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Ropella Places Powertrain Test Lab Team Leader for Infineum

Posted: 08/29/2018  Category: RG Executive Search Placement

LINDEN, NEW JERSEY, August 29, 2018 – Congratulations to Shahzeb Sayeedi, who recently accepted an offer to become Infineum’s new Powertrain Test Lab Team Leader.

Shahzeb is excited to be returning to Infineum, where he actually completed his college internship as a Tribology Test Engineer Co-Op.  He has spent most of his career with MICRO where he worked his way up from Process Development Engineer Co-Op to Quality Engineer and, most recently, CNC Machining Development Engineer.  One project which helped prepare him for his new position was designing and building a Formula SAE spec racecar, during which Shahzeb was responsible for powertrain, turbocharging, intake, exhaust, engine management and overall build.  He has his Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology.

Infineum is a leading fuel and lubricant additive manufacturer focused on delivering reliable performance.  They were established in January 1999 as a joint venture between ExxonMobil and Shell.

Although Ropella’s initial objective was to find a Powertrain Test Lab Team Leader for Infineum, they located a number of highly qualified professionals that Infineum wanted to bring onto their team, including Jacob Goodale who accepted an Engineering position.  The next step in this business partnership will be recruiting a Technical Sales Account Manager.

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Ropella Launches CEO Search for Nanotech Industrial Solutions

Posted: 08/27/2018  Category: RG Executive Search Assignment

WOODBRIDGE, NEW JERSEY, August 27, 2018 – The Ropella Group, the leading Executive Search firm specializing in the chemical, consumer products and technology industries, has launched a new search on behalf of Nanotech Industrial Solutions (NIS), who is looking for a visionary CEO to lead the company through exponential growth and establish a strong strategic direction for the future.

NIS was the first company to succeed in commercially producing multi-layered, spherical and tubular nano-structures from inorganic materials, and remains the world’s only manufacturer of nano and submicron spherical sized particles of Inorganic Fullerene-like Tungsten Disulfide.  These technologies are primarily applied to lubricant applications within various infrastructure industries, including Oil & Gas Drilling, Space & Defense, and Power Generation Plants.

Job Requirements

The CEO will have the opportunity to establish a vision for the company over the next three to five years and beyond, including expanded revenue from $1.5MM to $5-10MM in the next one to two years.  The foundation of this growth lies on maturing joint development agreements with large clients including Total Global and Evonik.  With this growth comes the opportunity to travel to NIS’s production facility in Israel, as well as to current and prospective key clients in France, Germany and others.

The CEO will be first in command at NIS, responsible for creating a vision for success, providing strategic direction, driving development and guiding the company and its employees towards long-term success.  The ideal candidate will be a skilled executive with a demonstrated ability to focus on the big picture.  They will take actions to enhance the company’s cash flow and position the company as a lucrative investment opportunity for new strategic partners.  They need to have an entrepreneurial mindset, familiarity with diverse business functions, in-depth knowledge of corporate governance and strong acumen surrounding corporate finance.

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Ropella Places Senior Account Manager for Botaneco

Posted: 08/23/2018  Category: RG Executive Search Placement

LAMBERTVILLE, NEW JERSEY, August 23, 2018 – Congratulations to Michael Schwartz, who recently accepted an offer to become Botaneco’s new Senior Account Manager.

Michael is a results-oriented chemical industry sales management professional with an established record of consistent profit growth.  He began his career with Unilever as a Purchasing Agent before ultimately moving into Sales roles with Sandoz Chemicals, Lanxess, Ciba, and, most recently, BASF.  He has his B.Sc. in Chemistry from The City College of New York and his M.B.A. in Marketing from the Pace University Lubin School of Business.

Botaneco is a natural personal care ingredient manufacturer specializing in oilseeds.  They work intimately with their customers to solve problems, achieve specific formulation goals, and consistently improve the overall performance of personal care products.

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Ropella Places Sales Director - Americas for Micro Powders

Posted: 08/08/2018  Category: RG Executive Search Placement

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK, AUGUST 8, 2018 – Congratulations to Peter “P.J.” Muller, who recently accepted an offer to become Micro Powders’ new Sales Director – Americas.

P.J. began his professional career as a Pharmaceutical Technician before ultimately moving into personal care ingredient sales roles with Croda and, most recently, TRI-K.  He has his B.Sc. in Biology and his M.B.A. from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where he was a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society.  He is also an Eagle Scout.

