Friday, November 27, 2009

My favorite interview question

Thanks everyone for sharing your favorite, or non-favorite question. I’m going to continue to collect them. I’m especially interested in interview questions—that would be Phase One of my project. Phase Two will be analyzing how candidates, who were hired, answered those questions, and Phase Three will be whether the hire was a success.

I’ve had a rich and varied experience myself, in both asking and answering questions. I know through analyzing my own interview performance and feedback (throw their first two reasons out, people who don’t hire you have to warm up to the process of assistance and disclosure) why I think I connected or why I did not.

I was briefly mentored by a former NIKE Human Resource manager who taught that everything you need to know about the prospective candidate is right there…if you choose to pay attention. I have not always hired the best candidate. I would like to.

While I collect the questions, I thought I’d share my favorite interview question, the one I ask every prospective candidate. Instead of just blurting it out I’d like to make this fun. This comes from a manuscript currently in progress. The scene involves Jae-Chun Lee, a California real estate developer who owns a chain of commercial sales and leasing offices in three states, his wife, the outgoing manager of one of the satellite offices, and Michael, the regional manager, who has had them both fly in to interview a candidate to replace Lee's wife. This is in the wife's voice.
I rested my interview questions that my secretary had printed on the portfolio I’d snatched from a surprised brokers desk and readied the fake Mont Blanc pen I grabbed from the hands of another. “Patricia, if Mr. Lee offered you the job, what is your plan to set the tone of the office and get off to a good start?” Start wide, Mr. Ward my mentor had taught, move in closer with each progressive question and don’t be afraid to ask something unexpected. This wasn’t vague and she better think fast.

She smiled, reached into her laptop bag and pulled out neat binders. “I thought about that and crafted a strategy.” She walked the men through it, while I said, shit, in my head.

“What would your peers say about you?” Helpful, hard working, focused. “Your manager?” Driven. “What do you like about your present manager and what would you like to change?” His abundance of knowledge, but limited time to collaborate. “What motivates you to put forth your best effort?” I like to win, I’m competitive with myself, and I want to make my dad proud. Gag.

“How do you determine or evaluate your success?” By my achievements. Let me share my past year. “What career aspiration would this job satisfy for you?” I’d get closer to Michael’s job. I observed him, he showed no sign of fear. Silly boy. “What do you do when you know you’re right and your boss doesn’t agree?” Lee’s pencil flew over his pad and he nodded a couple of times at her answers. Silly man. “What gets in the way of your job performance?” People who don’t hold my same commitment.

“When is it appropriate to steal from your employer?” That brought the room to a standstill.

Her face blanched. “I would…never… I can’t imagine.” She swallowed. “Could you repeat that?”

“Sure, when is it appropriate to steal from your employer?”

She blinked a couple of times. “I guess when you’re ready to be fired,” she paused, “Or you’re the company attorney.”

The men laughed, even if a little nervous. “You like that question, don’t you?” she asked smiling, her garnetfrost lipstick holding its perfect line.

“I do,” I said. “I’ve had some interesting answers.”
And I have!