Filed in Uncategorized by on April 1, 2017

image001Your new Manager of Planning sailed through the interview process. He “wowed” the interview panel, hit it off with the Director and – based on his stellar resume – was more than qualified for the position.

So why is he NOW failing on the job?

It could be because he’s a great interviewee – but not a high performer. In fact, sometimes there is very little correlation between a candidate’s interviewing skills and his capacity to become an outstanding employee.

Of course, there are some really skilled and charming interviewees who are also very talented at the work they do, it is just that some hiring processes fail to distinguish between those who interview well and those who will actually perform well on the job. This leads to two problems:

  • Candidates who interview well are hired and then often underperform on the job (like in the example above).
  • Candidates who are high performers can get passed over, simply because they don’t interview all that well.

Here’s a personal example: When I was young, I went to a boys’ camp. I remember the camp Director, whom they called “Cobber”. He was really good at his job, a big part of which was public speaking. Give him three hundred boys for an hour, and he could hold them spellbound while he told a story. But, if you met poor old “Cobber” one-on-one, he would be looking around, fidgeting, whistling under his breath – he just didn’t have it. You could say “he failed the interview.” If you were to have judged him on his one-on-one performance, you would have missed listening to a great and inspiring speaker.

image002The moral of the story? People who don’t interview well, could quite possibly become your Top Talent employees, while people who are really great in the interview don’t necessarily have what it takes.

So, how can you tell if your potential new hire actually has the “right stuff” to become a great Top Talent employee? You need to do these three things:

  1. Understand the qualities of someone who interviews well …

They are:

  • prepared and on time;
  • polished/professional, and adept at creating a positive first impression;
  • articulate, enthusiastic and affable; and
  • assertive, inquisitive, poised and confident.
  1. Understand the qualities of a top performing employee

The traits of a Top Talent people are (in many cases) completely different from the traits of someone who simply interviews well. Top Talent people are:

  • extremely competent and highly motivated to do their best work;
  • effective working with, motivating and managing other people;
  • courageous enough to take initiative and implement change;
  • strong in the face of adversity and tough challenges;
  • great at problem solving and decision making;
  • committed to goals, deadlines and full of growth potential; and
  • able to keep their egos in check
  1. Know how to tell the difference …

Well-versed interviewees make great presentations, but presentations do not always correlate with top performance.

The reverse is true, too – great workers don’t always interview well. They are usually more discriminating, less eager to please and unwilling to waste time –characteristics that don’t necessarily make the best first impressions.

So how do you identify top performers, and weed out “wannabes”? Use these tips:


  • image004Never assume that Top Talent people will find you.In fact, statistics show that about 10% of all working men and women would consider a job change, but they are not looking. They already have great jobs! It is highly unlikely that they will be actively looking at the same time you have an opening. Or even looking at that expensive posting you had to pay for. You must identify a WAY to locate and engage them.
  • Build your employer brand.It is human nature to want to work at a respected municipality. Therefore, if top-performing people don’t know that you are a well-managed Town that’s a great place to work, you will never be considered.
  • Proactively build a pipeline.Top Talent people usually do not accept job offers out of the blue from strangers. Use your time at conferences and local government meetings to develop relationships with potential candidates, built on trust and mutual respect. Then, when the opportunity arises, approach them with job possibilities. I have noticed that some municipalities even have the smarts to get a booth at a municipal trade show … what a great way to meet people!
  • Make your job descriptions more compelling and do not simply focus on When writing job descriptions, knowing the requirements of the job is important. What are the challenges and hurdles? What does success look like? Top Talent people become interested in positions because of the work they will do, not because of the absolute and finite skills they possess.
  • Make the application process less tedious.Top Talent people are busy and have little time (or patience) to undergo an arduous application process. If you make them jump through hoops, they may delay starting the application process or never apply at all.


  • image006Hone your interviewing process … and help your interviewers’ skills.I have long been a proponent of asking “open-ended” questions, because they help to identify experiences and accomplishments. However, you need to be careful, because these types of questions do not always help to gauge a candidate’s track record, depth of experience, job-related competencies, cultural fit, etc. For the most part, they only assess the candidate’s storytelling abilities.

Teach interviewers in your municipality how to develop behavioral based questions that break through a candidate’s interviewing facade and evaluate actual job performance. To lessen the bias caused by first impressions, require those evaluating a candidate to cite specific candidate statements that back up their evaluations and/or conclusions. Train them to support their ratings with examples, rather than opinions, impressions, or hunches … and avoid gut-level hiring decisions.

  • Figure out ways to recruit for ‘FIT’. If you can somehow determine the profile of the person who works really well in your municipality, this will help with ultimate ‘FIT’. Another great tool in determining ‘FIT’ is the psychometric profile.
  • Be ready to act.Top employees do not stay job candidates for long. If your hiring process is too slow or lengthy, competition can creep in. Interest levels can wane. Impatience can increase. Human nature is to reject before being rejected. And you may wind up losing Top Talent candidates.

Critically examine your entire process … from the moment a candidate contacts your City through onboarding … identifying and eliminating process bottlenecks that cause delays.

  • Make the initial offer viable.If I had a dollar for every time a Mayor or Councillor has said, “People want to work here, this a great town, the paybacks are worth far more than the money we’re offering!”, I’d be rich! I lost an opportunity to search for a CAO for the Town of Summerside, PEI, a few years ago because I told a councillor he was dreaming if he thought the “outstanding community benefits” would make up for the low pay he wanted to offer. A high performer who can be encouraged to look, wants a better job … plain and simple. And while it’s not the only consideration, the salary you offer is the primary way she evaluates how “great” your job is … and how much you value her as a potential employee. If what you offer is not better than her current pay, expect her to reject you and it.

Going forward …

So, the best interviewees don’t always make the best employees. To consistently attract and hire great people, you must learn how to tell the difference between the two. You must train your interviewers to evaluate performance – not likeability. Refine your branding and recruiting to attract higher caliber candidates. Streamline your hiring process to keep the best prospects interested in your municipality. And offer them what they’re worth. Do these things, and you’ll hire top employees, every time.

But … if you want some professional help to find, interview and hire Top Talent, call us – IT’S WHAT WE DO!


Bruce Malcolm

About the Author ()

Bruce's background includes 30+ years of human resource management experience covering all aspects of HR administration with a clear specialty in team building and recruiting. He created and developed the concept of “Ethical Head-Hunting™”. Bruce began his recruiting career in 1971 with Prudential Assurance.

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