You’re looking to hire a mechanic, shop supervisor or data analyst. You’ve sorted through the applications and resumes, creating a shortlist of candidates who look great on paper.
Now, it’s time for the interviews to assess who would be the best choice for the job.
But when candidates operate as their own public relations agent, selective about what they share – and don’t share – to put themselves in the best light, how do you get to the truth about whether they really have “the goods” for the job?
Enter Robin Dreeke, the former head of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Behavioral Analysis Program.
Dreeke spent over three decades developing high-trust relationships with informants, including many unsavory characters, to gather intelligence to help the FBI and other agencies prevent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. So, he knows a thing or two about how to read people to quickly determine whether you can trust them – and work with them.
And he writes extensively about his system, which he calls “The Six Signs of Behavior Prediction,” in his latest bestselling book, “Sizing People Up: A Veteran FBI Agent’s User Manual for Behavior Prediction.”
UFP recently spoke with Dreeke to get his take on how you can apply his behavior prediction model to make better-informed hiring decisions that can take your fleet’s performance – and your career – to the next level.
Here are the three biggest takeaways from our conversation.
1. Look for clues of commitment.
Would this person fit in well with your culture? Would they make a positive impact on the team? After all, anybody can say they’re a great team player. But how can you verify that?
Look for signs that they believe they would have a vested interest in helping the team succeed.
“Whether it's in the resume, the interview or in an email, are they demonstrating to me that they're looking to build a long-term relationship? Are they seeking my thoughts and opinions? Are they talking in terms of my priorities, the priorities of the job and the mission of the company?” Dreeke said.
How can you draw this out in an interview?
“One of my favorite questions I would ask potential [FBI] team members during the interview is really simple: ‘Tell me about one or two of your strengths.’ But what I would want to hear is them talking about their strengths in terms of how they can help the organization,” Dreeke said.
In other words, you want to know: Has this person invested the time up front to think about what they can bring to the table to help your department succeed?
If so, that’s a signal of commitment – that they’re vested in your team’s success – which enables you to predict that they would likely behave in ways that contribute to a positive team dynamic.
2. Test for transparency.
But what if you’re interviewing a well-coached candidate who knows it’s smart to speak to the employer’s priorities? How can you determine if they’re just telling you what you want to hear?
Ask questions that probe into uncomfortable topics that test whether they are being genuine and shooting straight with you.
“After the ‘strengths’ question, then the really critical question is, ‘Tell me about some of your challenges, your weaknesses.’ Then follow up with questions like, ‘What kind of things did you learn? What would you do differently?’” Dreeke said.
What should you be looking for?
“I’m looking for transparency and openness,” Dreeke said. “I want to hear what those weaknesses are and what you're doing about it. In other words, I want to see if you have the ability to put your shield down and share openly about what your personal challenges are. I’m looking for self-awareness – ‘I've put in place X, Y and Z to help me counter this.’”
Conversations that test for transparency are important because they give you a baseline of what you're likely to deal with if you hire that candidate. As Dreeke put it, “If they're not open enough during the interview when they’re putting their best foot forward, what's the likelihood they're not going to be open later on? Pretty high.”
3. ‘Read’ the references.
References can help you verify whether the candidate has the skills, work ethic and attitude you want on your team. But when the candidate handpicks who they’d like you to contact, how can you tell if the reference is giving you the truth?
“I'm looking for exactly the same thing I was looking for from the individual: transparency. I'm looking for free flow. I'm looking for direct, quick answers to questions, some of which might not be relevant to what was on the resume,” Dreeke said. “Is this person uptight about talking to me? Or, are they comfortable?”
The Bottom Line
When you’ve had only a few interactions with each candidate, these three tips can help you improve your odds of predicting a candidate’s performance and making a great hire.
The 6 Signs for Predicting Behavior
The big idea in Robin Dreeke’s book, “Sizing People Up: A Veteran FBI Agent’s User Manual for Behavior Prediction,” is that trust is tied to predictable behavior. If you can reasonably predict what someone will do, you can usually trust them.
But what should you look for to help you discern whether you can – and should – trust someone? Dreeke said to look for these six signs.
Does this person believe they will benefit from your success?
Does this person think they will have a long relationship with you?
Can this person do what they say they will do? And will they?
Does this person consistently demonstrate patterns of positive behavior?
What does this person’s communication reveal?
Does this person consistently demonstrate emotional maturity, self-awareness and social skills?