While an established company may be able to bounce back quickly from the consequences of a bad hire, the same is not true of start-ups. Entrepreneurs who are finally starting to see business growth simply can’t afford to hire the wrong person for a critical role. It will not only cost them revenue, but clients and their reputation as well. That is the bad news. The good news is that many bad hiring decisions are avoidable by using a technique known as competency-based interviewing.

Past Behavior is the Best Indicator of Future Behavior

The goal of competency-based interviewing is to go beyond a candidate’s education, experience, and accomplishments to determine if he or she is a good fit for the job. Hiring managers do this by asking questions that gauge such qualities as stress management, loyalty, decision-making, adaptability, and customer focus.

For example, the interviewer might ask the interviewee to describe a time in a previous position when he or she needed to make a decision that affected several people. Hearing how the candidate weighed his or her options, considered the effect of the decision on others, and implemented the change would give the hiring manager a good idea of what to expect in future situations that required the candidate to make an important decision.

Important Competencies for Employees of Start-Up Organizations

All employers screen prospective employees for technical competencies like skills, knowledge, and achievements. This is the easiest part of the process. Evaluating attitude, or non-technical competencies, can be a bit more challenging. Start-up companies that are looking to recruit new talent would be wise to look for the following in job candidates:

  • Flexibility: When a start-up organization has limited funds and few employees, those who come on staff need to have the flexibility to fulfill more than one role. While interviewing job candidates, it’s important to ask questions that accurately reflect the interviewee’s willingness to complete any task even if it’s not one of his or her official job duties.
  • Stress management skills: Working in a start-up environment is exciting for the potential it offers, but it can also be highly stressful. The people hired need to effectively manage multiple projects, clients, and priorities without becoming upset. Since prospective employees aren’t always honest about their own limits, it’s important to use behavioral interviewing techniques to gain a good understanding of their ability to manage stress.
  • Initiative: Start-up entrepreneurs have enough to do without the need to constantly direct the work of new employees, so hiring a self-starter is critical. Besides knowing what to do to get the job done, he or she should show initiative to come up with new projects and ideas. In exchange for the many opportunities for growth, the new hire should demonstrate a sense of investment in the new company’s success.
  • Professional communication skills: New employees should be able to communicate their ideas effectively verbally and in writing. Interviewers can test this competency by asking the job candidate to write a few paragraphs explaining a difficult concept in addition to evaluating their verbal responses.

While testing for these competencies isn’t an absolute guarantee of hiring the right person, implementing them can dramatically reduce turnover or the need to fire someone who isn’t performing up to expectations.

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