All posts by Omer Molad

How To Design An Interview Process That Predicts Performance

Interviews are a useful tool to build rapport, and even start a relationship, with candidates after their skills have been validated.

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First, let’s get one thing out of the way. Traditional interviews don’t actually predict performance. Rather, the best way to predict performance is to test job-related skills in context. Nevertheless, there is a place for interviews in the hiring process. Interviews are a useful tool to build rapport, and even start a relationship, with candidates after their skills have been validated. They can, and should, also be used to answer unanswered questions from the hiring process. 

Interviewing is often used as a synonym for candidate selection, but it shouldn’t be. Interviews should only comprise a small part of the candidate selection process. In fact, if an “interview process”, a.k.a. a selection process, is designed properly then traditional interviews only need to play a minor role.

Rather than dealing with hypotheticals, I’m going to share a real blow-by-blow story about a recent hire we made. The process included a recruitment agency, marketing, online skills assessment using our own platform, interviews and reference checks. I’ll explain how each step worked and why we did things in a very deliberate order.

Role definition

This is arguably the most important step. If you don’t define the role correctly the entire process will be flawed because nobody will have clarity about the kind of person you’re looking for.

A helpful starting place is thinking about the purpose of the role. Why does it exist? We wanted to hire someone who could help our largest customers get maximum value from their investment in Vervoe. That was our “why” for this role.

We wanted someone who had expertise in assessment and I/O psychology, was a natural with enterprise customers and would thrive in a startup. 

Recruitment agency appointment

We don’t usually use agencies and I’m not advocating for, or against, the use of agencies. It depends on the situation. In this case we were looking for a candidate with a very specific skill set and we were almost certain that we needed to attract passive candidates. The people who met our criteria weren’t necessarily looking and, more importantly, they were probably working with a big company and therefore not looking for roles with startups.  

So we wanted an agency to help with candidate sourcing, particularly market mapping ad outreach. In other words, we wanted the agency to find people and convince them it was an exciting opportunity.

First contact

This fact we were tapping passive candidates on the shoulder influenced the rest of the process. We had to convince candidates to talk to us rather than the other way around. So throwing them into an assessment wasn’t going to work. We had to sell to them

So the agency approached them and had an informal conversation. After that the hiring manager met the candidates. Is this the most efficient use of time? No. But it was necessary given the calibre of people we were trying to attract. This wasn’t a high volume situation.  

The purpose of the conversation with the hiring manager wasn’t to determine whether candidates can do the job. It was to sell to the candidate, get a feel for their motivation and give them visibility over the remainder of the process. It was about buy-in. 

Skills assessment

After speaking to the hiring manager candidates were invited to complete an online skills assessment, known as a Talent Trial. They had to opt into this stage.

We positioned the skills assessment stage as a two-way street. An opportunity for us to see how they perform job-related tasks, and an opportunity for them to get a realistic feel for the role and the product they’ll be working on.

It made sense. Every single candidate we invited to this stage successfully completed their skills assessment.

The interview

Then came the interview. It was a discussion with me and I only interviewed one person, whom we ultimately hired.

I didn’t focus on skills because I already had evidence the preferred candidate could do the job. She performed very well in the skills assessment, which was carefully crafted to reflect the role.

We discussed how we’d work together, including her preferred working style, how we can invest in her, some of the quirks of our team and what she can expect if she joins. It was lighthearted and fun, at least for me.

Reference checks

I’m a big believer in reference checking, but not for the reasons you might expect. References are almost always positive. It’s a rigged game. But, if done correctly, reference checks can be very effective in setting candidates up for success. They help understand what it would be like to work with the candidate, how we can support them and how we can get the best out of them. 

They’re an employee onboarding tool of sorts.

We asked the recruitment agency to conduct two reference checks and send us detailed notes.

