The #1 Proven Interview Method for Hiring Top Performers

The #1 Proven Interview Method for Hiring Top Performers

Once a candidate has been screened for an opening on your team by HR, it’s up to you to determine whether they’re the best fit for the position. Are your interview skills as effective as they need to be to ensure you’re hiring a top performing candidate? 

Interviewing can present as a challenge if you’re not sure what to look for.

The CEO of a client company expressed that he very much disliked having to conduct the interviewing process. When asked why he said, “Most every candidate presents very well. But, at the end of the interview process, I’m left unsure of which candidate will be the best performer and which one will be an average performer.”  

The objective, of course, is to hire top performing employees. Industry research clearly shows that top-performing employees, which comprise a small 5% of the workforce, produce more than a quarter of a company’s total output.1

Behavioral Interviewing – with A Twist

Some interviewing strategies are far more predictive of on the job performance than others. Behavioral interviewing strategies are proven to provide a higher rate of validity than job-related interview strategies and psychologically based interview strategies.2

The foundation of behavioral interviewing is built upon the idea that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior in similar situations.3

4 Keys to Effective Behavioral Interviewing:

  1.    Ask situational questions.

As mentioned above, behavioral interviews are proven to yield more valid results than other type of interview. To conduct a behavioral interview, ask situational questions.

  • “Tell me about a time when you managed a project.”
  • “What obstacles did you face? How did you overcome them?”  

Be curious.

  1.   Get specific.

If you ask for one example, every candidate will come up with a solid answer. If you ask for 3, 4 or 5 specific examples, the cream rises to the top. Someone highly experienced in the skill you are evaluating (i.e. overcoming project obstacles) will provide an endless supply of credible examples. A candidate who has prepared rehearsed answers for the interview won’t be able to produce a variety of valuable answers and will begin to stumble as their story crumbles beneath them.

  1.   Don’t fall for excellent, but generic answers.

Be on the lookout for perfectly rehearsed answers. Responses such as, “When I manage projects I do 3 things. First, I make sure the team is crystal clear on what needs to be done and who will take responsibility for each piece. Second, we meet weekly as a team to review project status so all the information is out in the open. Finally, I check in daily with any leader that has tasks that are more than 2 weeks behind schedule.”

Rehearsed responses might lead you to think that the candidate has lots of experience in effective project management – but don’t be fooled. You need to be sure that the candidate can provide specific examples of their experience as it relates to the position.

What were the obstacles this project manager encountered on the project you asked about? (Obstacles? The candidate didn’t mention any obstacles.)  What you heard was a rehearsed perfect answer.

…With a Twist

  1.    Engage in a little small talk. Why not get all the information you need without ever starting the “official” interview? Conversational Interviewing is a process of gathering insights about a candidate using whatever topics come up in casual conversation.

For example, if the topic of sports comes up during small talk, ask:

  • “What are your favorite sports? Why?
    • Insight: Do they prefer team sports or competing as an individual?
  • “When you played sports, were you the leading scorer? If so, why? If not, why not?
    • Insight: If they were the leading scorer in basketball, were they the most talented or did they refuse to pass the ball to their teammate?
  • “You coached your child’s team? Fantastic. Why did you become a coach?”
    • Insight: Do they like being in charge? Do they like being of service? Do they LOVE when a kid learns a new skill?

Each answer the candidate provides will give insight into how well the candidate aligns with what you’re searching for. In short, your end goal is to find someone who loves doing the tasks that you need to have completed – this is essential in hiring a top performer.

Conversational interviewing puts the candidate at ease – allowing them to be most honest because they’re relaxed and their guard is down. They’re ready for the official interview to start, but, in essence, it never does.

I once had a recruiter call me after I interviewed her candidate. She assumed I disliked the candidate because the candidate mentioned that I had not asked any real interview questions. The reality was, I got all the information I needed without ever “starting” the interview. My client hired this candidate – and twelve years later, he’s still working for her to this day and is a top performer.


If you’re going to spend time interviewing, wouldn’t you prefer to hire a top performer instead of settling for a subpar employee? Become a top performing interviewer and you’ll hire more top-performing employees.


  1.    O’Boyle, E., Jr., & Aguinis, H. (2012). Top Performers Produce 4x More Output and Higher Quality Referrals. Personnel Psychology. Retrieved from
  2.    Mcdaniel, M. A., Whetzel, D. L., Schmidt, F. L., & Maurer, S. D. (1994). The validity of employment interviews: A comprehensive review and meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology,79(4), 599-616. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.79.4.599
  3.    How to prepare for behavioral-based job interviews. (n.d.). Retrieved from 


Jim Connolly is Founder & CEO of Industry Leading Results. ILR helps companies systematically apply principles of human behavior to improve operational performance and financial results.  Jim has completed more than 2,000 behavioral interviews for his clients.

Jim is a sought-after speaker who uses humor to challenge the thinking of his audiences.  Jim understands how people think and uses that knowledge to equip, cajole and inspire audiences.  He has spoken to audiences as large as 1,100 people.

In his consulting practice, Jim helps clients with their most pressing people challenges, including:

  • Eliminating hiring mistakes
  • Reducing employee turnover
  • Underperforming teams – sales teams, project teams, leadership teams
  • Leader performance challenges
  • Resistance to organizational change efforts that are necessary to move the company forward
  • Systematically building toward record-setting and industry-leading performance

Whether it’s a company-wide issue or working with a specific department or team, we know how human behavior works so we know how to improve organizational performance and financial results.  Find out more at