The KPA — Hiring for Compatibility over Competence

“Hello. This is [name redacted]. You’ve never been an executive assistant before and I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m not sure why we’re on this call. I’m looking at your resume and the recruiter recommended I talk to you, but you’ve got none of the experience I’m looking for. I’ve got five minutes, so tell me a little about yourself.”

He was right to be skeptical. Who wouldn’t be in his situation? After seven-plus painstaking months of interviewing candidates and coming close to hiring twice, the recruiter was advocating for my boss to have a screening call with me… a former Speech-Language Pathologist/elementary school teacher, for a corporate executive assistant position.

That was November 2019. Much to his surprise, I sparked some curiosity during our screening call and he invited me to take the Keller Personality Assessment (KPA). If you’re unfamiliar with the KPA, this assessment analyzes a candidate’s personality through behavioral traits (assertiveness, sociability, responsiveness, structure, adaptability, intensity, and optimism) and thinking traits (logical problem solving, rapid problem solving, spatial visualization, and vocabulary). Much to my surprise, we hit it off during the validation and I started wondering if we might work well together.

I felt more seen and understood during that two-hour interview than after years of working in my previous position. I heard sentences about my personality that blew me away with their accuracy. I challenged or refined statements that didn’t feel like me at all, giving my rationale for why. We laughed, we cringed, and we compared our personalities and behavior patterns. And in July 2024, we will celebrate four and a half years working together!

Through conversation and strategic questions, the KPA gave my boss a framework to connect with me, learn how I think, and gauge our compatibility. To help you gain clarity during your interviews, remember the three Cs of the KPA Validation—conversation, connection, and compatibility.

While I was not a ‘plug and play’ candidate with direct experience for the job I was interviewing for, the KPA validation tapped into my emotional intelligence and provided opportunities for deeper questions about me as a communicator, teammate, and problem-solver.

Are you writing off potentially strong candidates because they don’t seem to stack up on paper? Leverage the KPA and the three Cs to go beyond a candidate’s ‘hard skills’ and level up your hiring!

The Power of Questions and Conversation

Picture this: a candidate sits nervously across from their potential future manager. They begin a dialogue as the manager describes the job seeker’s behavioral traits based on their KPA results.

The manager starts by saying, "On a scale of 1-10, how accurate would you say statement is? You are an intense, strong-minded person who is motivated to make things happen. You enjoy making decisions and having control. Obstacles or setbacks do not prematurely threaten you."

The candidate pauses, weighing their words. "I’d give that a seven. I do have an intensity about me and am action-oriented. But I also care a lot about fostering collaboration and connection. It’s important to me that people feel heard. My assertiveness is less about controlling every situation and more about advocating for what I believe in and striving for efficiency.”

This back and forth conversation gives the manager the chance to ask probing questions to gain more insight. And these questions offer a glimpse into the job seeker’s values, communication style, their approach to leadership, and more – insights that can’t be made just by looking at a resume.

Building Authentic Connections

The KPA connects candidates and hiring managers on a deeper level, moving a transactional exchange into a meaningful conversation. By learning more about a candidate's strengths, challenges, and motivations, a leader can identify their potential fit within the team. Connecting deeply through strategic questions can help identify common ground and begin laying the foundation for a healthy working relationship.

On the flipside, the wrong fit for your business may let their guard down if they feel connected and at ease, and might say or do things during the interview that set you on alert. Both of these outcomes are positive for you and your business. Discovering a candidate is the wrong fit before you hire them means dodging a future parting of ways and hopefully saves you a bundle in the process!

Compatibility > Competence

The KPA empowers leaders to go beyond reading a resume and checking off a candidate's hard skills and experience. Strategic questions and productive dialogue empower leaders to explore a candidate’s compatibility. A competent candidate who is a poor culture match is the wrong person for the job. Compatibility transcends a job seeker’s competence.

Remember, you not only want someone to perform the tasks at hand. If they have a go-getter attitude and are eager to learn and solve problems, they can learn how to complete tasks. But if they don't share the same ideals or culture with the rest of the team, that's not something that will likely change over time. You will likely spend a lot of time with this person, so making sure you are compatible should be high on your list of importance.

Have the three Cs of KPA Validation changed your thinking about the value of the KPA? Let us know on our KellerINK ​Facebook​ page. And don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter​ for more exciting articles!

— Contributor, Carly Fox.

Carly Fox is an EA leader. She is passionate about helping executives unlock the power of effective strategic partnerships built on communication, trust, and shared values.

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