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12 Questions Experts Avoid Asking in Interviews

As hiring managers or recruiters we all want to hire the best people for our organizations.  After all, a hiring mistake is a costly mistake.  While it is difficult to fully assign a concrete number that everyone can agree on, you do need to think about lost productivity, additional recruitment costs, training costs, etc.  On top of these quantitive costs, there are some qualitative costs to consider.  For example, impacts to team morale, reputation impacts if mis-hires happen frequently, etc. For cost reasons alone, getting to know your candidates is important.  However, the experts agree that asking outdated and predictable questions won’t net the results that you need.  Skilled candidates can answer questions with the answers you want.  So, let’s explore the most outdated questions that don’t produce results:

Image Courtesy of Linkedin.com

Image Courtesy of Linkedin.com

  1. Tell us a little about yourself?
  2. Where do you want to be in five years?
  3. What are your greatest strengths?
  4. What are your greatest weaknesses?
  5. If you were an animal, what would you be?
  6. What would your employees say are your weaknesses?
  7. What is the last book you read?
  8. What is your dream job?
  9. If I were to call your former employer what would he or she say about you?
  10. Tell me about a project you worked on that didn’t succeed?
  11. How would you sell me this book, pen or iPhone?
  12. Why should we hire you?

Some of you might be asking why these are outdated, and quite frankly terrible questions since so many organizations still use them.  My answer is simple.

  1. First of all these questions are highly predictable.  You can google them and find some good suggestions on how to answer them to make you look good.  Therefore, the hiring manager and HR is not learning about you.  They are getting a canned answer that doesn’t reveal anything about the candidate as a person and what makes them different.
  2. Likewise, as the candidate, you are not really learning about the potential employer.  After all you should be using this time to interview the potential employer.  These useless questions are taking up precious time.  If you are hired, you will hopefully want to spend a few years with the employer and you want to make sure that there is a cultural fit both ways.

A lot of these questions don’t really give any insight into the candidate and how he or she will fit into the culture of the organization.  If you made it to the interview stage, you should have the credentials to do the job.  The skill set that will really set you apart from other candidates is whether or not there is a belief that you have the ability to fit in with the company culture.  This is quite frankly the area that is missed most in hiring. 

As outlined in Bloomburg Business Week article, cultural fit is trumping qualifications in many cases.  In this highly competitive fast paced environment, people can’t afford high turnover rates.  Asking outdated questions doesn’t net the results that organizations need. There is a real need to get to know the candidate.  So, hiring managers need to rethink the process and HR Recruiters need to step up their game.  As the economy improves, competition for skilled resources will increase.  Are you ready?

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The #1 Reason You Need to Hire for Experience Versus Inexperience

I have been working with a number of clients lately who are really on the fence about whether they should hire a really experienced, knowledgable person who would be a member of senior management versus hiring someone whom they feel has a lot of energy and therefore could learn quickly.  I have counselled them about the benefits for both.  And, there are benefits for both.  Now, I realize what I am about to say will sound boastful however, it is true that those that took my advice have been benefiting from the results and are pleased.  Curious about what my advice was?  Here is the #1 Reason that you need to need to hire experience.

Image courtesy of studentwire.co.uk

Image courtesy of studentwire.co.uk

Lack of Process and Subject Matter Expertise

If you are lacking processes and subject matter expertise in a particular area, you need to hire someone who has that expertise.  This applies to project management to marketing to engineering.

My clients have a burning platform.  They need to make “something” happen.  Whether that “something” is increased sales, increased brand recognition or helping a failing or compromised project to succeed, you need someone with the experience to analyze the existing environment and provide insight about potential pit falls and road blocks as well as set strategy.  In all cases, these clients are missing this experience.  Some are small organizations.  Some are much larger and established organizations.  They are struggling.  They have tried many solutions, including moving people into different roles and hiring the inexperienced, the so-called energetic people.

When evaluating their situation, I recommended in all cases that they needed the right leadership to take them to the next level.  I also suggest that just because someone has experience does not mean that they don’t have energy.  In fact, I went further to say that if you find the experience also look for passion.  If there is passion, the energy will also be there.

Through the course of the conversation with clients I learned that often times “energy” was code word for someone who can roll his or her sleeves up and actually do the work versus just developing strategy and directing others.  Once I realized that this was the issue, I worked hard to change that misconception.  Yes, there are people who only focus on strategy and managing people, but in this day and age, many leaders realize that they have to be able to roll up their sleeves too.  This is particularly true for start-ups and organizations in flux and/or crisis.

In one particular case I recommended that the client hire an experienced person to help them through the issues and to develop the team.  The client was ready to hire.  Unfortunately the client, in this case, did not listen.  The new hire had no background whatsoever in the discipline for which the individual was hired.  The client was very excited about this new hire.  The exact  words were:  “[insert name] is really excited and full of energy.  We are going to get a lot done.  This is good.”  Fast forward one month and the client called.  You could hear the anxiousness in the tone and cadence of the conversation.  The issue?  The new hire was overwhelmed with the work and while a lot of the of recommendations I had made were implemented, they were NOT seeing the results.  It was now do or die time.  I was asked back to help identify the issues.  I already knew the issues.  While the person was very keen, the individual had no background and was attacking things from the “I have to complete this list of activities that was recommended.”  It was a check list only.  There was zero strategy — zero understanding of the business, the complex culture and zero understanding of change management.

The client was willing to hire me for a week’s worth of work.  I summed up the issues and made a recommendation within one hour.  This time the client listened and hired for experience.  Flash forward one month, the project has seen positive results.  The client’s client is starting to see results and much happier. My client has now recommended me to CEOs he knows.

Key Take-Aways:

  • Think about the end-result. It is not failure to admit that you lack subject matter expertise in an area.
  • Hire for experience, including relationships.  In some cases, projects can be derailed because your project team doesn’t have the cultural knowledge of the organization that you are working with.
  • Experience doesn’t mean that a person cannot roll up his or her sleeves and work side-by-side with the team

What is your take on hiring for experience versus inexperience?  Is it really about energy?  If you want to learn more about hiring for experience, connect with us today.