New Interview Technique

Written by on March 24, 2014 in Blog, Interviews, Uncategorized with 2 Comments

New Interview Technique

Using “King Of The Hill” as an Interview Technique

I’ve been in the recruiting business for 30 years, and I’m always searching for a new interview technique. A lot of what I’ve learned in life has come from observing the animals on our sanctuary; it’s amazing what you can pick up from them.
Recently I took note of something that warrants a mention.

Learning From The Animals

Let me give you a little background. On our sanctuary we have about 45 animals at any given time. Almost half of them are either potbelly pigs or wild pigs. As you might guess, when it comes to feeding time there is a mad rush. For a long time the biggest and toughest pigs got the lion’s share of the food. But then…

Petey the Sweet PigAlong Came Petey

As you can see from the picture to the left, Petey is not the most intimidating thing.

• He’s smaller than all of the other pigs. 
• He’s older. 
• He came to us with a broken jaw, which causes him trouble eating. 
• And the biggest handicap of all—his deformities prevented his tusks from growing. In the pig world, tusks are the primary weapons. 

But none of that stopped Petey. He had a few other weapons in abundance. (You can read more of Petey’s story in this post.)

Determination and Persistence

The pigs are fed every day about noon. Petey is never late for lunch. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining, cold, or 100 degrees. Petey is at the gate waiting for me to show up. If I’m 10 minutes late, he’s waiting, and he’s normally squealing loud enough to wake the dead.

It takes me a few minutes to prepare the food, and then place it on the feeding platform. The entire time I’m doing this, Petey is positioning himself. The toughest pigs, the ones with the biggest tusks, bully their way to the front and take the best position. It’s very much like the game children play—King of the Hill. Once I put the food down, it’s a free-for-all to see who can make it to the prime spot on the platform.

Sweet Pete

King of the Hill

King of the Hill

By all rights, Petey should be the loser in this game, relegated to sate himself on the crumbs that fall from the feeding table.

But no one seems to have told Petey that. He pushes, he shoves, he squeezes through—and if the other pigs stop him, he tries from another angle. If they block his way, he tries something else. He does whatever he has to to get his position on the platform.

By looking at Petey you wouldn’t think he could accomplish this. The other pigs are bigger, stronger, younger, and several have far bigger tusks. And yet, every day, Petey owns the prime position on the platform. He’s determined, and he’s relentless. And before feeding time is over, he’s the king of the hill.

What Does This Have To Do With Hiring?

Most companies use an interview technique that focuses on identifying candidates with the best skills, the ones with experience that matches the job descriptions. These are the candidates who receive the job offers.

But are we missing something? Should we be looking closer at other factors?

For years I’ve been comparing credentials and experience to actual performance, and in many cases less-experienced candidates appeared to be the better choice. These candidates didn’t interview as well as the top candidates, and their credentials weren’t as good, but there was something that made us want to dig deeper.

After doing extensive referencing, we usually discovered that these candidates were special. They had a drive and a persistence that forced them to be successful. In some cases, they had been successful despite evidence that they shouldn’t have been.

What Did We Learn From This

It’s a no-brainer that any interview technique must focus on skills and experience. But it should also be obvious that you can’t focus exclusively on those traits. You have to look past the obvious, be blind to the halo effect, and dig deep.

In most cases, you brought a candidate in to interview because of accomplishments listed on their resume. Try focusing on what drove them to achieve those accomplishments. You might be surprised.

Bottom Line

In the past I’ve relied on a combination of gut instinct and reference checks to discover the candidates who had that something extra. Instead of doing that, maybe I should have been asking people how they fared at playing King of the Hill. If Petey is any indication, it just might be the most reliable predictor of success.

If you enjoyed this article, please share.

And if you’d like more information on interviewing, resumes, and career tips, check out my books.

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About the Author

About the Author: When I’m not headhunting, or writing, I help my wife take care of our animal sanctuary. At last count we had 45 animals—11 dogs, 1 horse, 6 cats, and 26 pigs. Oh, and one crazy—and very large—wild boar named Dennis who takes walks with me every day and happens to also be my best buddy. For information on my mystery/suspense books, go to .

2 Reader Comments

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  1. avatar Jen Lavallee says:

    My Mom just forwarded me this, I graduated in the beginning of the recession with a degree in photography and have a hell of a time landing and keeping jobs in the past few years, and you have no idea how accurately this is describing what my mentor was echoing in my ear about me yesterday at lunch. Thank you for writing this and I hope as many interviewers see this and try to hire those of us who are tenacious and won’t give up despite our inexperience and minimal resumes.

    • avatar giammatteo

      Thanks Jen. I’m glad you got something out of this. Keep the spirits up, and try networking as much as possible. The best way to get past the obstacles is to have someone on the inside recommend you. After that, it’s up to you.

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