Staff Management

Hiring Top Talent: Assess Will-Do vs. Can-Do

By Daniel Abramson

Job candidates may becompetent in thehard skillsyou need, such as sales and marketing expertise or proficiency as an optician. However, they also need “will-do” soft skills, such as theright motivation,to be an asset to your practice.

Will-Do Enables Follow-Through
Let’s say you are interviewing a sales and marketingcandidate whose background and experience clearly show strong (hard) skills in prospecting for new customers selling retail.That’s what the candidate has done in the past. In addition, this candidate has strongly intimated an ability to bring a portfolio of established customers to the table. Because you are introducing a new product, you need someone who can sell and deliver on existing relationships, and this isobviously a candidate who can do both. But WILL the candidate ACTUALLY DO both? That depends, and is not determined only by what the candidate has done before. If the candidate in our example is tired of climbing the “selling hill,” and would rather focus on account maintenance and growth, then it islikely hiring him or her would be a mistake.

The Dos and Don’ts of Hiring


For honest, professional workers with a strong work ethic, DON’T ask:
1. How honest are you?
2.Do you consider yourself a hard worker?
3. Do you value your profession?

DO Ask
1.If you had the freedom to design your own most logical next career step, what would it be? Could you expand on that? Is that important to you? Why?

2.What are your five top work activities on a daily basis?Which of those five are “want to dos” and which are “have to dos?”Why?

3. How do you handle requests from patients, colleagues or supervisors to deviate from policies, procedures or guidelines? How often do they occur? How does it make you feel when they do?

4. How would you advise your next supervisor to manage you?

5. Tell me about a time when a project you were working on, either alone or as part of a team, got behind schedule. How did that make you feel and what did you do about it?

Can-Do = Ability; Will-Do = Motivation
Ability and motivation are two distinct things. When the candidate you select has a combination of can-dos and will-dos that mesh with your objectives for the job, then–and only then–will you have reasonable assurance of a successful hire. When you are exploring a candidate’s will-do factors, you need to employ a different type of questioning and probing.When you’re looking for will-do, you’re not looking so much for what happened in the past as for what’s going on inside the candidate right now.And since the questions that get at will-dos probe attitudes, personality, motivation and character rather than skills, accomplishments and experience, they tend to be more personal in nature, less predictable, and also more susceptible to fabricated answers.

No Anticipating Right Answers
Don’t ask questions [see tip box on left] that result in answers that only tell you what you want to hear; not how the candidate truly feels. Will-do questions probe the candidateso hard he or she is not able to guess what you want to hear. Because will-do questions are more challenging to think up and remember, it’s best to have a list of them written out beforehand.

Ask Will-Do Questions With Follow-Ups
Your purpose in asking questions and follow-upsis to highlight the candidate’s soft skills–i.e., the candidate’s motivations, attitudes, character and personality traits without “telegraphing” what answers you want to hear.Those questions are successful when they generate a conversation that gives you insights–either positive or negative–into how the candidate thinks, or “ticks,” and thus, how he or she will approach the real-life aspects of the job.

By implementing will-do probes as a part of your hiring process, you’ll avoid a major hiring blunder, and have a greater chance at achieving your practice goals.

Daniel Abramson, CTS, ispresident of Staffdynamics, a workforce performance strategies firm. Heis the author of Secrets of Hiring Top Talent. Contact:

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