What Do You Want to Know?

We recently explored the importance of identifying the “must-have” characteristics when hiring a new team member.

But how can you accurately assess whether a candidate actually has those characteristics? The common interview question of “What’s your greatest strength/weakness?” may not be the best way to find answers.

Instead, start with what you want to know and then identify various options to gather the right information. You wouldn’t measure the size of a room with a bathroom scale. So, match the tool to the question.

Is attention to detail one of your must-haves? Ask the candidate to fill out a complicated form or proofread a document that contains errors.

Is a friendly demeanor important? Try a phone interview before meeting in-person so you can hear how they sound. Alternatively, meet the candidate for a meal and see how they interact with others.

Does the candidate need strong technology skills? Ask the person to share their favorite software and why they like it.

Are you looking for strong sales skills? Ask the person to persuade you why their favorite holiday is the best holiday.

In many cases, you can ask for an example of how they have demonstrated a particular strength. You could start with, “Tell me about a specific time when you …” and then describe the characteristic.

Here are a few examples along with the corresponding characteristic each one addresses.

  • “Tell me about a specific time when you had to handle a tough problem that challenged fairness or ethical issues.” (Integrity)
  • “What is the hardest you’ve ever worked on something in your life?” (Ambition/Work Ethic).
  • “Tell me about the most important accomplishments for your career.” (Look for whether they speak in terms of “I” vs. “we” to learn about humility and team-focus.)
  • “What have you done to be effective with your organization and planning?” (Planning & Organization)

You can learn a lot about a candidate’s experience from their résumé. But when you think creatively, you can learn what you really want to know and gain a better understanding of how well they will fit what you’re looking for.

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