Micro Powders is a worldwide leader in micronized wax additive technology.  Their solutions enable formulators to develop and improve advanced surface coatings for applications including paints and coatings, and personal care and cosmetics.

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The Importance of SMART Onboarding

Posted: 08/03/2018  Category: RG White Paper

You walk into the car dealership confident with your decision, and you’re excited about finally purchasing the car of your dreams. The salesman accompanies you on the test drive; the drive is smooth and comfortable, and you can see yourself happy with this as your daily driver. As he highlights the car’s features, the salesman casually brags that approximately 75% of their new cars are still running three months after purchase.

Are you shocked? Would you be comfortable making the significant investment required to purchase a new vehicle if there was a 25% chance it would breakdown within 90 days?

Notice I said the salesman bragged about this rate – that’s because your odds for a new hire are even worse.

According to a recent survey by Jobvite, approximately 30% of new hires will quit in their first 90 days. Take a moment to let that sink in…

30% of new hires will quit in their first 90 days.

For a little perspective, if you hired 100 people in January, 30 will have resigned by the end of March.

At the time of this writing, BASF (the world’s largest chemical company) has more than 1700 job openings worldwide. Of the people hired for those positions, more than 500 will have resigned by the end of a fiscal quarter.


For many, they simply didn’t get what they expected. Maybe the responsibilities were different from what they expected, maybe they didn’t smoothly assimilate into the culture, or maybe a specific negative experience left a bad taste in their mouth.

In The Definitive Guide to Onboarding, BambooHR asked what might have enticed these people to stay. Some answers weren’t surprising –clear guidelines regarding responsibilities and more effective training were top responses (23% and 21% respectively). One response really stands out from the rest, though: “17 percent said, ‘a friendly smile or helpful coworker would have made all the difference.’” 17% may not seem like a lot – especially since that’s only 17% of the 30% who resign after a short tenure (5% of all new hires).

Still, that implies that 17% of early turnover – 85 of BASF’s currently open positions – could be prevented with nothing more than a few friendly gestures.

That’s not including the 9% who wanted “more attention from the ‘manager and coworkers’”.

Hiring and training new employees are major investments in time, money and other resources. Just like when you buy a car, you want to make sure you’re going to get the most for that investment – without having to worry about repeating the whole process in a couple of months.

Chances are, your candidates are excited when they accept your job offer. If that is true, it stands to reason that something changes between the “Yes” and the end of their first 90 days on the job. The most obvious place to look for improvement, then, is with onboarding processes. You can learn more about how to upgrade your onboarding to set employees up for success in The SMART Onboarding Handbook, a Ropella White Paper that will be available soon. (If you would like to be notified upon its publication, leave a comment on this article.)

Until then, I’ll leave you with one final, uplifting statistic from O.C. Tanner: A great onboarding experience results in 69% of employees being more likely to stay with the company for at least 3 years.

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Negotiating Acceptance Before Making an Offer

Posted: 07/24/2018  Category: RG White Paper

Everyone knows that negotiating an offer can be the most delicate stage in the recruiting process. Done poorly, it can decrease the new hire’s job satisfaction before they have even begun their first day. Even worse, the offer may be rejected – and if it was a prolonged negotiation, that may mean that other viable candidates have likewise lost interest in the position, forcing the organization to start over from step one.

The whole point of presenting an offer is to get a “YES!” Not a “Maybe, I’ll think about it…” or a “No, thank you.” In fact, you want to get that yes before you present the final written offer!

How do you do this? All negotiations should be conducted with the candidate and appropriate decision makers during a pre-offer negotiations stage. The idea is that you don’t want to present an official offer unless you know exactly what the candidate is going to say. To make that possible, you need to discuss hypothetical terms and receive a firm commitment from the candidate that it will be worth moving forward with preparing and presenting a formal written offer.

Start the negotiations after you have addressed all the candidate’s needs, wants and motivations. Walk him through hypothetical offer scenarios until you get a “Yes”. Below is an example of such a pre-offer negotiation. You’ll notice that the candidate, Bill, doesn’t make it easy for the recruiter; expect to get some pushback, and be prepared to address likely objections.


Recruiter: Bill, when we first discussed compensation for this position, you told me that you wanted a base of $165,000 because you’re expecting a 5% raise on your current base of $150,000 in the next six months, and you wanted some incentive on top of that to make the job change. For the moment, let’s table the salary question and compare everything else.