Meeting the team

We wanted one more conversation with the hiring manager and the team. At a startup it’s really important to bring existing team members into the process. In fact, I believe it’s important in any company. It increases the chance that existing team members will welcome the new hire, and gives the preferred candidate an opportunity to see who they’ll be working with. It reduces the risk for everybody. 

The offer

A quick offer is a good offer. We didn’t make the offer after the final discussion with the hiring manager and team. We made it during that discussion. After meeting the team, and after everyone gave the thumbs up, the candidate spoke to the hiring manager privately and got the good news. She accepted.

This article was originally published on Vervoe.

Competence Is Context Dependant

It’s easy to associate competence with job titles in a generic sense. However, given people’s performance will depend on the context in which they operate, all notions of competence should take context into account…


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The same, but different

Is a graphic designer at a major accounting firm the same job as a graphic designer at an early-stage startup? There is an obvious overlap is functional skills, but that’s where the similarity ends. 

A designer at startup will have limited resources and even less time. They’ll be required to “ship fast” because the clock is ticking and everything is an experiment. Management will have a relatively high tolerance for mistakes, and decisions will be made on the spot. 

Conversely, a large accounting firm will be far less tolerant of risk, decisions are made by committee, perfection will be prioritized over speed and autonomy will likely be low. 

How similar do these roles sound now?

While the fundamental craft is essentially the same, the context is entirely different. Success is measured differently, and the respective operating environments have very little in common.

Context is everything

It follows that the best person to do the job at the accounting firm is probably not the best person to do the job at the startup. In come cases the same person might be able to excel at both roles, but they’ll need to apply themselves and behave quite differently. 

This means that competence is dependent on context, something James Clear emphasizes in his book Atomic Habits

There is no such thing is a “good graphic designer”. Rather, there is a good graphic designer in your particular context. That context might be unique to your company, or it might be broadly applicable to companies in your industry or of a similar size, for example.   

This is a departure from the way many companies, and indeed many talent acquisition professionals, think about competency frameworks. It’s easy to associate competence with job titles in a generic sense. However, given people’s performance will depend on the context in which they operate, all notions of competence should take context into account.

How to build context into your recruitment process

When filling a role, it’s important to think of what it takes to be successful in that role at your company. It’s helpful to divide the requirements into two components. The first is the skills that are specific to the role itself and would likely be required in any context. In other words, what does the person in the role need to achieve? The second component is the skills that are unique to your context. In other words, how do you expect the person to approach their role? This can include cultural aspects, attitude, behavior and so on.

The next step is to come up with a way to test candidates for those skills. Following this logic, a generic “graphic designer test” doesn’t make much sense because it only addresses the first component. In order to identify someone who will excel in a role in your context, the test must take into account both components. It must be context-dependent because competence is dependent on context. 

Thinking about candidate selection in this way will help you identify people who are more likely to be successful in your environment. This makes sense because it’s also unlikely that the people who want to work at a startup will also want to work at major accounting firms, and visa versa.

This article was originally published on Vervoe.

How To Hire Someone With A Growth Mindset

Some people are on a journey of continuous improvement and, as a result, are more likely to achieve their goals. Here’s how you identify those with a growth mindset.

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The growth mindset theory was brought to prominence by Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor, and in simple terms it suggests that “we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems”.

Rather than labeling people as smart or not, musical or not, good at math or not, talented or not, and so on, Dweck argues that with effort we can learn how to improve in every area.

After failing a biology exam, a student with a fixed mindset will muse that they aren’t good at biology, they aren’t a good student and they are a failure. The only logical conclusion from here is therefore to quit and the resultant emotion is likely to be self pity. This student is a hostage to their own perceived limitations. They have become the grade from their exam. They are a failure.

Conversely, a student with a growth mindset will conclude from the failure that they didn’t study enough or didn’t use the right study methods. They do not label themselves as a failure. Rather, they see the exam as a failed effort, learn from it and adapt, thus becoming stronger.

