There Are Only 3 True Interview Questions


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  • There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions Interviewing for Strengths Interviewing for strengths is not a game. It’s about figuring out if there is a match between the strengths required for success in the role and the candidate’s strengths. If you accept that, then the advice for interviewers and interviewees are mirror images of each other. Advice for Interviewers Figure out what strengths you’re looking for. Tell the interviewee what they are. Ask the interviewee for examples of behavior that evidences those strengths. (Using the Working Girl question to probe.) Advice for Interviewees Figure out what strengths the interviewer is looking for. Give him or her examples of behavior that evidences those strengths. STAR Behavioral Interviews When I interview someone, I generally follow the same script, telling people: I’m going to do a behavioral interview. I’m looking for evidence of strengths in what you’ve done in the past. I’ll tell you the strength I’m looking for and ask you for an example. It’s helpful if you use a STAR framework in your answer. ST: Situation (Briefly – just enough to help me under- stand the context for your actions.) A: Action (Elaborate here. What you did. Use the word “I.”) R: Result (Briefly – just enough to show me the value or impact of what you did.) The questions aren’t important. The answers are. So, if I ask a question that doesn’t trigger a good example, let’s skip that one and find another way to get exam- ples of your strengths. Strengths Definition Gallup’s Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton provide an excellent definition of strengths in Now Discover Your Strengths (New York: Free Press, 2001). Talent: Innate areas of potential strength (probably present at birth) Knowledge: Things people are aware of, facts and les- sons learned (through courses, mentors, reading, etc.) Skills: How to-s, or steps of an activity (generally acquired through deliberate practice) With that in mind, as an interviewer, make sure you understand the driving talent behind an individual’s strength, how they acquired their knowledge of the subject and what they’ve done to practice the skill. Then you can be sure you’ve identified a real strength. © Copyright Forbes 2012 There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions | 01 The only three true job interview questions are: 1. Can you do the job? 2. Will you love the job? 3. Can we tolerate working with you? That’s it. Those three. Think back, every question you’ve ever posed to others or had asked of you in a job interview is a subset of a deeper in-depth follow- up to one of these three key questions. Each question may be asked using different words, but every question, however it is phrased, is just a variation on one of these topics: Strengths, Motivation, and Fit. Executive Search firm Heidrick & Struggles CEO, Kevin Kelly explained to me that it’s not just about the technical skills, but also about leadership and interpersonal strengths. Technical skills help you climb the ladder. As you get there, managing up, down, and across become more important. You can’t tell by looking at a piece of paper what some of the strengths and weaknesses really are…We ask for specific examples of not only what’s been successful but what they’ve done that hasn’t gone well or a task they’ve, quite frankly, failed at and how they learned from that experience and what they’d do different in a new scenario. Not only is it important to look at the technical skill set they have…but also the strengths on what I call the EQ side of the equation in terms of getting along and dealing or interacting with people. Can You Do the Job? – Strengths
  • Interviewing for Motivation Interviewing for motivation is much less straight- forward than interviewing for strengths. Part of the problem is that it’s hard to put your finger on what really motivates someone. The other part of the problem is that interviewee’s will have a bias to come across as motivated even if they aren’t sure. While they may not be sure they want to do the job, they are generally motivated to get you to offer them the job. On one level, motivation is born of • How activities fit with a person’s likes/dislikes/ideal job critera and • How the job will help them progress towards their long-term goal. On another level, people strive for happiness. My working theory of happiness, born out by deep anal- ysis of a very sophisticated Harvard survey, is that happiness is good. Actually, it’s three goods: Good for others, good for me, good at it. Good for others: This is about finding meaning in the work (impact on others, match with values). People that care about this want a share in shaping the destiny of the firm (influence, being informed) Good at it: This is about the match of activities with strengths, and resources (support and time). Over time, some people care about employability (learning, development, resume builder) Good for me: This is about near term pleasure (enjoyable work/activities, fit with life interest). Compensation is also a factor (monetary, non-mone- tary rewards, recognition, respect) Advice for Interviewers Heidrick & Struggles’ Kevin Kelly had some helpful perspective on this. He told me that he likes to ask two questions to get at motivation: 1) “What gets you out of bed in the morning (other than your alarm clock)?”