Are you asking the right HR questions?

Recruiting staff, especially for small companies has its risks as everyone want to look good.

As the Semler story below emphasizes everyone is highlighting the positive but just maybe there is a way to ask the “right” questions in an interview or assessment to get a more realistic idea of the suitability of candidates.

For example I’d want to know what people are like when the chips are down. How did they recover a tough situation at a previous workplace. The reality of small businesses is that the outlook can change fast.

The best staff can think on their feet and recover when there are mistakes and that is when character and integrity are tested the most.

And for a start-up company I’d definitely want to know if they had EVER risked their own money. I’d want staff to act in the best interests of investors and if they already have experience of risking their own capital then that might be a useful indicator.

Ricardo Semler was interviewed for a feature Strategy+Business and he explained Semco HR practice as follows…

Then Mr. Semler segues into his perennial theme: the habits of thought that can change rigid, dehumanizing workplaces into engaging, productive ones.

As he writes in The Seven-Day Weekend, “Our ‘architecture’ is really the sum of all the conventional business practices we avoid.” Consider, for example, typical employee recruitment.

“It is like Internet dating,” says Mr. Semler. “I’m always six foot, four inches, and I look like Brad Pitt; you are always Cindy Crawford or Angelina Jolie.

In the recruitment process, we put out fraudulent stuff about the company, like we’re going to double our earnings, leaving out that we’re also transferring all production to Vietnam in a year.

You forget to tell us that you have fits of rage, that you worked six months here, six months there, and it’s not on your resume. Then we meet at a bar and decide to marry. What are the chances that is going to work?” he asks.

At Semco, by contrast, “We put out ads that are realistic,” says Mr. Semler. “We don’t have an HR department, so the person who has the opening will take the stack [of applications] and distribute it for review.

We wind up with a group of 35 people in a room, 15 of whom are candidates. When that conversation ends, our people will pick three for further interviews. They’ll come back several times. By the time we decide to marry, we know a lot about these people. That leaves us with 2 percent turnover in an industry with 18.”

I have been testing out VortexDNA as a way to better understand the underlying intentions and most likely behaviours and outcomes. The system is a platform to help make the web a more relevant place and has the ability to decode some of the key motivations of its members. To quote from that site..

“Your Vortex DNA profile is a map of who you are – the beliefs about yourself that create your world. Each strand of your DNA is highlighted according to it’s relevancy to you.”

“VortexDNA has mapped the genome of human intention – the mind-DNA that predicts human characteristics. Advancing our understanding of how belief creates our world, the human intention genome opens up a new era of science and human empowerment.”

As a business technology VortexDNA is useful because

“VortexDNA technology tells you, accurately, what your users are likely to care about.

In an independently verified trial against Google SearchTM, VortexDNA technology proved its ability to increase the relevance of search results by up to 14%, which translated into a 3% improvement in click rates.

VortexDNA is easy to install and complements your existing search/recommendation technologies.”

All of which brings me back to my original thought. If we can get an idea of what staff might do / have done under pressure in the past – we can better understand their intentions and motivations. It is also much more obvious what people care about when the chips are down – so to speak.

In asking the right questions knowing what is in the DNA of our prospective recruits could be very helpful. This includes attitudes, intentions and beliefs which are all influences of future behavior in my view.

What do you think? What are other great HR questions?

Note: Vortex DNA has many business applications – have only scratched the surface here.