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.


(Photo credit: bpsusf)

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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Handing Over The Facebook Keys

By now you’ve probably heard of some employer who is asking potential employees for access to their Facebook accounts as a condition of employment. It’s become widespread enough that Maryland recently became the first state to prohibit employers from asking employees and applicants for social media passwords and login information. The law would prohibit an employer from taking or threatening any form of adverse action based on an employee’s or job applicant‘s refusal to provide a user name or password to a personal account.  Senators from New York and Connecticut are moving towards doing something similar on a national level.  Think this is just hypothetic?  A teacher’s aide in Michigan was let go from her job after a school administrator demanded that she turn over her Facebook password and she refused.  I have two thoughts and would love to hear yours.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

First – good for the legislature.  Second – how pathetic are the employers who would do this and how desperate have the folks become who feel they must acquiesce?

I’ve hired many people over the years, most of them before Facebook (or the Internet).  While I’ll admit there were a couple of duds in the mix, I wouldn’t have figured that out had I had access to their personal relationships, photos of them on their own time, or an understanding of what videos they watched, music they played, or articles they read.  To me this is the equivalent of demanding the keys to someone’s home to do a complete search of their wardrobe, their books, their medicine cabinet, and their kitchen. None of that is necessary to do a good hire and asking about some of it is already illegal.

Yes, it’s important to check out prospective employees, and that’s way easier today than it has ever been.  Most people are careless about leaving footprints in cyberspace and it’s relatively easy to find out if the candidate who says they are one thing are, in fact, something quite different.   For those who are careful, there are services available – as there have always been – to help with background checks.  Frankly, anyone evil enough to tell big lies about themselves is probably crafty enough to keep the lies off the web.  Besides – even if my buddy says you can check out his Facebook mail, I didn’t give you permission to look at what I sent him – that’s another set of issues completely.

What do you think – would you ever give up access to your account to get a job?  Would you ever demand that access before you hire someone?

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Skiing For Your Supper

We’re headed back to an old standby this Foodie Friday: Top Chef. I’m not sure if you’re a frequent viewer.  I am although I’m questioning that habit after this week’s episode. We’re down to the final four cheftestants and this week’s episode took place all over Whistler Mountain and some Olympic venues near Vancouver. One might wonder about the kitchen facilities in those place but as it turned out, no facilities required.

Panorama of the Whistler Blackcomb resort, the...

Image via Wikipedia

The cooking took place aboard a moving ski gondola or outside in two of the three instances.  Two of the contestants had to cross-country ski and shoot at targets (biathlon for you winter sport aficionados) before they cooked.  This left me wondering, as the descriptions might leave you, what the hell this has to do with cooking, and of course that’s the business point as well. Continue reading

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The Next Star

The Next Food Network Star

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As you probably know, one of my favorite TV channels is The Food Network and since it’s Friday, I want to focus on one of their programs for our Foodie Friday Fun.  This is the seventh season of The Next Food Network Star which I think is a really interesting program for a number of reasons.  The biggest name to emerge from the show is the past winner Guy Fieri, who has become a star on NBC (Minute To Win It) as well as on a number of food-related shows but a few of the other winners, and runners-up, have continued on The Food Network and help to prove that the process works.  Can it work for you? Continue reading

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If you’re like most people you’ve been interviewed for a job at some point.  Maybe you’ve even done the interviewing.  It’s one of the most important things we do as managers and the ability to do interviews that successfully separate great candidates from merely good candidates is worth a lot to your employer.

I’ve done many interviews over the last 30 years and hired quite a few people.  Inevitably I ask them a question which I’ve found very useful in the process and I thought I’d share it with you today. Continue reading


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