. This helps him get at what’s important to people now. 2) “Talk about some of the most significant memories you have had throughout your career and what it is that got you through those times either good or bad.” This helps him get at patterns and trends. Advice for Interviewees Be ready to deal with concerns that you may be over-qualified for the job. This requires an interview judo response: I’m concerned that you may be over-qualified for this job. I am – if you want the organization to stay the way it is. You’d be hiring me to take it to the next level. I’m not interested in the job the way it is. I’m interested in the job the way it’s going to be. © Copyright Forbes 2012 There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions | 02 Cornerstone International Group CEO, Bill Guy emphasizes the changing nature of motivation, …younger employees do not wish to get paid merely for working hard— just the reverse: they will work hard because they enjoy their environment and the challenges associated with their work…. Executives who embrace this new management style are attracting and retaining better employees. Will You Love the Job? -Motivation Can We Tolerate Working With You? – Fit Continuing on with our conversation, Heidrick’s Kelly went on to explain the importance of cultural fit: A lot of it is cultural fit and whether they are going to fit well into the organization… The perception is that when (senior leaders) come into the firm, a totally new environment, they know everything. And they could do little things such as send emails in a voicemail culture that tend to negatively snowball over time. Feedback or onboarding is critical. If you don’t get that feedback, you will get turnover later on. He made the same point earlier in an interview with Smart Business, referencing Heidrick’s internal study of 20,000 searches. 40 percent of senior executives leave organizations or are fired or pushed out within 18 months. It’s not because they’re dumb; it’s because a lot of times culturally they may not fit in with the organization or it’s not clearly articulated to them as they joined.
  • Interviewing for Fit To be clear, this is an attempt to make an inherently complex and ambiguous subject simpler and more straightforward. It’s worth it because poor cultural fit is the #1 stated reason for a new leader’s failure. (Of course, stated and actual don’t always match. See The top three excuses for onboarding failures.) The fundamental questions and interviewer is getting at around fit are: 1) Will the organization be better off with you in it over time? 2) Will you change us for the better? (Will you be good for us?) Brave Fit The BRAVE framework may have applicability: Behave: The way people act, make decisions, control the business, etc. Relate: The way people communicate with each other (including mode, manner and frequency), engage in intellectual debate, manage conflict, etc. Attitude: How people feel about the organization’s purpose, mission, vision, identify with the subgroup, group, organization as a whole, etc. Values: People’s underlying beliefs, approach to learning, risk, time horizons, etc. Environment: The way people approach the work environment in terms formality/informality of preferred office layout, etc. The suggested approach for an interviewer is to assess the interviewee’s BRAVE preferences and then line them up with the culture. The suggested approach for the interviewee is to do the same thing in reverse. This is one area where no one should play any games. There’s no upside for either the organization or the interviewee to try to be something different than what they are. They will get caught sooner or later. And the later they get caught, the more painful it will be since culture is the only truly sustainable competitive advantage. © Copyright Forbes 2012 There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions | 03 Preparing for Interviews If you’re the one doing the interviewing, get clear on what strengths, motivational and fit insights you’re looking for before you go into your interviews. If you’re the one being interviewed, prepare by thinking through examples that illustrate your strengths, what motivates you about the organization and role you’re interviewing for, and the fit between your own preferences and the organization’s Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment (BRAVE). But remember that interviews are exercises in solution selling. They are not about you. Think of the interview process as a chance for you to show your ability to solve the organization and interviewer’s problem. That’s why you need to highlight strengths in the areas most important to the interviewers, talk about how you would be motivated by the role’s challenges, and discuss why you would be a BRAVE fit with the organization’s culture. Executive Onboarding Once you’ve got the job, be sure to pay attention to executive onboarding, the key to accelerating success and reducing risk in a new job. This is a big part of step 1 of The New Leader’s Playbook: Position Yourself for Success There are several components of this including positioning yourself for a leadership role, selling before you buy, mapping and avoiding the most common land mines, uncovering hidden risks in the organization, role, and fit, and choosing the right approach for your transition type. 3JobInterview cover opt forbes-whitepaper-interviewquestions-COVER