The smartest interview question

By February 26, 2008blog

My business partner and I were talking the other day about how many people we’ve interviewed (close to a thousand) and what makes someone appear super smart in an interview. The interview usually goes like this:
Q: Why would you be good at this position?
A: I have great experience, I work hard, I get along with others, blah blah

Q: Why do you want to work here?
A: Seems like a great environment, good people, fun company, blah blah

Q: Why did you leave your last job(s)? (btw, Jack Welch once said that this was the single most telling question – if you really dig-in and get at the REAL answer)
A: I was looking for a new challenge

Q: Do you have any questions?
A: No, I think I got everything from the website and talking to others

This last question “Do you have any questions?” is the double-credit-you-get-an-A-and-get-hired-if-you-nail-this-one question!

Some of my best hires have said “Yes, I’m glad you asked!” and then they proceeded to ask really intelligent questions like:
“What traits make a person super-successful in this position?”
“How do you define “success” in this position?”
“What is your vision for this department over the next couple years?”
“What could I do in this position that would make the biggest impact on the company?”
“If I am super-successful at this position, what would my career path look like?”
“What do people like most about working here?”
“What do people like least about working here?”
Then they dive into offshoot questions from there really trying to get at what will make the company more successful.

In fact, my partner said that as he was interviewing for jobs himself before he started RegOnline, he went into interviews with a list of questions in hand and got offered a job EVERY time.

Next time you are interviewing someone, don’t listen to their answers, listen to their QUESTIONS!

As a side note, I have a theory, that I haven’t been able to prove wrong yet… You are only as smart as your questions and as dumb as your answers. The more I shut up and ask questions, the smarter I get. The more I spout off, the less time there is to learn from what other people have to say. For those who know me, know that I must not be that smart because I still spout off more than I listen… but I’m working on it. 😉

P.S. – killer comment: thanks to James Clark for pointing out that diving deep into a question is HUGELY valuable too… “For me it’s asking one question that leads to many” (see his posted comment)

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