Our bonus program is structured the same way as at your current organization and pays at the same range, so you’ll be even there. Our health and benefits will cost you a little less than what you’re paying now, but you had slightly more coverage there, so that comes out about even, too. Finally, I’ve previously given you details on our standard relocation package, which will cover everything that you’ve indicated you’ll need except for 90 days of temporary living expenses. Are there any other non-negotiable points I’ve forgotten?

Bill: What about the vacation policy?

Recruiter: Right, thanks! We are going to be able to match the amount of vacation you currently have, so you’ll come out even there, too. Are we in agreement?

Bill: Perfect. Yes, I think we’re good on those points.

Recruiter: Here’s my question: If I go to bat for you and push for a salary of $165,000 – which is over the target range by $10,000 – and push for an extra $5,000 in relocation benefits to cover your temporary living needs, are you going to say “Yes”?

Bill: I’ll need to think about it.

Recruiter: Bill, I have to know what negotiating leverage I have. Keep in mind that I can get more for you if I can guarantee you’ll say “Yes.” It’s the ultimate negotiating power if I can say, “Bill has given me his word. If we can do A or B, he will set the start day for two weeks from the day we present the offer.” If you were the one doing the hiring, you’d want to be wanted – just as much as you want to be wanted as a candidate. If you went through the long selection process, then negotiated and prepared an offer and jumped through a bunch of hoops to get approvals, you’d want to know the candidate was definitely going to say “Yes”. If you didn’t know how the candidate would respond, how much time, energy and enthusiasm would you put into pushing for the candidate to get more? Make sense?

Bill: Sure, I can appreciate that.

Recruiter: With that in mind, let’s discuss a few scenarios. If I can get you an even larger base of $175,000, you’d accept that enthusiastically, even without the added temporary living expenses, right?

Bill: Absolutely. I’ll give you my word that I would accept that offer.

Recruiter: Alright. What if I can’t get that, but I get a base of $165,000 plus an additional $3,500 added to the standard relocation package to cover your temporary living. Can I count on you to take that offer?

Bill: Probably. I’d at least still be interested, but I’d rather have the first offer.

Recruiter: Okay, so how about this: If it was $7,500 added to the relocation package, what would you say?

Bill: Yes, for sure. I give you my word that I would accept that offer, too.

Recruiter: Okay, worst case scenario time. If the decision makers come back and say $155,000 and no help with temporary living, what would you say to that?

Bill: I would pass on that offer. That’s not going to motivate me to move my family across the country.

Recruiter: Okay, so I can tell them that if they go that low, they should hire someone else?

Bill: Well, no, I didn’t say that. I’d want to at least hear the offer and have a chance to think it over.

Recruiter: I’m giving you the chance to think it over right now, Bill. I need to know exactly what is exciting to you, what is acceptable, and when you would walk away. That way, I know how hard to push on your behalf and when to back off.

If you need to review this with your wife and get back to me this afternoon, that’s fine. But I can’t pursue an offer until I know exactly where we stand.

Bill: Why can’t you just get me an offer, let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you?

Recruiter: That’s a fair question. Here’s why: Getting an offer together and getting approval on it from all necessary stakeholders is a huge, time-consuming process. It requires multiple signatures and sets expectations. We can’t afford to go through the formal approval process, then wait on your decision, have to renegotiate and go through approval again, and potentially still have you say “No, thanks”. By then, we will likely have lost any other potential candidates, and we have to start the whole search process again.

That’s why I want to find out what will satisfy you now. I give you my word that I’m going to put everything I’ve got into getting exactly what you want, with the understanding that you’ll say “Yes” if we put in that effort. Like I said earlier, I’m more likely to get agreement from the decision makers if I can give them that guarantee.

So, to make sure we’re on the same page before you talk to your wife, let’s review the scenarios one more time. If I can get you a larger base of $175,000, we’ve definitely got a deal and you’ll start two weeks from receipt of the written offer, correct?

Bill: Yes, for sure.

Recruiter: Great! And if I can’t get that, but I get a base of $165,000 plus $7,500 added to the relocation package for temporary living, can I count on you to take that offer?

Bill: Probably. I’d at least still be interested, but I’d rather have the $175,000. Let me confirm this one with my wife and let you know for sure this afternoon.

Recruiter: Okay, that’s fair. How about a base of $155,000 plus $7,500 added to relocation. What would you say?

