6 Interview Questions You Must Ask if You Want to Hire the Best People
Toss the canned interview questions and try these instead.
By Thomas Koulopoulos, Founder, Delphi Group
There's no lack of sources for canned interview questions. A quick Google search on the phrase interview questions turns up about 20 million hits! Good luck with that.
In 30 years of interviewing people for roles in fast-paced startup cultures, I've come to realize that the vast majority of standard interview questions are useless. Yes, I know that sounds harsh, but the reality is that most interviewing guidelines have been developed for larger companies that have square holes they need to fill with square pegs.
If you wanted cookie cutter employees, you'd be running a cookie cutter business, and you're not doing that--right?Conformance, standardized qualifications, and a general lack of disruptive personality tend to work best for large companies. Not so for entrepreneurial ventures, where people need to grow with the organization, find opportunities on their own, and constantly question conventional wisdom. Besides, any reasonably smart person has rehearsed the answers to the standard roster of interview questions. "What's your greatest weakness?" "I work too hard and expect excellence from those I work with." Yeah, that's what I wanted to hear--you're hired! Going through this dance is just plain lazy. If you wanted cookie cutter employees, you'd be running a cookie cutter business, and you're not doing that--right?
The most important thing I want to understand when hiring people is what drives them. Sure, they need to have a basic sense of the industry, the business model, and the market, but smart people can quickly ramp up. The key in hiring the best people is to look for foundational traits that speak to their sense of purpose, what drives them to achieve, how they deal with failure and success, how they think, and why they do what they do. Once you get close to these, you'll know if someone is right for your organization.
So here are a few of the questions that I ask and why I ask them. My experience is that exceptional people like to be challenged with questions that go deeper, allowing them to reveal their values and strengths. Keep in mind that there are no pat answers to any of these. The intent is to see a person for who he or she is; that's a great way to set the groundwork for the potential of an authentic long-term relationship.
- Are you driven by the determination to succeed or the fear of failure?
- Why are you successful?
- If today were your last day on earth, what would you most regret not having accomplished?
- How is who you are now consistent or inconsistent with the person you were at 12 years old?
- Name someone who is alive today, whom I would know, and whom you consider to be exceptionally intelligent. How would you rank your intelligence against this person's?
- When are you happiest?
A final caveat to all of this: Finding the sorts of people who have a deep sense of purpose and a drive to succeed also means managing them, but that's the deal you signed up for. Don't be deterred by people who show strength, push back, and show some spine--and don't be afraid to push back just as hard. If you want a crew of high achievers who can chart a course to growth and innovation, then you also need to be ready to captain that ship.