Allowing candidates to share stories during job interviews helps the recruiter identify their skills, attitude, commitment, culture, and many of the attributes which will not come out from their resume or structured interviews.
We use all the conventional methods for recruitment ranging from written tests to interviews to group discussions, demo talks and so on. While each one of these methods may be suitable for specific kinds of jobs, they certainly do not help understand a candidate as an individual ‘whole’. There is no way to gauge his entire personality, which is shaped by his cultural background, upbringing, as well as economic and social status. All these affect the candidate’s attitude, behaviour, culture, skills and leadership qualities including communication skills, ability to work in a team and so on.
Often, it so happens that the candidates are unable to express themselves appropriately during interviews. Their CVs may fail to reflect all the skills that they have, while they may actually possess the competence and experience relevant to the job under consideration. One of the ideas that can help make better hiring decisions, especially at the managerial level, is asking the candidates certain stories that can convey their skills, attitude, commitment, culture, and so on. Here are two such case stories that can typically help recruiters understand candidates’ attitude, behaviour, skills and abilities.
1. Ours was an educational institute imparting engineering diploma level education. It was the year 1997, and I had worked as a faculty, with my boss, for about five months. Our institute got a challenging project to provide training to the employees of a company. The client was the ‘best in class.’ If we could satisfy this client, the road ahead would be a smooth ride for us. The project being the first of its kind for us, made it more challenging and required a different approach, along with committed and proven leadership. My boss handed over the project to Mr Patil, one of the senior faculty. Two weeks passed and there was no visible progress. My boss called me at closing time and said, “You are heading the project from tomorrow”. My instant response was that “If I have to handle it, I would rather take charge now so that by tomorrow morning I would already be familiar with it and then I can actually start working”. My boss said “It shows your proactive approach and willingness to work”.
2. As a part of the above employee training project, we had to develop several labs. It was 1.00 am and the programme was to be inaugurated the same morning. The only work that remained was the wiring of the electronics lab. It was raining. I took my bike and went to the electrician’s house, and brought him to the institute. We could very well manage without that lab on day one, but certainly our preparation should not be anything less than 100 per cent. When I shared this with my boss, he said “This shows your commitment”.
The above two and many more such stories can demonstrate the skills and abilities of the individual. It essentially means linking each story to one or the other skills that were demonstrated in the story. Of course, verifying the authenticity of such stories is difficult but it is also better than a situation where the candidate gives manipulated answers in an interview.
The story method may not be used as the sole way, but it can certainly supplement the other methods of recruitment.
(The author is Director ITM-SIA Business School)