We have limited time to dedicate to any activity. When hiring
employees, you must be ruthlessly efficient in determining whether
an individual might be a potential candidate for the job you have
I have seen hiring managers spend an hour or more interviewing
individuals who could have been rejected in twenty minutes or
less. The same holds true for recruiters and entrepreneurs. Enormous
amounts of time are wasted interviewing inappropriate or unqualified
It’s fairly easy to look at a person’s resume and
determine whether they have the technical know-how or the right
background for a specific job, but how do you determine the deeper
issues of personality, cultural appropriateness, and style? These
are important factors that determine a good fit. These “gut
feel” factors constitute approximately 50% of the hiring
decision. How can you determine these factors quickly and efficiently?
For candidates who get past an initial resume screening process,
an brief interview consisting of nine basic questions will allow
you to gain a clear picture of whether or not the candidate is
suitable for a particular position. Indications of a person's
character, drive, and competence can be gleaned from listening
carefully to the candidate's answers to these nine questions.
When you put this information together with impressions of their
personality, their ability to express themselves, and their social
presentation, your odds of a successful hire will increase dramatically.
Let the candidate know that this interview will last only twenty
minutes so that their expectation is set appropriately. You will
know at the end of twenty minutes whether it is worth your time
to schedule a second meeting with them. That interview will go
into much more depth.
Here are the nine questions:
1. Of The Jobs You Have Held, Which One Did You Like Best?
The answer to this question suggests specific areas in which the
candidate can be of the most value to your client. If he or she
is noncommittal, or liked all of them, this may indicate a lack
of direction or planning for future growth. It is normal to have
preferences, but if their preference is for a job in no way related
to the one you have to offer, you may have a discontented newly
hired employee after only a short time.
2. How Did You Get Each Of Your Positions?
If your candidate sought out and achieved a position he or she
wanted, this indicates a strong "go getter." If they
were recruited into the position, find out what their dissatisfaction
was with their previous position. This will indicate their level
of loyalty, or "stick-to-it-iveness" when the going
gets tough. Generally, the response to this question is an indication
of resourcefulness. Was it through their personal contacts or
influential friends? Was it merely a means to an end? Will your
job, also, be such a means? These answers, together with the short
and long term goals questions, will give you an overall impression
of their career direction and their ability to get what they want.
3. What Are Your Short Range Goals For The Coming Two
Every person should have definite plans for where they want to
be and what they hope to be doing one and two years from now.
Failure to verbalize these goals indicates that the candidate
has not assessed his potential or relationship with his chosen
work. A definite plan will not only give the interviewer a chance
to see if their goals coincide with the position, but will also
give the candidate a plus just for having specific goals, because
many people don't. A person who doesn't know where he or she is
going will probably end up someplace else.
4. If You Could Do Anything In The World, What Would You
Choose To Do?
The answer to this question can give you deep insight into the
candidate, if they answer truthfully. You may need to ask it a
second time, as many people will first tell you what they think
you want to hear. I often add, "Really, let your imagination
go, and think about it as if you didn't have to worry about money
or what other people think." I have found that when you get
past the expected answers about immediate gratification of spending
a year on a sunny beach, what all people want at their deepest
core is to make a contribution to others, to make a difference.
The answer you get, however, will indicate where a person fits
in the organization you are representing. Look for some creative
imagination meshed with both reality and the individual's capabilities.
Check to see whether what the person "really" wants
to do matches the job responsibilities you can offer them.
5. Why Are You Interested In My Client’s Company?
Alternatively ask, "Why are you interested in leaving your
present job?" These responses will give you two sides of
the coin: the positive desires and negative dissatisfactions.
If the answer is "money," and this is the sole motivation,
then caution should be exercised because another company will
tempt this person away from your client’s organization with
a little more money later on. If an applicant has done research
on your client and knows why he feels that working for them would
be beneficial to his career, knows how the company relates to
the industry as a whole, or how he would be stimulated by the
working environment, these are positive signs of a mature decision
making process. This question is an attitude indicator, and the
answer can go a long way in developing your evaluation of the
6. What Are Your Hobbies? What Do You Do In Your Spare
When an individual talks about life outside the workplace, the
answers to these questions give you a view into the individual's
outlook on life and his or her aptitudes and attitudes. A person
who is involved in competitive sports will be competitive in their
job and a team player – an excellent characteristic for
a salesperson, although perhaps not for a secretary. Individual
sports such as running or body-building are an indication of a
person's dedication and concern for their personal image and health,
or possibly their preference to work alone rather than on a team.
Chess or bridge players or those who engage in other activities
requiring mental challenges make excellent problem solvers or
engineers. A person who spends every spare hour with his or her
children will often make a good long-term employee because of
their care for their family. Salespeople tend to enjoy activities
where they can meet others, which can be reflected in their off-hour
activities and hobbies.
7. What Are Your Long Range Goals? Where Do You Want To
Be In Ten Years?
Taken with the individual's short-range goals, this answer can
give you great insight into the potential to be tapped and the
degree of investment your client may wish to make in this individual.
The response will also assist you in assessing his or her ability
to plan in order to achieve specific long-range objectives.
8. What Are Your Major Assets And Your Major Weaknesses?
While you can't expect a person to reveal their deepest, darkest
secrets, you can expect the person to be able to recognize his
or her obvious faults or deficiencies, whatever they may be. The
more honest a person is while being self critical will indicate
their ability to handle criticism or correction from a manager
(although this is not always so). One who can identify and correct
their behavior has shown insight and thought in evaluating and
improving their own progress. Well thought out assets indicate
a person's level of self confidence and can help you assess whether
their strengths can be fully utilized in the position you are
9. How Have You Changed Over The Last Five Years?
The answer to this question will indicate a person's progress,
both in their career and in their personal life. Follow up with
the question, "How would you like to change in the next five
years?" to see whether their own assessment matches what
you can offer them. This will also indicate what kind of management
style will work best once they are on the job. If a person has
been making progress in their life, it is a good bet that they
will continue to do so. Other facts such as their job progression,
salary progression, and increasing levels of responsibilities
will give you a clear picture of how the person will fit into
your client’s organization. Also look for signs of personal
growth, maturity, and positive feelings about those changes.
While no single question can give you the magic answer as to whether
a person will fit the particular position you are recruiting for,
these nine questions and their brief answers can give you a clear
picture of a potential employee's attitudes and character, which
are often better predictors of success than a technical competency
or previous experience. Once the basic screening has been done,
the ultimate decision-making factor is the chemistry between the
employee and the hiring manager – and whether the “gut
feel” is that this is the right person for the job.
This series of questions will bring out the some of what creates
those feelings in a hiring manager, and will allow you to see
more clearly the potential fit. At the minimum, it will serve
to identify the few individuals who have the potential for the
position for more thorough interviewing or testing. Finally, the
degree to which the applicant is comfortable answering questions
in general, and the level of preparation shown by their responses,
will provide additional information about their self-awareness
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