Sunday, August 22, 2010



Predicting whether a candidate will meet your performance expectations on the job is the measurement objective for an interview. Essentially, you hire people on the belief that they will be good performers and that this will be reflected in future performance appraisals. Likewise, you reject applicants because you predict they won’t be effective performers. Defining performance expectations is the first step to accurate measurement. If interviewers cannot define what they want someone to do, they won’t be able to accurately measure whether someone can perform effectively.


There are differences in the levels at which employees perform their jobs. Performance expectations are the standards on interviewer uses to determine the expected level of performance for an employee. For the purpose of preparing an interview, the three components of performance expectations are goals, job barriers, and competency requirements.

In every job employees are expected to achieve goals. A goal is an end result that produces a direct, positive benefit to the organization. Goals are a part of performance expectations and should be assessed through the interview process since you want to hire people who will achieve the desired results. Your performance expectation will influence what you ask and what you look for in the new hire. Keep in mind that goals are only one part of performance expectations that you need to measure.

Job barriers are the second component of performance expectations. Job barriers are key job situations an employee has to overcome in order to be an effective performer (a “good employee”) and achieve important organizational goals. Think about the last performance appraisal you gave an employee. Did you actually base your ratings of the employee on everything that the employee did on the job ? If you are like most managers, you used events that the employee handled or failed to handle appropriately on the job as the basis for your rating. These events or situations are the job barriers. The job analysis technique for identifying the job barriers is a modification of the critical incident approach. Most contemporary approaches to interviewing use some variation of this approach.

Competency requirements are the third component of performance expectations. Competency requirements describe how you would like your employees to behave in job barrier situations. Indicating how you expect the person to act or not act in important job situations defines competency requirements.

Does this mean that interviewers who immediately hire the candidate do not have competency requirements ? No, it probably means the interviewers simply have not specified their competency requirements. Have you ever hired anyone who, on paper, had all the appropriate experiences and even a history of getting results but once hired, achieved results in a way that caused problems and led to poor performance ? If you think back to the way you interviewed that person, you probably focused heavily on the goals and job barriers-components of your performance expectation, but failed to specify the competency requirements-how job barriers should be addressed

There is a difference between competency requirements and competencies. As we have noted, competency requirements describe how you expect someone to perform in job barrier situations. The standards you set for the job performance you expect will determine the competency requirements. There is no one universally accepted definition of a competency; however, competencies are typically thought of as characteristics of individuals and the combination of the knowledge skills, abilities, attitudes, and values that they possess that apply in a variety of situations.

In many organizations today, interviewers focus on assessing the applicant’s competencies. Although an individual’s competencies are clearly important, focusing solely on competencies one can be misguided. Interviewers may concentrate on determining the candidate’s competencies without giving sufficient attention to whether the competencies will produce the desired results and overcome job barriers. In other words, interviewers often focus on what the candidate has without appropriately defining whether it is what is needed to meet performance expectations. Applicants may have numerous competencies, but interviewers have to determine if the competencies are relevant for the job.

Additionally, interviewers must determine if a specific competency will apply to the range of situations that exist in their organization. Consider an entry-level job in your organization that many employees perform and many managers supervise.

Does one supervisor expect a job barrier to be handled in a particular way and another supervisor expect it to be handled in a radically different and almost opposite manner ? Is it realistic to expect that the same set of behaviours are needed to meet the expectations of both supervisors ?

Certainly there are some competencies that apply across various situations. Almost every organization today needs what it calls “team players”. Yet employees rated as good team players in one organization might be rated poor team players in another organization because there are different expectations for being a team player. Thus a candidate could have the team player competency but would not always match the team player competency requirements of the job in question.

We use the term competency when we are referring to characteristics of individuals who may be talented but not necessarily able to meet specific performance expectations. Focusing on competency requirements leads to more precise measurement of good employees.


Whoever will be hiring the candidate should know the basis for the final decision before they begin interviewing candidates. Intuitively, this starting point may make sense, but many managers and HR professionals fail to define their expectations or do it poorly

Who is better able to define what should get done on a job than the person who will eventually assess the performance ? One of the keys to developing more effective interviews is to start by having the new hire’s direct manager define the performance expectations for the open position.

Some managers recognize the need to develop; their interview process by focusing on the job and identifying performance expectations. Because of their experience supervising employees who have the job they are trying to fill, managers have considerable expertise determining performance expectations

These managers often provide numerous details on duties and responsibilities. In fact, the level of detail far exceeds what can possible be assessed in a typical interview.

Many performance expectations are quite similar when you focus on what needs tobe accomplished and the competency requirements need to achieve it
Excerpted from “Strategc Interviewing” by Richard Camp,
Mary E Vielhaber, Jack I Simonetti.

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