Friday, July 5, 2013

Performance Profiling Interview (PPI).

 Are you still doing just a Job Description (JD) based interviewing?
If yes! You are doing it wrong! Try the change called Performance Profiling Interview (PPI). The secret sauce to hire people, who “matter”.
JD based interviews get trapped into the legacy of “once successful, always successful” theory or assumption. Evidences of past hardly help interviewers predict future performance of the candidate. Research has found very little relationship between interview-time predictions made and future performances exhibited.

What is performance profiling interview (PPI)?

This is a craft of interviewing, somewhat similar to the “performance testing” of athletes or of a machine or application software, etc.  
PPI is an open-ended yet intensive “impromptu” interviewing to check candidate’s responses to real-time and real-life situations in the existing job!

How PPI works:

This is a de-coding process of a candidate profile against structured “observation-based and “experience-induced” objective assessment. Here the focus is more on interviewer’s experience of interviewing than candidate’s legacy of experience. PPI does not believe that past performance is an indicator of future performance. We are in complex, radically changing world. Constants are dead. What you did is great but ‘past’. You have been rewarded for that. Period!

Here, candidate is interviewed with surgical precision based on what challenges and opportunities available in the existing job and how the candidate responds to the given situation.
This is nothing but test driving a car to check responses and behavior. But not limited to that.It goes far and beyond testing performance.
Behavior is reflection of its attributes, the hard facts! The hard-wire stuff like chassis, ground clearance, boot size, engine power, suspension, gear-box, torque, etc.  Responses are; how it responds to bumper to bumper city ride, sloppy valley roads, muddy terrain, highway over-takes, maneuverability, and all the soft-wired aspects.
Remember, hard-wired stuff is difficult to change while soft-wired ones can be influenced.  PPI checks for both, candidates hired wire stuff, which is his strength of education, concepts, skill -levels and process-knowledge and process-abilities. Check for quality of candidate’s experiences on various identified important aspects (breadth and depth of experience).
Checking for hard-wired-facts are check-box exercises and not the core objective of PPI. They just set interviewers boundary of interview. The experience based responses are important and more important is response to situations based and case-study based questions.  

PPI interview lays emphasis on “How candidate uses his Hard-facts and Experience based learning into new situation” and How candidate responses to the new situation in case he has never faced such situation.
PPI interview uses ‘situation –based’ questions, if candidate has ever faced a same or similar situation earlier in his experience and if he has first-hand experience there. Sometimes candidate may not have first-hand experience but a second-hand experience. It is good to clarify, if he has first-hand or second-hand information.

As organisations are different and unique, the prima facie problems may look like same, but root cause and dimensions or complexities may not be of the same nature. PPI interviewer appreciates and accommodates diversity of experience and exposure of the candidate without making compromise to his interview design!

Un-wrapping the Gift:

If you are doing an interview based on what all a candidate has experienced or achieved in his present/past role, you may get good read on the following attributes of the candidate-

1. Perfect articulation of projects outline, nature, approach etc
2. High level crafted Communication and Confidence in defining objectives, challenges, opportunities and measures, secret of success, etc.
3. High-level of maturity and Project Manager like strategic/tactical insights that the candidate reflects when he explains you what all projects, he has done in the past.
Though you should acknowledge the confidence, knowledge, quality/diversity of projects and experience etc. Don’t get carried away. This is called “packaging”. Unwrapping, you have to do. I call this initial speech of the candidate, “the first-act”. Many first-acts are fake! Beware! Be skeptical not cynical. Being a PPI interviewer is a ‘test of integrity’, just not ability.

Even an IT desktop support engineer will define his role and expertise /experience like a CTO. You will notice, he uses, all jargon  adjectives and borrowed ‘trade words’ from his Manager and CTO’s dictionary. I have observed such ‘good-shows’ several times. This happens because he has rehearsed it so well and this is what he listens to the whole day from his users, bosses and big bosses.

Don't play in candidate's lap:

Test for attributes, attitude, competencies and process-abilities and concepts can be checked only against the responses that he gives for your environment, situations and circumstances. It is nothing but a real-time case based interview. Here you check what all assumptions he makes, what all critical questions he asks, what all buckets he makes for categorization of problems based on critical, who all partners he thinks of checking with for details, who all he consults, informs, how he models the problem, how he builds his solution, how he implements, how he manages communication while working on the problem, what risks he perceives and how careful or aware he is about the problem will have on impact of the customers and other users.

Real test is when you land someone in unknown territory. Use real-life cases. Avoid hypothetical cases. Ability to ascertain ground situation, resources availability, thinking on own feet to find out details, relate and arrange facts and model the problem right!

What a PPI interviewer shall do:

My suggestion is that case interviewer (performance profile interviewer) shall be open minded, have immense patience to listen to, have dense thinking and questioning ability, can remain neutral and interested in the candidate and keep showing the interest in him and his approach, assumptions and solutions, tools and techniques even when he is horrible. Do not make any assumption about the candidate rather test him by helping him by suggesting approaching differently, asking him to ignore about a few less important facts. 

Remember, Performance Profile Interviewer evaluates, assesses and analyses. He leaves judgement to others to make.

Make huge notes if not audio taping the whole interview. 

Trust me; performance profiling is the best way to test a candidate.  Even a candidate enjoys the performance profiling interview and learns from it besides carrying a great memory of this interview. PPI Helps in employer branding.

How to build cases for PPI interviews:

Build cases based on your issues and problems that you faced and resolved and also build cases on issues which you have resolved but they recur and you are trying to find a permanent fix to it. 
Scan through your “issue tracking systems and pick evidences from open ticket and closed ticket critical nature cases! This is just a reference and even if you do not track cases from across functions and roles in the organisation, you may still have documented such events in your data-bases and archives.
 Probably this is the reason that Harvard uses case-studies, up to 80% of their study methodology.


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