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Can Our Staff Innovate?

It Starts with Hiring the Right Attitude

About Competency-Based Interviewing

“Tell me about an occasion when you introduced an idea to do the work in a different way. Can you elaborate, please?” is often the opening question during our competency-based interviews asking for Creative Problem Solving skills and drive of the candidates.

This beats asking questions like “Are you a creative person?” by lengths. First of all, who would ever say no on that one? Secondly, you are most likely not only looking for a person who has a certain minimum degree of creativity. You are looking for someone who has ideas and puts them to work. That is the definition of innovation.

Not Everyone With The Knowledge and Skills is Suitable

Competency-Based Interviewing Helps Avoiding Wrong Fits.

Listening in to these competency-based interviews to help a client find the right people is easy since most of them are done remotely. The differences in the answers are quite remarkable – and telling.

“We had a problem with hiring locals for the job”, was the response from an interviewee for an HR business partner position.

“So, how did you help to overcome this obstacle?”

“Oh, this has always been an issue.”

“What idea did you come up with and try out?”

“I was not given the autonomy to investigate. So, I did not try to fix this issue.”

This kind of answer tells you everything you need to know. If you hire this person he will wait for the instruction to come up with ideas. Let’s give him the benefit of a doubt that his current employer is obviously not very smart in tickling their staff for innovative contributions.

However, the very expectation of innovation is not only to

  1. come up with a creative idea, but also to
  2. champion it, i.e. to “sell” the idea to stakeholders and to
  3. drive the implementation.

It clearly looks like this interviewee has not the right mindset to do exactly this.

Competency-Based Interviewing Helps Spot Potential

Finding the Right Attitude is Often More Important Than Knowledge and Skills.

More often than not, these very targeted and well-prepared interviews generate talking points that are highly specific – a good sign for truthful talk. Fake data are seldom so precise.

“Shortly after I joined I recognised that the annual budget planning process for the region could be optimised”, was the response from another interviewee.

“And, how did you go about testing your idea to make the process leaner?”

“When I took over, the budget planning was already running. Hence, I did not raise my idea to simplify the process during the first year. And, I did want to learn first to get the full picture.”

“For the second budget planning cycle, I proposed the change and got approval. Now, we have much less repetitive entries and hand-offs in that process.”

This interviewee seems to fit the bill much better. Not only did she dare to bring up her idea. She also adapted her approach to her stakeholders who could have taken it wrongly if the new hire plays the smart card and shows the old staff how their work can be done better. She was able to measure the pulse and introduce her idea when it was suitable. And, she got it done.

Can we trust the story? Not completely.
On the other hand, why not investing some trust and hiring her if all other requirements are met?

Conclusion

Evaluating Suitability of Eligible Candidates is a Must.

Remember, checking potential hires for education, knowledge and skills is the easy part. It is much more challenging to evaluate someone’s attitude and mindset during an interview. It needs the definition of the essential competencies for the role and their translation in behaviours you expect to see. Moulding these behaviours into questions is the straightforward task.

Having these enables you for Finding the Right Star.

And, is the need for Innovative Work Behaviour part of everyone’s job description? Why not?

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competency based interviewingcreativitycreativity & innovationinnovation

Uwe H Kaufmann

Dr Uwe H Kaufmann is the founder of Centre for Organisational Effectiveness (COE Pte Ltd), a business advisory firm operating out of Singapore. As consultant and coach with many years of experience, his passion lies in supporting organisations to improve their effectiveness.
Uwe is a German national and Permanent Resident of Singapore. He has four children and nine grandchildren … and counting.

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