Bill: Hmm… This is where I’d probably walk away. I just don’t think I’d be happy with that offer.

Recruiter: Okay. Now, I don’t expect this, but just in case the decision makers come back with a $150,000 cap on salary because they know another candidate would be happy with that number, and nothing added to the relocation package, because that candidate wouldn’t have to relocate, what would you say to that?

Bill: Honestly, I’d have to say no. I’ll run it by Mary, but I’m confident we’d say no to that.

Recruiter: Thanks, Bill. You run all this by your wife and get back to me as soon as possible – nothing else happens until I hear from you. Before we say good-bye, let’s make sure we’re both clear on the scenarios. Could you repeat them back to me quick?

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Ropella Places Director of Business Development for EPM - Press Release

Posted: 07/03/2018  Category: RG Executive Search Placement

FRAMINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTES, JULY 3, 2018 – Congratulations to Susan Steyn, who recently accepted an offer to become Engineering Planning and Management, Inc.’s (EPM) new Director of Business Development.

Susan has more than 15 years of energy and safety experience, at companies including Bureau Veritas and GE.  She has her Master of Science from University of Witwatersrand, and her Bachelor of Science from University of Pretoria.

EPM is a safety engineering and consultancy firm with a focus on fire protection in the nuclear power plant industry.  They sought a new Director of Business Development in order to drive their ambitious growth strategy.

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Listening Between the Lines

Posted: 06/28/2018  Category: RG White Paper

When it comes to executive hiring, one error in judgement can quickly snowball into a multi-million dollar mistake. Sadly, as the head of an Executive Search firm, I see it all too often. The selection team brings in a candidate with exceptional credentials – someone who “checks all the boxes” – gets mesmerized by the individual’s accomplishments or skills and fails to pay heed to the red flags.

HR experts estimate that the cost of a bad hire is as much as 7 times the individual’s annual salary. At the Vice President or C-Suite level, soft costs alone can be catastrophic with lasting, sometimes irreparable, damage to productivity, morale, business relationships (clients, customers, suppliers, distributors, etc.), and market position.


An interview is underway for the VP of Sales position at ABC Surfactants. Elise Watson, the Chief Commercial Officer, is conducting the interview for Mike Jacobs. Mike has an excellent resume; some of his tenures were short, but he is a high-performer skilled at achieving major growth from both new and existing customers and who experienced increased responsibility with each new role. He had both a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering and his MBA. He had done well on his phone interview, as well, and ABC was nearly ready to present him an offer. Before doing so, though, they needed to go through the formality of a face-to-face interview.

Truth be told, knowing the interview was little more than “dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s”, Elise found herself distracted. She heard Mike’s answers, but mentally she was fine-tuning the annual budget and thinking about the presentation she would be making to the CEO in a couple of hours.

“Mike, could you give me an example of a project you were involved in which required a significant amount of self-direction?”

She hated asking the question.  Mike had started a surfactants business from the ground up which had recently been acquired by one of the largest chemical corporations in the world – there was no doubt he was experienced working without supervision. Still, these were the questions the hiring team had agreed upon for this position, so she stuck to the script.

“A couple of years ago, a colleague and I started our own company, AlphaOmega. I was in charge of commercial operations and Chuck handled all the technical stuff, and ‘ne’er the twain shall meet,’ as they say. Within a year of launch, I had achieved $20 million in sales. I have always enjoyed roles which allowed for a great deal of self-direction. I hate being bossed around, and I like things done in a certain way; that’s probably why I’m already on my third wife. I really excel when I am given the freedom to take control.”

Answers as Aesop’s Fables

Did you catch the implication that Elise missed?

Behavior-based questions like the one above require candidates to support their personal claims with specific examples illustrating their past performance. Anyone can claim to be good at working with significant self-direction; it’s much harder to provide supporting evidence. In order for these questions to be effective, however, the interviewer has to really listen between the lines.

Consider candidate responses to behavior-based interview questions like Aesop’s Fables. There is a nice story, but you are really looking for the moral wrapped up inside that story. Hopefully the moral is in line with the characteristics you were trying to elicit with the question. Oftentimes, however, there will be even more to learn. In Mike’s case, the moral of his story is that although he is skilled at working independently, he is not nearly so good at taking direction from others and potentially struggles to allow his subordinates the same freedom of choice he demands for himself.

