How Do You Know if a Candidate Can Learn on the Fly?

Technology comprises 40% of our GDP in the United States of America according to Secretary Pritzker at the Department of Commerce as noted in a previous blog post. Furthermore, there is a big imbalance in supply and demand of technology talent. Employers are hence seeking candidates that can learn on the job and at a fast pace. How do you know who is the right candidate for the role you are hiring for? What questions are you asking candidates? Geoff Smart and Randy Street describes A players in their book Who, published during 2008 which I received as a gift from MoblHR, a payment, benefits and human resources startup offering 100% mobile services. An A player is defined as a candidate who has at least a 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10% of possible candidates could achieve. They developed a scorecard which is the method for designing the criteria of a specific role based on the job’s mission, outcomes and competencies. A players according to Smart and Street can be spotted through four types of interviews: Screening, Who, Focused and Reference.

There are many tools for interviewing candidates and the Interview Architect® Professional Handbook from Korn Ferry is a human resources tool designed to assist employers with the interviewing process. The professional handbook is the full exhaustive resource for the Human Resources professional experienced in interviewing protocol. Interviewers can fully assess candidates on the 67 competencies and the 10 performance dimensions. If we seek a candidate who can learn on the fly (one of the 67 competencies in the handbook), the Interview Architect® suggests to explore areas with the candidate such as unfamiliar exposure, hobbies, short time to explain a complex thing.

The Interview Architect® has sample questions at the 4 dimensions of interviewing

• Dimension 1: Been there, done that – have had real experiences

Sample question: Tell me about the last three successful, relevant projects

• Dimension 2: Seen others do that both well and badly

Sample question: Describe a workshop which taught methods for learning quickly

• Dimension 3: Know how that works

Sample question: Describe how you would help someone to be more of a quick study

• Dimension 4: Could learn that

Sample question: How many failures will stop you from trying anymore?

Interview Architect® offers follow-up probes and themes to look for such as: how typical is this for you?

Resumes of learners on the fly will have roles i.e. Chair of Major Projects, Fix-its, turnarounds, off-shore assignments, influencing without authority and many more to look for during the selection process.

How do you select fast learners and A players for your organization? Which questions do you use when interviewing candidates? Do you have a structured interviewing process based on competencies?