Tag Archives: Job interview

Asking Questions

We’ve all been through a job interview at one time or another. Even those of us who work for ourselves meet with potential clients or vendors and an interview of sorts takes place. I always judged the success of those sessions by the quality of the questions asked and I’d like us to take just a minute to think about that topic. I’ve written before about the specific questions I ask a job candidate.  Today is more abot the quality of questions that the candidate or prospective partner asks you.

First, who is doing the talking? Is the candidate or the interviewer guiding the discussion? My feeling is that the candidate should do more of the guiding of the meeting by asking phenomenal questions. Obviously, there are specific things the interviewer or potential client must elicit, but the truth is that a hiring candidate needs just as much information to be divulged in that discussion.

For example, for every discussion point made about the current business, can the speaker provide a concrete example? If not, maybe they’re speaking about that they want and not about what they have. When they talk about metrics, are they actionable and insightful such as cost per acquisition and the average customer value, or are they vanity metrics like web traffic or social “likes”?

Candidates or potential suppliers/partners who ask the right questions and challenge assumptions are way more valuable than those who don’t.  Which are you?

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How Do I Find Great People?

Part of what I do for clients from time to time is to help them hire.

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I’ll often help write the job specs and do preliminary interviews for them.  One thing they sometimes ask me is what I’m looking for in a candidate.  I’ve written before about how I think “smart” and “curious” are must-haves but there are other more subtle things I’m after as well.

One thing I don’t focus on too much is the technical stuff.  Unless I’m intending to grill them on the minutia of using a particular thing (everything from Excel to ad operations systems to code writing), I won’t get much of that in an interview anyway.  The bigger point is that whatever it is can be taught.  So what am I after?

I want them to tell me how they made something complex into something simple.  I want to hear how they avoided doing something by making something else more efficient.  Can they make one report wipe out two or three others without losing any information?  Can they turn a 20 minute sales pitch into a 3 minute piece of elegance?

I want to test their confidence in their own knowledge.  I might ask them a question and try to talk them off their answer.  How firm are they in their beliefs and is that firmness irrational stubbornness or is it confidence that is open to new ideas?

Do they listen?  Do their questions and answers demonstrate that they have been listening while we’re together?

I might ask them for examples of when they had to convince others that their solution to something was wrong even when a bunch of people were agreed it was right.  I love when they tell me that they argued against using some new tool because they spotted a flaw and turned around a bunch of people heading in a wrong direction.

Finally, I look for people who look for solutions.  For people who don’t have “can’t” in their problem-solving vocabulary.  Can they grasp problems at their core and not get focused on any one solution since many roads lead to the same place?

That’s my general list.  What’s yours?

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The Smartest One In The Room

We all like to believe that we’re smart.  I always used to ask that as an interview question of potential employees – “are you smart?”  No one ever said they weren’t and I certainly wouldn’t have expected them to.  Me?  I sometimes feel as if I’m not the smartest guy in the room even when I’m alone.

I bring this up today because I came across a study that I found interesting and thought you might as well.  It’s about how we evaluate one another as well as how we represent ourselves (hence the above interview question).  It’s in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which I don’t make a habit of reading but the study popped up in my news feed.  Here is the abstract:

When people seek to impress others, they often do so by highlighting individual achievements. Despite the intuitive appeal of this strategy, we demonstrate that people often prefer potential rather than achievement when evaluating others. Indeed, compared with references to achievement (e.g., “this person has won an award for his work”), references to potential (e.g., “this person could win an award for his work”) appear to stimulate greater interest and processing, which can translate into more favorable reactions. This tendency creates a phenomenon whereby the potential to be good at something can be preferred over actually being good at that very same thing.

In other words, we much prefer hearing job candidates talk about how they are empty vessels capable of greatness than about how many deals they’ve closed.  I think that’s why I used to ask the “smart” question – it gets to a candidate’s potential.  The thing is that the raw intelligence – the potential – has to be married to a respect for the intelligence of those around you.  No matter how smart you may be, you need to seek out people smarter than you are to keep yourself growing.  If you can’t find an individual, the odds are that the collective wisdom of co-workers and peers can serve the same purpose.

You think that’s smart?

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