Marital status alone should never be a deciding factor in whether or not you hire a candidate. You can’t ask about it directly, nor should you. In this case, though, Mike offered up information that gives real insight into what kind of employee he would be – “I hate being bossed around, and I like things done in a certain way”. Being able to pursue and achieve objectives with minimal direction and oversight is one thing – but multiple divorces because of control issues is a major red flag. It also helps to explain why Mike’s tenure tends to be short – he may be a high performer, but he’s not much of a team player.

“There is no substitute for paying attention.” -Diane Sawyer

So how do you avoid a disastrous hiring mistake? All you have to do is listen.

Do you know how to listen? I mean really listen? Hearing is one thing – the physical vibration of sound waves on your eardrums. Listening is another thing entirely – the acquisition of information. What I’m referring to – Active Listening – even goes a step beyond that. Active listening occurs when you hear beyond the speaker’s words and listen for the real meaning, context, intent and feelings behind the message.

When it comes to evaluating potential candidates – especially at the executive level – no skill is more critical than active listening. According to some studies, though, we only actively listen about 30% of the time; that means we are missing out on as much as 70% of the information people convey in an interview. And when we miss this crucial data, we fail to spot warning signs and red flags.

Becoming an Active Listener

Make no mistake: active listening takes effort. It requires focus, concentration, and a lot of practice. You have to consciously remove distractions and learn to process content and evaluate implications more efficiently. It will likely require some physical changes to the listening environment and a little mental reprogramming. However, that effort will prove extremely worthwhile – not just in improving your hiring process, but in all your interpersonal relationships.

Here are some general tips to help you become a better active listener:

  • Get control over internal distractions. The speed at which our brain works is both a blessing and a curse – we can speak approximately 150 words a minute, but we can think more than 800 words a minute. When our mind is not fully engaged in an activity, it tends to wander – and active listening stops. The challenge is to find ways to put distracting, tangential thoughts on hold. If you know there are specific issues weighing on your mind that may prove to be distractions, you may simply want to make a list of these topics before the interview so you can return to them once the meeting is over.
  • Plan ahead. Before beginning a discussion, ask yourself: “What do I need to learn from this conversation?” By consciously considering content beforehand, you open your mind to listen for critical information. In an interview situation, you can do this for each question you intend to ask; you may also wish to note potential follow-up questions based on answers you may expect to receive.
  • Write down important information. Taking notes is essential to active listening. Since you can’t turn off your brain, you can instead use a notepad to capture what’s going through your mind. Taking notes actually helps you stay more focused and frees your brain to listen.

Active Listening Tips for Hiring Managers

During a typical interview, most hiring managers will spend almost 80% of the time talking. An active listener, however, spends 80% of his time listening. If you want to get better information about the candidates you are evaluating, put these active listening tips into your interview routine:

  1. Listen to verify interest in the position. The most successful executives are passionate about their work. As an active listener, you are looking for evidence that the candidate is excited about your company, your industry, and the specific position they are interviewing for. Throughout the interview – not just at the beginning and / or end – you should hear excitement in the candidate’s tone and words. Listen for information on trends in your industry, the candidate’s fields of expertise and interest, and potential suggestions for dealing with challenges your firm faces.
  2. Listen for examples and experience. The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Pay careful attention to how candidates respond to your questions; you should listen for specific examples of when the candidate has demonstrated the kind of behaviors that will be necessary for them succeed in the open position. For example, if you’re looking for a visionary leader, you want to hear clear examples of times when the person exhibited visionary leadership. On the other hand, if you ask a question and only get a review of management theory in response (not supported by specific examples), you may have a candidate who is not truly qualified.
  3. Listen for qualities that may bring negativity to the job or the team. Rarely will candidates come right out and tell you they are lacking qualities you require, nor will they be open about what other baggage they may bring along with them. This is where you have to learn to listen between the lines of their examples. Listen for instances that suggest gossiping, overconfidence, a lack of assertiveness, a tendency to procrastinate, scoffing past employers, bragging, etc. Odds are that a person who exhibits this kind of negativity is not a team player and could become a destructive force in your company culture.
  4. Listen for additional attributes that could benefit the company. Just as active listening can help you uncover negative qualities a candidate possesses, you may also discover they have additional positive attributes that weren’t initially part of your ideal candidate profile. Making a list of any such traits you encounter in candidates may help you differentiate once you have narrowed the field down to two or three highly qualified finalists.
  5. Listen for what is important to the candidate. This may be one of the most important – and one of the most overlooked – aspects of interviewing. Hiring, especially at the executive level, needs to be a two-way street where both the candidate and the employer are gaining something from a mutually beneficial relationship. What are the candidate’s career goals? What motivates him or her? Find the answers to questions like these to make sure the candidate’s priorities match the realities of the job. If you neglect to ensure a good fit between candidate interests and what the position offers, you are much less likely to make a successful hire.

