Finding what right looks like, part 4: Behavior trait selection matches the right behaviors to an open position

This post series comes to you courtesy of our cofounder and co-managing partner Jeff Wilson. For more information on how Jeff can help you discover “what right looks like” in your hiring, please contact him at 317-598-1950 x102 or

Previous posts in series:

In this post, I’ll talk about the steps of our hiring process that are in bold:

  • Get to know the client and understand the client’s business and HR needs on a deep level.
  • Discuss and determine with the client the KPIs (key performance indicators) and specific metrics of the position.
  • Discuss and determine with the client the job duties and any skills and qualifications required to perform them.
  • Discuss and determine with the client the behaviors required for top performance in the position.
  • Write the behavioral interview questions with client input.
  • Conduct behavioral interviews and provide comprehensive feedback along with a summary of answers provided by the candidates.
  • Present the client with a short list of candidates qualified through the behavioral interviews.
  • Provide extensive interaction with the client throughout the interview process.

Once we’re gone through with our client the KPI exercise I described in the last post of this series, several adjectives describing the “right” person will have emerged. From here we begin to list the various traits that we discussed and review the definitions of each behavior.

To assist our clients in this process, we have prepared a form that shows the most common behaviors broken down into four different categories (as taught to us from the KeenHire methodology):

  • Motivational Drivers
  • Ways of Thinking
  • Methods of Interacting
  • Strategies for Thinking

Next, we prioritize the behaviors until we have a hierarchical listing, showing us which behavior is the most important of all. Why is this important? Once we begin interviewing prospective candidates, anyone that does not have the top behavior is immediately removed from our list.  Following this comprehensive system, we can now avoid wasting time on candidates who don’t have the most important identified trait as their primary strength.

Our mission is to have at least one behavior identified within each of the four categories.  We may have an additional secondary trait selected in one or more of these lists. But ideally we would have no more than six or seven behaviors identified. Another tool we use is a Definitions List, which spells out exactly what the definition of each behavior is in order to be sure we’re selecting the correct trait.

At this stage in the process, we are asking our clients to make a big adjustment. Until now, most of them had thought solely in terms of skills and qualifications. Find a person with the right degree and enough years in the industry. Then, if he or she seems likable during the job interview, hire away!

But this approach has not produced the desired results. They may have hired people who looked good on paper but lacked the behaviors necessary for top executive performance. Or they may have hired excellent people but put them in jobs poorly matched to their behaviors. In either case, they did not get the performance they needed.

Hiring based on behaviors does away with the status quo that in some ways is quite comforting, but the company willing to go through this process and employ a disciplined, systematic approach often finds a superior candidate. And especially beneficial are the attributes of hiring candidates that stay with the company longer and result in a positive impact on growth and revenues.

Our next hiring process topic will be Custom-written questions are the foundation of successful behavioral interviewing.

The Key Corporate Services Blog Team
Handy guide to our blog post series