Everyone has their own style of giving an interview.
Some are more a slave to the process <linear> and some are a slave to fishing <random>.
Personally … I am a fisherman.
It doesn’t really matter.
All that truly matters is collecting enough data points to assess whomever you need to assess.
And by assess I mean
- assess mutually exclusive data points <lets call them skills or characteristics>, and
- pattern data points <trend assessment points>.
I don’t really believe in grading an interviewee <on specific interview points>.
And I don’t really believe in hiring off a scorecard of how they answered questions.
Sometimes beyond the actual technical skills you have to assess the person and chemistry.
Now. There are certainly questions you can ask or topics you can probe on that will help you better understand who the person is that is sitting across from you.
Like I said … I tend to be a fisherman interviewer.
In my head I have a bunch of things I want to get a sense of <and I will list them below> but I like to let discussions wander a little and I gather data points non-linearly.
Some people need the linearness to insure they don’t miss anything important … I don’t. I actually believe some randomness permits you to get a better feel for the interviewee but I imagine a linear interviewer would argue with me on that
People need to understand there are very very rarely wrong or right answers to individual topics. If you disagree with what I just typed … well … you need to sit back and reflect on whether you should be interviewing people.
Why do I say that?
Well. Even if I focus on the best of the best leaders I would be able to point out such a variety of characteristics your head would spin. While we always want to eliminate risk in hiring and choose only what we perceive as “A” players it ain’t gonna happen. Unfortunately that actually means if you are a hiring manager you will … well … have to manage. You will eventually have to bring out the best and manage around the worst of each and everyone one.
Maybe if you are really really good you can develop the “D” players into “A” players.
More likely you take that “D” player and make a couple of their competencies into “A” and make them effective parts of your team <and don’t get me started on how the HR person bangs on your door saying “they aren’t an A player – because the D’s and the A’s on specific competencies average out to a b- or c+ employee – and why aren’t you interviewing to replace them ?!?>.
I was asked by a friend for some input on an important hiring decision their company has to make which actually forced me to put some thoughts down on paper. Here you go. Some interviewing thoughts from me.
I will be specific on topics below but first I outline the most important. Cultural fit. More important then anything else on the list. Let me address Culture 2 ways for an interviewer to think about:
1. You do not like <personally> everyone you interview but you still have to <should> hire some you do not like.
Whew. This may be none of the most difficult things in an interviewing process. Separating personal like/dislike from professional evaluation. A lot of interviewers mix “like” with “good fit for an organization.” One of the most difficult things to do professionally is to interview someone you know you will never really like. It is very very hard. In those situations I focus on ‘respect’ <will I> and fit <who would like them in the organization so we do not potentially hire a ‘lone wolf’>. Oh. But do not swing solely over to ‘professional skills’ and walk out and simply say “I do not like them but they are an A player professionally therefore …”
2. The best <professional> person aren’t always the best.
As I stated in 1. … separating personal like/dislike from professional evaluation is difficult. Some interviewers get around it by simply focusing on professional skills. Kind of like hiring an assassin for the responsibility objectives. You cannot and should not do this. Because they may not just kill the objectives but may also kill the culture. Someone may get an A grade for skills … but a D for organizational culture fit. Too bad. Don’t hire them. Organizational chemistry trumps individual skills any day. By the way … that was very easy for me to type but very difficult for interviewers/organizations to actually do. It becomes even more difficult to do when you have teams interviewing and try and gain consensus <typically driven by a scorecard> but every interviewer should have this on the first page of the interviewer handbook.
Cultural fit is tricky to judge. Personally I find it easier to assess by avoiding the “trick” interview questions <what type of car would you be, if you could be a fish … etc.> or even those random “insightful” questions <dreams, vacations, etc.> and zero in instead on culture assessment questions <which will vary depending on your culture>.
Beyond culture … here, in no certain order, are things I fish around for … I tend to avoid specific “practiced” questions but rather simply work around the topics I want to get a feel for in a conversation <interspersed with some probing questions driven by the conversation of course>.
- Jobs on their resume <yes … using someone’s resume to guide the discussion is always good>. What were you hired to do? Did you do it? Why or why not?
I guess you can ask specifically about ‘accomplishments’ but I tend to believe you can assess accomplishments just by simply paying attention to what I call the “we/I” balance. Some things are truly “I” things … and some are truly “we” things. You just want to get a sense on whether they were pulled or followed or ran or walked or even got ahead a little. And maybe you want to get a sense on whether they pulled or pushed or led from behind or ahead. Leaders don’t always lead. And followers don’t always follow. Scorecards and grading doesn’t always permit you to judge the situation and action. This is attitude. A truth? A job is much more than simply accomplishments.
This almost always gives you a sense of the person. How comfortable are they with truth as well as themselves.
On a side note. I believe much of the advice interviewers get on this question screws them up. They are told “be honest … with an optimistic twist.” Just be honest. Don’t be bitter but just be honest.
Some leadership stuff:
- Who they hired <doesn’t have to be “A” players but rather do they hire teams or individuals … and do they hire in their likeness or hire fearlessly>.
- Developing people <have the people gone on to different things … it shows whether they are solely a professional manager or also a Life manager>.
- How they handle underperformers <do they remove or develop>
- Respect for others <easy way is to ask about former bosses and people they fired or people they used to work with>
- Flexibility/adaptability <getting a feel for how they deal with change>
- Self confidence <always a fair question to ask what they believe they are good at or ask what is the best business decision they have ever made>
- How they handle pressure
- Aggressiveness <is it ongoing, absent or balanced>
- Make haste slowly <sense of urgency with a sense of thoughtful responsibility>
- Dreamer versus Doer <this is a balance question … by the way … I find very little value with the infamous “what is your dream job” question … I would rather probe on specifics within possible real opportunities that would be within the scope, present or future, within the company itself>
- Listening & responding <ok … do they actually seem to listen?>
- Criticism & conflict <giving & receiving>
- Communication <Writing & speaking>
- Works well individually or within a team
Smarts <not education … just intellectual>
- How they ramp up & learn something <speed is not the main criteria>
- Analysis skills
- Strategic and tactical balance <ability to understand bigger picture while understanding parts make up the whole>
- Curiosity <I like to ask what is the last book they read … business and non business>
- Persistence/stubbornness/conviction <there is a time to hold on … and a time to let go … it is always good to get a sense for this>
- Do people follow them
- Proactive/reactive/adaptive traits
- Work ethic
- Standards <for themselves as well as others … a great question is to ask … ‘what they expect of a company president’>
Technical & Functional stuff:
This is whether they can actually do what you would pay them to do. Oddly many interview processes undervalue this. They put a higher importance on ambition or leadership or what someone may constitute makes up an “A” player. That is nuts. Functional superiority is a gift, a talent … an edge for a company.
Some questions will vary by industry but I can almost guarantee that I would ask these questions by the end of an interview:
- An industry specific question. In the advertising/marketing business I would ask for favorite current campaign <and why>. You can always ask “outside of this company – the one interviewing – who else in the industry interests you, good or bad, and why”?
- Why did you get into this industry?
- Is there anything in your background that is interesting to know but the resume specialists told you to not include?
- Who was the most influential person in your life?
There you go.
Just my cent and a half on interviewing people. I was just asked by a good friend of mine and thought I would share with my readers.
I am sure if I were pushed and prodded a little I would revise some and edit a little but overall … for a fisherman type interviewer … I am fairly satisfied with what I wrote.