For those of you who follow Nick Corcodillos on www.asktheheadhunter.com, here is a recent blog that he posted on his website. I think there is a very good message here for you.
Ask The Headhunter®
What’s your favorite interview question and why?
Lou Adler, another headhunter who also teaches recruiting and job hunting techniques, has an answer to that question that you should consider. But much as I respect Lou, I totally disagree with him. I’ll explain why and then I’ll tell you what is the only question that really matters in a job interview.
In a recent LinkedIn posting, Lou says “The Most Important Interview Question of All Time” is this:
“What single project or task would you consider the most significant accomplishment in your career, so far?”
What’s useful about Lou’s suggestion is that the sub-questions it spawns stimulate wonderful discussion between an applicant and a manager. Nonetheless, I don’t agree that asking a job candidate about his or her most significant accomplishment is so important.
In fact, I think it’s a distraction. It makes it harder for you (the manager) to really assess what an applicant will do for your business. Don’t worry what the job candidate has done. You can ask about that later. Like every investment prospectus says, Past performance is no guarantee of future results. What matters is what a person will do next, if hired, to make your business more profitable.
Let’s talk about the future
In a friendly spirit of “I don’t think so…” I’m going to challenge Lou Adler’s advice and offer a better interview question to ask every applicant, before you talk about anything else:
“What’s your business plan for doing this job profitably?”
Any job applicant can walk into an interview and rehash past accomplishments on a moment’s notice. A dog with a note in its mouth can do that. The person in Lou’s scenario could be visiting any company, talking with any manager, about any job. In other words, Lou’s applicant can be totally unprepared and you’d never know it.
But the truly prepared job candidate has researched your company’s business in detail and is ready to deliver a “mini business plan” about how to do the job you need done, showing why he or she would be your most profitable hire. There is no way to fake it. This is the only interview question that really matters because if the applicant’s answer isn’t a good one, then there’s no reason to waste time talking about anything else.
I think this approach is more important today than it’s ever been, because while many employers enjoy hefty profits, they nonetheless hesitate to hire. But, why should you fill a position and increase your overhead, when you have no idea about whether the new hire can deliver profitable work?
Why ask dopey questions?
As an employer, you can ask a job applicant for virtually anything you want. So, why ask for a dopey resume about their history? Why assess them indirectly by asking about their “most significant accomplishment” when you can directly assess how they’d do this job now? Your most profitable hire will jump at the chance to produce a plan to do the work. The rest aren’t worth talking to.
A few final notes: First, the purpose of this approach is to gauge a job candidate’s ability to do the work — not to use an interview to get free work or project plans out of interviewees! Be reasonable, and be respectful. Second, I think a lot of Lou Adler’s advice about recruiting and job hunting. Just not this piece of it.
What is your favorite interview question? Please email your response to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ken Lazar, Founder