While I’ve never brought anyone on to an executive council through any means other than voting (hint: don’t do it this way.) I do manage hiring/recruiting at MLH and would love to share some of the things I’ve learned.
This turned into a giant post, you can skim the takeaways if you don’t have time/interest to read.
It turns out most interviews you’ve heard of are junk. A 1998 meta-analysis on job interviewing techniques rates structured interviews (where you ask the same questions in the same way – always) as the 3rd best means of assessing on-the-job performance, however unstructured interviews (what most interviewers do) are the 9th best. What’s worse structured interviews are only slightly better than a coin flip with a 51% correlation to job performance.1
Takeaway: If you’re going to do an interview ask the same questions in the same way for everyone.
So what’s better than interviews? It turns out work samples are the best means of assessment. So rather than simply doing an interview, instead have them do something that they’d do as a member of your exec board. Will they be leading a team? Have them lead a meeting. Will they be managing projects? Have them create a project plan. Will they be working with vendors? Have them place a food order.
What’s great about this method, is that they’ll also get to see what it’d be like on your board. It’s just as important that your candidates self-select out of the pool as it is that you evaluate them.
Takeaway: Instead of interviewing or as a supplement have them do a sample of the work they’d be doing as a member of your team.
The Point of the Interview
If you are going to run an interview, and it’s not a bad idea to since more data points contribute to better decisions, the first thing you should determine is what you’re going to assess. What things does the candidate need to be successful on the job?
Lou Adler suggests thinking about what success of the candidate would look like (e.g. “this person would be able to run judging without it getting delayed and no one getting yelled at,”) then ask would this candidate be able to achieve that?
You should create a list of skills or points of success that a candidate should have and design the interview from there, with the end goal being able to answer yes or no, to the question “Does the candidate have this skill?” or “Would the candidate be able to make this happen?”
Takeaway: Create a rubric with precisely what you’re trying to assess.
Questions to Ask
With a rubric designed, finally you’re ready to creating questions to help you asses the points on your rubric. Luckily, there’s also research here into what works.
Historical questions (“tell me about a time”) are amongst the worst to ask [in most circumstances], as the situation they were in then is not where they’ll be in your team.
Questions that have single answers (brainteasers, greatest weakness) are interesting, but don’t tell you much about how they’ll perform on the job.
Takeaway: Avoid questions on the past or ones they’re likely to have practiced answers for.
Often some of the best questions are ones that have the person think deeply about problems they’ll actually encounter in the role (e.g. “We have hackers in one building but are only able to serve food in a building further away, what’s the best way to get hackers to take a break and come eat lunch in an orderly manner that doesn’t break the school rules.”)
Takeaway: Ask questions that make them think as they would if they were in the role.
Finally, there’s a few final pieces to consider that can make or break a candidate:
Purpose - People who have purpose (i.e. they know their jobs make a difference) tend to be in the 64th or higher percentile of workers. You should assess for whether they can see what impact your hackathon has.2
Talents - Gallup asserts that people have innate talents and while you’re able to improve at things you’re not talented in, people who have those talents will have a much easier time of doing it. If you can find someone talented in sales, you might be better off than finding someone with experience but less talent. Gallup has many formulas and interviews for assessing talent and you can find them online, here’s a post I think summarizes their interview methodology well.
Team Fit - Understanding if someone will fit on your team is incredibly important. This isn’t a question of does this person look like me or do they have the same interests (that makes for a super non-diverse non-welcoming team.) Instead, ask, “does the way this person works work well for our team?” For example, if you team is all about consensus building and the person you’re talking to likes just doing things, it’s probably not the best fit.
If you’d like to read more First Break All The Rules was instrumental in my understanding of how to make a hiring process in addition to The Essential Guide to Hiring and Getting Hired.
1 A full list of methods tested and correlation:
Schmidt, Frank L., and John E. Hunter. “The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings.” Psychological bulletin, 124.2 (1998): 262.
2 Purpose / Passion to job percentile:
Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Simon & Schuster, 2017.