Hiring: Quizzing the candidate

My thanks this month to Vistage (TEC) member Dr. Russ Riendeau and Vistage (TEC) chair Dennis Kleper for these 15 questions that you can ask aspiring managerial candidates.

“What question do you have for me right away?”

This gets a dialogue going with the candidate, and let’s you see how well they’ve prepared for their meeting with you.

“What would really surprise me about you? What else?”

Look for candor, originality, and more humility than egotism.

“Why are you really changing jobs?

Look for a mature response, no blame, defensiveness or excuses showing a lack of personal accountability.

“Explain your philosophy on goal setting.”

Look for a detailed answer, illustrations of measurable goals, a balance between intrinsic and extrinsic goals, and evidence that there will be a stretch required to reach the goals.

“What reading material would I find on your coffee table, nightstand, or home library?”

Look for a blend of inquisitiveness, variety of life interests, and professional material.

“When you found yourself in an ethical dilemma, what happened?”

Look for a sense of morals, values, judgment quality and non-blame of others.

“Did you earn money in college? How?” 

Look especially for signs of entrepreneurial behavior, self-initiative, or signs of personal growth and development efforts.

“How far away from home have you traveled?”

Use a map as a prop. Pay attention to the nature of the destinations, their variety, their location, their cultural nuances, capacity for modest risk-taking—hiking, climbing, skiing, scuba diving—and some degree of intellectual challenge.

“Draw a pie chart and illustrate how you spend an eight-hour day.”

Look for presentational skills, balance of work during the day, evidence of self-initiative types of activities, personal planning and the absence of “make” work.

“Are you a curious person? Provide an example.”

Seeking answers to puzzling situations, showing interest in unknowns, exploring creative alternatives, and thinking out-of-the-box are illustrations of curiosity at work.

“What is a favorite success and failure story?”

Success stories that relate to team effort or team competitiveness are stronger than success stories that are only “I” oriented. Failure stories that are “I” oriented, on the other hand, show personal confidence and a sense of humility.

“Do you want to be a millionaire? How are you preparing?”

The answer should reflect a balanced approach to wealth and lifestyle needs, and the plan to become wealthy should be consistent with the values and personal motivational attributes expressed in some of the earlier questions.

“Are you ready to resign from your job in five days? What will your firm do when you quit, especially in terms of what they say after you left the company?”

The answers here will show the candidate’s seriousness and commitment to the job. If the candidate makes a counter-offer, make it clear that the company does not negotiate such matters.

“Have you ever created a 30-,60-, or 90-day strategic plan?”

If the candidate has created plans like these, or ones with longer timelines, determine how compatible their experience is with your own strategic planning requirements. Ask them to detail the specifics, including time frames and goals, for a plan that they helped formulate, and encourage the use of visuals, charts, graphs, etc., to communicate the plan to you.

“What should I have asked you that I haven’t?”

This question opens it up for the candidate to respond by asking for the job, or expressing any concerns they may have about meeting the job requirements.

These questions are clearly not your standard job interview queries. TEC members who have used them have found that they generate stronger discussion than a standard  interview format. They also provide a greater differentiation of strengths and weaknesses among a group of job candidates.

It may seem premature discussing better hiring practices at a time when many firms continue to freeze hiring programs or eliminate positions. It’s still true, however, that as the economy continues to rebound, you’ll need to add new talent or replace talent that has left.

Some TEC companies are taking advantage of the bad economy by aggressively looking for competitive acquisitions. But acquisitions might require that you replace some or all of existing management. These 15 questions will surely help.

Until next month, may the talent you acquire be the best possible for your company and marketplace.

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