Counsel for the Candidate

Of course, active listening isn’t just for hiring managers! If you’re in the job market, active listening is critical to landing with the right organization.

As a job seeker, you want to learn about the company’s expectations, the opportunities you will have, and the microculture of the team you’ll be joining. In short, you want to make sure that working for this employer will be the right step in your career. Here are a few active listening tips for job seekers:

  1. Focus on learning rather than just selling yourself. This advice may sound flawed; after all, isn’t the point of a job interview to sell yourself? However, whenever you’re worried about “looking good”, you tend to be more nervous, ask fewer questions, and miss important information. In short, trying to sell yourself makes it harder to effectively sell yourself. Instead, go into the interview well-prepared, knowing as much as you can about the company and its industry. Use this knowledge to ask insightful questions about the organization, the work environment, their perspective on industry trends, and the measures of success they have for candidates. Use all of this information to validate that this really is the best opportunity for you.
  2. Show that you are actively listening. Maintain eye contact and exhibit good posture. Provide cues that you are listening and interested by nodding in agreement, taking notes, and asking follow-up questions.  Reflect important statements back to the interviewer and expound on them: “What I hear you saying is that this is a very fast-paced work environment, and it is easy for employees to fall behind. I have always preferred a hectic work environment to one that is subject to lulls. My previous employer had a similar environment. I pioneered a new program for time management that was ultimately implemented throughout the organization and resulted in a 50% reduction in missed deadlines.”
  3. Listen for important names and other key details. During the interview process, you may learn new information about people in the firm, organizational challenges, or competitive issues. If you are offered the job, you may want to refer to this information to help you evaluate your acceptance decision.

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Ropella Places Director of R&D for BITE Beauty - Press Release

Posted: 06/19/2018  Category: RG Executive Search Placement

TORONTO, CANADA, JUNE 19, 2018 – Congratulations to Gajan Haas, who recently accepted an offer to become BITE Beauty’s new Director of Research and Development.

Gajan has 20 years of personal care research experience, at companies including Melaleuca and Crabtree & Evelyn.  He has his Bachelor of Science from Cornell University in Biochemistry with a concentration in Molecular Biology.

BITE Beauty is a cosmetics company that combines high performance with “good-enough-to-eat ingredients” for their line of lipsticks, lip glosses, lip balms, and more.

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Behavior-Based Interviewing for Successful Hires

Posted: 06/05/2018  Category: RG White Paper

Several Ropella employees serve as coaches for their children’s youth sports teams, most recently baseball and t-ball. Before the start of the season, the kids go through a “Skills Assessment” – everyone who has signed up demonstrates their ability to play: hitting, catching, and running the bases. Coaches grade the kids, and use the results to evenly distribute talent across teams. As practices begin, they know which kids on their team are likely to be superstars, and which are going to need a lot more attention in order to develop their potential.

Once practice actually starts, though, anything can happen. Two kids with approximately equivalent skills and level of experience can take two completely different paths. One may indeed earn stellar statistics, propelling his team to victories, while the other may stagnate while his teammates grow and end the season as more of a liability than an asset.

What is the difference? It could be any number of traits that a skills assessment isn’t designed to measure: work ethic, an eagerness to learn, and an ability to work well as part of a team.

The same is true in hiring. Looking at a candidate’s skills and experience is only going to reveal so much information – especially since as many as 30% of job seekers exaggerate their accomplishments on their resume. You need to know more than that in order to be able to select the best candidates from among the good to poor ones – research shows that hard qualifications like college degrees and years of experience are less predictive of job success than soft skills like creativity and empathy. When you find out more about candidates’ ability to function in the position while using their skills, along with their real character and behavior, it will help you to better understand each candidates’ likelihood of success.

The most effective interviewing techniques focus more on the behavioral experiences of an individual rather than on the skills and past training. It is believed that if an individual has the right attitude, aptitude and behavior, that they can learn whatever skills are needed for the position.

