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In order to succeed in your open position, the right candidate will need the technical training required by the daily tasks of the job. This may mean an eye for quality control, experience with relevant software or bilingual fluency. Qualifications in this category are usually cut and dry; either candidates have them, or they don’t. But intangible traits are just as important and can be far more difficult to measure. After all, you need an employee who’s easy to get along with, learns quickly, and holds the most important intangible trait of all: reliability.

No matter how charming or knowledgeable, candidates bring limited benefits if you can’t count on them or trust them. Here’s how to gain some insight into this area.

Don’t just ask.

“Are you reliable?” is a question you can delete from your interview script. To measure this quality, you can’t really rely on self-perception. Dig deep using metrics beyond the interview setting, including thoughtful reference checks and background checks. Ask former employers to answer specific questions like, “How often did the candidate show up on time during an average week?” or “How well did this candidate overcome obstacles at work on a scale of one to five?”

Review work history and length.

How far back does the candidate’s job history extend, and does this history align logically with the candidate’s age? A mid-30s candidate with a steady ten-year history seems reliable. A mid-30s candidate who can account for only two years of relevant employment may be a different story. Most resumes show a job history going back about ten years; for a given candidate, do those ten years contain several lengthy gaps? Can the candidate explain them? (Remember not to ask follow-up questions that may reveal a candidate’s marital status or child-rearing history. Infer using your best judgment.)

Use behavioral questions.

Ask the candidate how they would define the term “reliable.” Then ask the candidate to tell you a story about a time when they needed to show high levels of reliability on the job. Ask about a time when they felt unreliable. Read between the lines of each story to gain insight into 1) how much the candidate values this trait; and 2) how high or low the candidate sets the bar of expectation.

Ask about the candidate’s motivation.

Why does the applicant want this particular job? What do they assume this job will do for their long-term career? How will this job likely provide them with a sense of purpose or direction? Why pursue this company and not one of your competitors? There’s no wrong answer to this question, but again, the conversation may provide you with insights into how seriously they’ll take the work and how long they plan to stay.

For more on how to ask pointed interview questions and make the most of your data during the candidate selection process, turn to the hiring pros at Extension.

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