It’s not easy being the smartest person in the room your entire life and then one day failing. This is the critical juncture. Am I a failure? Or did I encounter a scenario where I didn’t work hard enough or well enough? Do I need to change my approach?

The first conclusion – I’m a failure – is disastrous because we believe that our ability is capped and it leads to despair. The second conclusion – I can improve – leads to hope.

The world is not necessarily divided into people with fixed and growth mindsets. Even the most frequent adopters of a growth mindset can find themselves in a fixed mindset sometimes. But some people consistently approach life’s challenges with a growth mindset.

Such people are on a journey of continuous improvement and, as a result, are more likely to achieve their goals. In fact, they are likely to move the goalposts altogether. They won’t give up as easily, they will find a way to solve complex problems, they will teach themselves new methods and they will value effort, determination and improvement over any talents they perceive to have been born with.

They will find a way to win rather than believing that they are simply a winner or a loser.

Here’s four ways to hire someone with a growth mindset:

Going to the Next Level

Professor Dweck worked with a baseball team to identify draftees with a growth mindset. Prospective draftees were asked what they would have to change in order to be successful at the top level.

Recruiters were looking for people who acknowledged that they’d need to improve most of their skills because this demonstrates an understanding that abilities can be developed.


This question can easily be modified to suit a company setting.  Just ask candidates what they would need to do to be successful in a role that is one level up from their current role.

Dealing with Failure

Ask candidates about a time when they didn’t get an outcome they wanted. It doesn’t have to be linked to their careers – it can be anything like a grade at school, an application that was refused or a poor showing in a sporting competition, to name a few. Then ask what their conclusion was. Why did they fail? What did they learn? What did they do next? Look for attempts at improvement based on greater effort or a change of approach.

The Musician Test


Ask candidates what it would take for them to become really good saxophonists. This should be a multiple choice question. One answer should be along the lines of “a good teacher and lots of practice” and another should be something like “hell to freeze over, it will never happen”. The idea is to determine whether candidates think they can develop skills in an area that they previously had none.

Labelling


Give candidates a number of scenarios and for each one ask them to choose between two phrases that describe how they feel about the outcome. For example, if the scenario is “you came fourth out of eight in a race” then the two phrases could be “too slow” and “need to speed up”. If the scenario is “you got 58 is the biology exam and 83 in the literature exam” the two phrases could be “better at literature” and “didn’t study effectively for biology”.

The first phrase in both scenarios effectively labels the candidate as a success or a failure, as good or bad at something. This implies a fixed mindset. Conversely, the second phrase in both scenarios implies a belief in the ability to improve.

Hire for Growth 

Hiring people with a growth mindset means that, instead of hiring fixed talent, you are hiring people who will become more and more talented over time. Improvement in your company will therefore be continuous. Once you know what to look for, hiring people with a growth mindset is not necessarily difficult.

This article, written by Omer Molad, was originally published on Vervoe.

Good Hire Or Bad Hire? How To Know You’ve Hired The Right Person

So much is written about how to hire great people and what to look for when hiring. But that is merely the start of the journey…


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Good hire or bad hire?

You’ve done the hard work, you’ve made the decision and your shiny new hire has finally joined the team.

Great, now what?

So much is written about how to hire great people and what to look for when hiring. But that is merely the start of the journey.

After the hiring decision is made, the work begins. Your team has grown and, at some stage, you’ll need to decide whether the person you recently hired is adding value. If not, it might be time to make some hard decisions, or even revisit your hiring methods.

Here are five powerful indicators that you’ve made the right choice.

1. Dedication

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

– Abraham Lincoln

There is a lot of talk about hustling in the startup community. It’s a badge of honor. But hustling is not a skill, it’s a behavior. It is therefore a choice.

Every startup hopes its team members will make that choice every day.

You can encourage hustling by communicating your company’s vision and values, as well as creating a collaborative and fun work environment.

Without those things, even the best hustler may run out of steam.

When people buy into your company’s vision, they are more likely to become dedicated to your team. A dedicated team member is an excellent outcome, but it takes both sides to make that happen.