Use Reporter's Questions for Best Results

The basic reporter’s questions – Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How – are the tools you need for behavioral analysis. By applying them to the issues related to behavior (such as work ethic, ego, persuasiveness, courage, etc.), you can determine the value of a candidate for a particular position. In order to ask the right questions, you will need to determine beforehand which traits are essential for someone who will be successful.

A good interviewer will use behavioral questions to approve or eliminate candidates accordingly. A nurse who is currently working at a competitor’s organization might have everything you think you’re looking for: an advanced degree, conferred with honors; many years of experience in the field; and right in the middle of your target compensation range. A lack of the right behavioral traits, however, may indicate that she would not work out well in the position you have available. They could even indicate that you are looking at the problem child of the other organization – and not at the superstar you need. There still is some truth to the adages “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and “A leopard can’t change its spots,” and the right kind of interviewing can reveal potential problems.

If your interviews determine that someone has the right traits even without all of the specific skills, then you may want to train and develop them further to hone their skills. This kind of person will be worth the investment of time.

Top Questions to Get Behavioral Responses

When seeking to assess a candidate on a behavioral trait, you want to formulate your questions to elicit a response based on that trait. For example, if you want to find out how creative a candidate is, you can ask, “In what ways have you demonstrated creativity at work in the last 60 days?” Or, you might ask, “What kind of creative project have you done recently at work? Was it successful?”

Here are some key behavioral areas you might investigate in an interview, along with the key traits you want to uncover.

  • Intelligence: Analytical; Conceptual; Creative; Objective; Cultural
  • Work Ethic: Commitment; Pride; Passion; Empathy; Desire to Lead
  • Get Things Done: Focused/To the Point; Solutions Oriented; Goal Oriented; Pride in Results; Prioritize
  • Courage: Willingness to Disagree; Perseverance; Stand Up for Belief
  • Ego: Self-Confidence; Self-Reliance; Presence
  • Persuasive: Empathy; Desire to Convince; Problem Solver
  • Communicator: Clear and Concise; Complete Answers; Listening Skills
  • Resourceful: Creative; Flexible; Low Supervision
  • Leadership: Responsibility; Team Player

During most candidate selection processes, only candidates who pass the early pre-screening stage (focused on hard qualifications) are sent on to the hiring manager for interviews. At this stage, the hiring manager should be focused on behavioral questions to determine which candidate will be the right fit for the job and the organization. Questions need to be asked to determine their depth of experience as well as their cultural fit into the specific department. If the candidate is going to be interviewed by more than one person, the questions should be divided so as to not duplicate the same material. This will enable the interviewers to cover more ground.

When behavioral-based interviewing is used, some powerful results are certainly worth noting:

  • Increased retention leads to decreases in turnover of up to 50 percent.
  • A more experienced staff improves outcomes and quality.
  • Improved client satisfaction drives higher levels of productivity and employee satisfaction.
  • All of these factors work together to improve outcomes and client satisfaction, as well as the organization's financial performance.

The Value of Behavioral Interview Questions

If you were a candidate applying for a job, think about how you would describe yourself when asked to finish this sentence, “I am a _____________.”

Following are the top five responses for this sentence, “I am a __________.”:

  1. team player
  2. hard worker
  3. people person
  4. self-starter
  5. dependable employee

Now consider what these responses tell you as an interviewer. What do you now know about the person who gave you these responses? Nothing really. Only a vague interpretation of the candidates' own opinion of themselves (or, worse, a vague idea of what the candidate thinks you want them to be, as opposed to who they actually are).

The basis of behavioral interviewing is that the past performance of an individual is the best way to predict future behavior. During the interview process, questions are asked in a way that gives the candidate the opportunity to tell you about past performances, experiences, or skills. You should tell the candidate to give as many specific details as possible when they give their answer. His or her response will enable you to tell how they would perform in situations that are similar to the ones they will encounter in your open position.

Have you ever applied for a mortgage for a home? Besides the paperwork and fees, what information is the mortgage company most interested in? You can be sure that they will take a serious look at your credit score and credit history. Why? They will base your ability to pay in the future largely upon your actual repayment history and how you handled your finances in the past.

The difference is, you can’t lie about your credit score, while candidates can lie on their resume. The use of a credit score to assess financial responsibility is just one of many examples of where past behavior is used to predict future performance.

Whether to accept a second date, how you bet on a horse race, and whether you ask a babysitter to come back a second time to watch your children are all examples of how we use specific past behavior to inform our everyday decisions. Our hiring decisions should be treated with the same due diligence.

