Be prepared for motivation-based interviews; they are tough and get to the core of the applicant

I recently had the privilege of speaking with Carol Quinn, the CEO of Hire Authority, and the designer of motivation-based interviews (MBI). She is passionate about teaching corporations to hire high achievers through the uses of  motivation-based interviewing–in other words, the right candidates.

Listen up jobseekers, smart interviewers aren’t strictly relying on traditional interviews like they did in the past. They’re no longer asking questions that can be answered with rehearsed responses, or that focus primarily on your occupational skills.

Be prepared for a different type of interview called the motivation-based interview (MBI), which gets at your ability to over achieve and overcome obstacles. The reason for this is that traditional-type interviews are just not working.

It’s a well known fact that the majority of interviewers have little or no experience interviewing job candidates—these are most likely front-line managers. It’s also a well known fact that a majority of hires don’t work out and cost companies tens of thousands of dollars. A 2011 survey conducted by revealed that approximately 68% of employers fell victim to bad hires.

The reasons employers give for a poor hire include:

  • Needed to fill the job quickly – 38 percent
  • Not sure; sometimes you make a mistake – 34 percent
  • Insufficient talent intelligence – 21 percent
  • Didn’t check references – 11 percent

It appears that hiring the right candidate is like going to a toy store and having to buy items that are wrapped. No matter how you shake it, examine its shape, and feel it; you’ll never know if it is any good until the paper is off. Further, the brightest and most inviting paper often leads to the worst item (or job candidate using this analogy).

One other known fact is that interviewers are looking for three qualities in a candidate: 1) someone who has the skills, 2) is motivated, and 3) will fit the corporate work environment. The first of the qualities is easy enough to discern from the résumé received as well as through thorough questioning—usually involving traditional questions.

However the motivation and personality fit pieces are a bit dicey and difficult to determine. This, again, is due to poor interviewing. Smart interviewers, who employ MBIs, are getting to the core of a candidate’s attitude and passion for the job because they’re asking questions that can’t be fudged. So be prepared.

The MBIs’ main objective is to determine if a person is a high achiever or simply an average worker by a asking a series of questions that are designed to see how a person handles obstacles. Does the person have an “I can do this” attitude or does he have an “I can’t do this” one?

One example of a MBI question could be one of the following three:

Tell me about a specific time when you….

  1. Had to re-design a website that another person had designed.
  2. Created a website that exceeded everyone’s expectations.
  3. Designed an interactive page that was flawless the first time around.

The most effective MBI question would be the first one, as it asks about an obstacle, whereas the second and third do not. The secret to answering the first question would be to refrain from casting blame on the person who had originally designed the website. Keep in mind that employers are weary of excuses.

A candidate for a manager’s role might be asked about a time when she had to help an employee who was struggling with her performance. She must relate a specific story that demonstrates how she handled the obstacle and how she exhibited a “can do” attitude. Perhaps she succeeded or perhaps she didn’t fare too well. The point is that she tried and she learned from the experience.

The candidate must have stories to tell regarding the success, or failure, of demonstrating a desired skill. The candidate should structure his story using the Challenge, Action, Result (CAR) formula. He must also be able to recall a time when such a skill was demonstrated. No easy task, but definitely possible if he knows what skills will be in question—the secret is understanding the job requirements.

Will employers be one hundred percent successful in the future when hiring the ideal candidates? Most likely not. But as states, interviewers must be willing to take the time to conduct a proper interview, not rely on gut feelings, and fail to do a thorough background check. Perhaps MBIs are the solution to achieving success for employers who are looking for employees who are motivated to do the work and have the capacity to learn the required skills. Only when all the pieces are in place will an abysmal 68% failure rate be reduced.

As for jobseekers, you must prepare yourself for interview questions that test your skills, attitude, and passion for the job. This stuff can’t be faked, so if you get the job, you’ve earned it.


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