Making the right hiring decision isn’t just about hiring someone who is great in isolation. Rather, it’s about hiring someone who is great for your team. In other words, a great hire is someone who will eventually become dedicated to your team.

Dedication looks pretty much like hustling, but it’s sustainable. So look for sustained and purposeful effort. It’s a good indicator of both performance and engagement.

2. Initiative

“Initiative is doing the right things without being told.”

– Elbert Hubbard

Having people who can do things well without being told is a gift.

In his article, One Behavior Separates The Successful From The Average, Benjamin P. Hardy describes people who take initiative as follows:

“They don’t need to be managed in all things. They don’t just do the job, they do it right and complete. They also influence the direction for how certain ideas and projects go.”

But it’s not enough to just do things well. After all, that’s what is expected. It’s about doing the right things well. Knowing which things to prioritize requires good judgment. Initiative coupled with bad judgment can be counterproductive.

When people take initiative, productivity increases and the confidence goes up. Team members know they can rely on each other to get things done.

3. Cultural Stretch

“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.”

– Bruce Lee

In his article, Hire for Cultural Fitness, Not Just Cultural Fit, Gustavo Razzetti argues that good hires should make the culture stretch, not just adapt to it.

That’s a great perspective.

When new hires form independent relationships with other team members, and impact them in a positive way, you can be sure that your culture is stretching. It’s evidence that they are adding something, not just assimilating.

It’s a beautiful thing to see the team growing. Not just in numbers, but in intellectual firepower and curiosity.

Any new hire that makes a contribution to the team’s growth is a leader in the making, if not a leader today.

4. Improvement

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

– Benjamin Franklin

There is always room for improvement, no matter who you are.

It’s a wonderful feeling to see people improve over time and, for high performers, improvement is not an option, it’s an irresistible desire.

In his article, 76% of high-performance employees say trade mastery, not money, most important in career decisions, William Belk argues that “corporate culture and directive”should encourage team members to develop their skills in the pursuit of mastery. This will result in high levels of engagement and sustained innovation.

Improvement is therefore a strong indicator of performance. Assuming people are set up for success, strong team members will look for opportunities to hone their craft. An ethos of continuous improvement needs to be encouraged and, sometimes, leaders may even need to get out of the way to give the team space.

People with a capacity and willingness to improve their skills become more valuable over time. Rather than having their careers developed for them, improvers create opportunities for themselves. For companies who believe in empowering their teams, constantly-improving team members are obvious assets.

5. Surprise

“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.”

– Boris Pasternak

Trying to hire people who will surprise us is a contradiction in terms. We hire people to perform certain tasks and we expect them to perform those tasks very well. High performers may exceed our expectations in the quality of their work, but that’s not what I’m referring to here.

Every so often, people do things that catch us off guard. These acts of wonder cannot be found in a job description, they require skills that we don’t necessarily associate with the person who surprised us, and they are not things we would have thought to do ourselves.

It’s something intangible, and there is no point looking for it. But when it happens, we know that we have someone special on our hands. We got more than we bargained for.

Then, You Know It’s Real

“To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.”

– Oscar Wilde

When I reflect on the five indicators of a sound hiring decision – dedication, initiative, cultural stretch, improvement and surprise – what stands out is just how human they are. They are, more or less, what Seth Godin would call “real skills”.

That doesn’t mean that technical skills, which Godin calls “functional skills”, aren’t valuable. Of course they are. They are the baseline, the minimum standard.

But it’s the “real skills” that make a new hire stand out. They influence how the work is done, the impact on the rest of the team and the propensity for growth.

When the time comes to assess a hiring decision, it is helpful to look beyond how individual tasks are performed and see each new hire through through a “real skills” lens. In addition to an assessment of performance right now, you’ll get a strong indication of what you’re likely to see in the future.

This article, written by Omer Molad, was originally published on Vervoe.