Comparing Results from Different Types of Questions

Let’s take a moment to look at what kind of information we can expect to receive from both a behavioral and a traditional approach – and then compare them.

Here are two examples:

At ABC Technologies, our clients are our top priority. Many clients find themselves with urgent IT needs and their stress level is very high. If they become upset with something that has happened or something they feel should have happened but didn’t, we need to continue to be responsive. We call this service recovery. Do you have experience with service recovery?

At ABC Technologies, our clients are our top priority. Many clients find themselves with urgent IT needs and their stress level is very high. If they become upset with something that has happened or something they feel should have happened but didn’t, we need to continue to be responsive. Can you tell me about a time that you worked with an upset client, how you dealt with it and what the final outcome was?

The facts given in the above information is the same – only the ending is different. Now let’s see how these two questions differ in the information they elicit.

Question 1 can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.” This will seriously limit the flow of information being given. Even if the candidate specifies their years of experience in service recovery, you won’t have any idea of how successful they have been in these situations.

Question 2, on the other hand, encourages the candidate to provide information that will let the interviewer see how well he or she performed under similar situations.

Non-behavioral-based questions are often closed-ended. Candidates can answer with a “yes” or “no” or another brief, non-specific response. Facts and figures are easily exaggerated, or answers tailored to what they think the interviewer is looking for.

Behavioral-based questions, on the other hand, are always open-ended. Candidates must answer with a specific, detailed example or story, which is harder to make up on the fly. Behavioral-based questions are not hypothetical. Do not use language such as, “What would you do?” Use prompts such as, “Tell me about a time when you…” Anyone can tell the bank that they will pay on their mortgage each month; whether or not this is true is a different story.

Choosing the Behavioral-Based Questions You Need

At this point you are probably wondering: How might I identify the skills that are most important and critical to success in a given position? As a hiring manager, how to I develop behavioral-based questions that help me identify the right person for the job?

Start by identifying the must-have soft skills for the position. Perhaps they need to have an entrepreneurial mindset, excellent attention to detail, and an ability to work cross-functionally within a complex matrix organization.

The book The Right Hire can help you to identify these key traits and implement them into a comprehensive system of assessment. The following resources can also help you to identify these key traits:

  1. The job description.
  2. The characteristics of your top performers, especially on the skills and behaviors they demonstrate on a daily basis.
  3. Your organization's standards of behavior.
  4. Personality profiles.
  5. Tests.

The next step is to identify and prioritize the job-specific competencies that are most important in order to ensure the candidate will be successful in the new position. Let these serve as a foundation upon which you can develop the behavioral-based questions that will allow you to recognize these traits in your candidates.

For the highest priority characteristics, you may want to consider creating a Skills Survey – a pre-interview questionnaire that candidates can take the time to formulate their answers from the comfort of their own homes. A Scorecard will allow you to assess these answers against an objective standard, so you can determine which candidates are worth investing in a phone or face-to-face interview. When you get to the interview, you will already have a good idea of how well the candidate will fit into your organization, and you can tailor your questions to dig deeper into the information they have already provided.

Sample Questions for Behavioral Interviews

1.      Exercising good judgement

  • What is the most difficult decision you have had to  make? How did you arrive at that decision? What was the result of your decision?
  • Describe a situation where you handled decisions under pressure or when time limits were a factor. What was the outcome?

2.      Critical thinking skills

  • Describe a time when you had to analyze a problem and generate a solution. What was the result?
  • Tell me about a situation that did not work out as expected and for which you were responsible for deciding the next steps. Where did this lead?

3.      Exercising initiative

  • Can you tell me about a time when you went beyond your manager's normal job expectations in order to get the job done? How were you recognized?
  • Tell me about a time when you identified a new, unusual, or different approach for addressing a problem or task. What was the benefit?

4.      Client orientation

  • Describe a time when you had an irate client. How did you handle the situation?

5.      Continuous learning

  • Tell me about a specific situation when you did now have the knowledge or skill to complete a task or assignment. How did you overcome this challenge?

6.      Initiative

  • Give me an example of when you had to go beyond the call of duty to get the job done. How were you rewarded?

7.      Adaptability

  • Give me an example of a time when you had two important projects competing for your time. How did you select the priority?

8.      Teamwork

  • What did you do in your last job to contribute to a team environment? How were you recognized for your contribution?

9.      Communication

  • Tell me about a time when you had a miscommunication with a team member or client. How did you resolve this communication breakdown?

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