A recent survey of 4,000 employers in Singapore revealed that most of them have made poor hiring decisions. They estimate that between 10 to 50 per cent of their employees are bad hires.

What this means is that if an organisation has 10 employees, it may have between one and five employees who are not performing to expectations.

When I first saw these numbers, I was shocked. The question that came to my mind was: What could have contributed to these statistics? Does the problem lie with the hiring organisations or the quality of the candidates?

More importantly, what can hiring organisations do to minimise their risk of making a bad hire?

Here are three tried and tested strategies that I have used successfully over the last 10 years:


Ask the right questions

Prepare, prepare, prepare! It is vital that you are very clear about what you are looking for prior to the actual interview. You need to know exactly what questions you will be asking your candidate.

For instance, if your team is highly autonomous and makes decisions very quickly, then you would most likely benefit from hiring someone who is comfortable with making decisions quickly and is able to handle ambiguity.


Purpose behind the question

Besides knowing what questions to ask, you also need to understand why you are asking them. Knowing the reasons demonstrates that you understand your team’s working dynamics and that you know exactly what attributes you are looking for and why, and how they will strengthen your team.

For instance, if the question is, “Tell me about a project you worked on recently that failed?”, then you need to ask yourself:

•   Why do I need this question?;

•   What is it that I’m trying to understand from the candidate?;

•   What answers am I looking for?; and

•   How will I formulate my follow-up questions?

Understanding the purpose behind the question will help you look out for the answers you want and help you formulate more specific follow-up questions during the interview.

The truth is that many interviewers and recruiters ask questions without fully understanding why they are asking them. This leads to fuzzy follow-up questions and missed opportunities to truly understand the candidates.


Phrase it correctly

One of the most crucial determinants of successful hiring is how the questions are phrased. With vast information available on the Internet today, candidates come to interviews extremely well prepared.

Many come with rote answers to standard questions. I did a search on “Answers to tough interview questions” on the Internet and Google returned almost three million hits!

Asking standard questions such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” are no longer as effective as before, because candidates will come well prepared with answers to such questions.

In addition, many recruiters are still asking “closed-ended” questions that do not encourage candidates to open up and talk more about themselves.

The purpose of the interview is for the recruiter/hiring manager to understand the candidate better. He should therefore ask questions that will encourage candidates to open up and reveal more about themselves.

The key is to ask open-ended questions to encourage and allow the candidates to open up and talk. The more they talk, the better you can understand them.

Preparation is crucial if you want to conduct a successful and effective interview. Being well-prepared will allow you to focus on the qualities of the candidate beyond their skills, qualifications and experience, and will help you identify the right people for your organisation. 


Article by Steven Lock, a high performance strategist with FutureTHINK! Training & Consultancy LLP. He is the author of Hiring for Performance: The CAAP® Model to Hiring and Building High-Performance Teams.