview process later and let us know, how did that person respond when they weren’t under the stress of an interview from their future boss?

So we put a lot of processes in verses like specific questions. One of the behavior questions that I like is to ask about disagreeing with a boss, and it’s not. Tell me about a time when you disagreed with the boss. It’s let’s put it in context. You came up with a great idea. You think that it’s really going to support either your team or the customer and your boss hates it. They’ve told you publicly that they hate your idea.

What do you do and how are you going to respond to that? That’s not a question you can prepare for.

I mean, I guess you’re right, but it’s not on Google, so. Yeah. So how do you respond to that? Don’t tell me about past performance, because I believe. That past performance is not an indicator of future success, which is counter to what most people would tell you, because I don’t know if you were on a toxic team. I don’t know if you were in high stress because you disagreed with your boss all the time. I don’t know if you were going through personal things at that last job performance, but I don’t know those outside influences.

So I can’t say that that’s going to predict whether or not you’re going to be a good employee for me.

There’s that old Demming inside the individual variations, like six percent in terms of output of one particular person, whereas everything else is like context and that’s what the managers are responsible for. Basically the system, the processes, the complex, the. Do you have any thoughts on how to adapt to this behavioral approach to remote hiring at all?

Yet you have to be careful when you start asking questions about someone’s personal life. It’s crazy. I’ve learned over the years that there are some questions you can ask. Tell me about your favorite vacation spot. You can open up a can of worms because you can find out that they vacation in a way that might identify their race or their cultural affiliation or something like that, which then could put them in a protected class. There’s a lot of things have to be careful with, but I think when it comes remote, one of my favorite questions is give me a couple of examples of some distractions that you’ve had at work and how you’ve dealt with them.

Mm hmm. Because I think the. I think there’s two big challenges with remote work. I think the distractions is probably the primary one from the employees perspective, how do we deal with those distractions?

I will tell you, when I gave up my office a couple of years ago and I came home to work because I want to spend more time with my kids, see them more often. That was a real challenge for me the first six months because they would knock at the door of Daddy’s home, they would knock on the door, well, I’m going to open the door and go play with them. Well, you don’t want to hear an employee say that, so there was some rules and some boundaries that we had created to where my kids learn when the door is closed, they’re just not even knocking at the door anymore.

And so I closed the door and now I don’t even need to lock it anymore at this point because we’ve been able to work through that. But that was a distraction for me early on. And the way I dealt it with it was talking to my wife, talking to the kids and saying, hey, here’s how the boundaries work. The other distraction that a lot of employees have is, oh, well, I can go grocery shopping now when it’s not crowded, I can do all these other things.

And I think from the employees perspective, how do you talk to them about prioritizing the work that needs to be done and the actual deliverable? I think one of the biggest mistakes people make when hiring remotely is they aren’t focused on the output, they’re focused on the input. How much screen time, how much time are available to answer the phone? Nobody cares about that. Like if you really think about it, I don’t really care when you’re available to answer the phone.

I care that when the phone rings and it’s a customer that you really care about.

So I don’t care about how much time you’re sitting in front of the computer. There’s even software out there now that will monitor someone’s computer activity. And like, how often were they on Facebook while they were working from home? Does it really matter if they’re getting you the results that you’re paying for? Does it really matter how they get there and you got to do it legally and all that other stuff? But I think so. The employee side is one of that when you’re hiring remotely is really focused on how do they prioritize and how do they deal with distractions?

Because I think those are going to be the two biggest challenges with, remember, some of the places on the employer side, you have a mindset issue. I can’t stop in and check on them any time I want them. I could slack them, I could email and I could call them. But if they don’t answer or maybe they’re not working, maybe get rid of that that head trash from an employer perspective. Because if you hired someone who’s excited about the destination, we’re going to go back to that bus analogy and they’re excited about the destination they’re going to deliver for you.

They’re going to take care of the customer. They’re going to get the work done. They’ve got distractions to deal with. Like you can’t tell them get rid of. The kids are working from home. They are still a distraction. And as the employer, if you recognize that and you realize that you have to make this accommodation around, I can’t micro people anymore. Just barge in and got a minute anymore. I can’t pull them into a meeting ad hoc anymore.

I have to plan and schedule that.

I personally feel that more of the onus on hiring remotely is on the employer and less on the employee because the employer just needs to get focused on if I’m paying you a wage, what am I really paying for and then having that conversation with the employee? Because when you can put it into context for them and say, hey, at the end of the day, I expect this in this done. Or I expect you to hit these numbers by the end of the day, does it really matter if they do it between eight and 10 or between 10 and noon?

Like, does it really matter, you know, checking Facebook or whatever?

Who cares in the corporate world? Because Gallup does a lot of studies. Mackenzie, the big consulting companies do a lot of studies on the large enterprises. I’ve seen studies that say in an average eight hour day. The average employee is only productive about two and a half to three hours at that eight hour day, the rest of the time, or non-productive tasks that management has deemed important. They might support some sort of outcome, but the employees really only about two hours.

So, yeah, it’s really nice that two to four I think is kind of the range that I’ve seen.

Just think you’re just paying double for to get the same outfit, like, just be OK with that.

And I think that when the employers have that mindset or that approach to remote environment, it opens up a whole new type of conversation, because I know a lot of people are scared to go remote because they’re afraid that their boss is going to micra them or question them or always be assuming things. And so they get scared of that, like I’d rather just be at the office so they know what I’m doing.

What’s the best place for people to find out more about what you do? Anything you want people to check out, look up, follow.

I’m an easy to find on purpose. If you just Google Ryan and you’ll find me.

My website is the core matters. Dotcom talks all about what we do and how we do it in the industries that we serve. We actually have our blog, which I call a learning library. So there’s a lot of educational material there as well. I also have the Blue Collar Culture podcast where we bring in experts to talk about some of the biggest challenges blue collar companies have. And that’s a blue collar culture, dotcom. And then on my website, the Formatters Dotcom.

You can actually download the book for free if you don’t want the physical printed version. So if you want to get the book unmasked, you can get that there from the website. Cool. Great, thanks. Lawrence. That was a great conversation, Brian’s insight into the employees stresses of job seeker and how it influences their interviewing was really helpful. Behavioral interviewing does seem like a useful way to really get a true reading of whether a particular candidate would be a good cultural fit.

I’m just as guilty as the next hiring manager of just grabbing the first interview questions I could find from Google. And this approach seems more real and also more accurate. Tune in next time for another episode of the Aligner monthly podcast. Thanks for listening to this episode of the online remotely podcast, if you enjoy the show, please leave a review on iTunes, Google podcasts or wherever you get your podcast.

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