These days, landing the right candidates for a position can feel impossible. Everywhere, people are leaving or losing jobs and looking for new ones—the process is more critical now than ever. How do you know that the person you choose won’t turn out to be a nightmare?
On my team, we don’t believe in the word impossible. There is always a solution, and there is always the right candidate for any position. The key is to find someone who will enjoy the work, do it well, and most importantly, fit in with your company. To identify that person during an interview, you need to ask the right questions and pay attention to more than just their answers.
1. START WITH THE RIGHT MINDSET
“What would you do if I told you a task was impossible?”
You can tell a lot about someone by their response to the word impossible. No matter the task, I maintain the idea that there’s a way to do it, and I expect my team to feel the same. Have confidence. Between the pandemic and dramatic culture shifts, a lot of quality people are looking for work. The right candidate is out there, so make it your job to find them.
During the pandemic, the procurement of goods also seemed impossible. Last year, a common ingredient in our products, which is also an ingredient in hand sanitizer, was suddenly unavailable. Sanitizer was flying off the shelves, and the one factory in the world that made this ingredient burned down in a fire. Really. So, we called all our vendors looking for information on bulk purchases before the pandemic. Sure enough, we found someone who had made a huge purchase a year and a half prior. Turns out, he still had some in storage, and we bought it off of him. With a mindset of possibilities, you stay open to more solutions.
2. ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
“If I were to fire you, what would be the most likely reason?”
Asking a candidate where they might fall short in their particular role is a great way to see if their work habits fit in with a supportive team. In addition to the standard interview questions, ask questions that are right for the job. For human resources, especially, I like to add in some curveballs to see how the candidate handles extra stress.
Once, a guy answered, “You’ll never fire me. I’m that good.” Not surprisingly, he ended up being one of the most irritating people who’s ever worked for me. His answer was too cocky and self-assured, sure, but more than that, it was clearly dishonest. We really needed that position filled at the time, so we hired him anyway. After about two years, I absolutely fired him, which I always knew would eventually happen because of that initial lie.
3. GET OUT OF THE COMFORT ZONE
“What would someone close to you tell me is the worst thing about you?”
People come to an interview prepared to describe their flaws, but I like to take it further. Having to acknowledge the reality of how we are perceived shows a great capacity for self-reflection. This question draws honest truths to the surface, but pay attention to response time. An immediate answer is likely an inauthentic, canned response. If they wait a second to think it through, they’re probably being genuine. Five to 10 seconds, however, and they’ve already had several thoughts they’ve decided not to share.
When I interview, I push and prod a little, because people’s reaction speaks volumes. I want to get to the bottom of their put-on personality if I can sense it. Recently, I had a candidate with an A+ interview. She answered every question perfectly, even when I intended to throw her off. No matter what I asked, she came back with a quick, polished response. I didn’t hire her. Why? Something about her just didn’t sit well with me. Even though she was supremely qualified and intelligent, I got the feeling she wouldn’t fit in at all. The perfect answers indicated a lack of vulnerability and self-awareness. From one conversation, I knew she was disingenuous. She did not know herself, and to me, that is much more significant than anything else.
4. VALUE HONESTY
“If you were to get the job, what’s something I’ll know about you six months or a year after working together that I don’t know now?”
It takes time to get to know someone, and usually, the things we keep to ourselves represent some of our biggest fears. Admitting those fears can be truly uncomfortable. During an interview, and even the first few months on a job, people are still trying to impress their bosses and coworkers, so they are very selective about what information they reveal. Getting them to explore and identify what they’re holding back will tell you a lot about their honesty.
I’ve gotten answers as varied as “Nothing” to “I murdered somebody.” Of course, that’s the kind of answer that makes me dig deeper. The guy had no record, nothing in his background check, and no gaps in his resume, so we asked about the circumstances. Murder’s a little much, but still, I appreciated his forthrightness. He knew I’d never find out and could have answered my question any other way, but that was his honest answer. Did I hire him? No. Like I said—murder’s a little much.
Finding the right candidate is more about your approach than the pool of available employees. Be willing to look everywhere, and don’t discount a candidate on their resume alone. To create better questions, think about how you might view them if the roles were reversed. Of course, check with HR and make sure everything you intend to ask is well within legal limits. Business can be uncomfortable, so ask the uncomfortable questions to ensure a candidate fits in with yours.