Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Single Most Important Interview Question Is...

There are a great deal of interviewing strategies, techniques and methodologies out there.  Some of these techniques are good, some good only in theory.   However, interviewing doesn’t need to be so complicated that it warrants books on the topic.  An interview is nothing more than a conversation with a purpose – with that purpose being to learn if this person is a good fit for the role and culture of the company.

There is one question that will tell you a tremendous amount about a candidate…

“What made you decide to leave that position?”

If you ask this question about a candidate’s current position and every position they list on their resume you will learn a tremendous amount about how they process the world around them, their character and what drives them.

In order to make this question work for you, you must really dig into the answer.  Don’t accept anything vague or answers that don’t make sense.   Listen to what they focus on, as that is what drives their internal motivations.  Be sure to look at trends.  If a candidate left their last 3 jobs because of the same reason, there is likely more to the story.

Think about these responses:

·      “Personal” – Not good enough, ask for more information about what was happening that made them decide to leave their employment.
·      “It was time to make a change” - Why?
·      “Wanted more money” – Was this not an option where they currently work? What prevented you from getting a raise?  If the candidate has only been there a year ask: “If you were excited to take the job at this salary, what changed to make you feel you need higher compensation at this time?” 
·      “Layoff” – I like to ask how large the reduction in force was.  If it was just them, dig in a bit more.
·      “The company was going through changes and everyone was leaving” – Not acceptable.  You want independent thinkers.
·      “Company could not make payroll” – You can’t argue with that one.
·      “I outgrew the role” – First ask if there was any opportunity at the company to grow in the direction they wanted.  If there was and it was not available to them, dig in there may be a red flag.  If there wasn’t, or there is a logical reason for that opportunity not being available, then this is a valid reason.
·      “I am not a cultural fit” – Dig in more, but may be valid and you have to applaud the candidate for being wise enough to recognize it.
·      “I have learned I want to have challenges in…” – If those challenges are not available where they are now, this is very valid.

The list of answers could go on and on.  If you really dig into the answers to this single question, you will have a solid understanding of the candidate’s drive, character and motivation by the end of your conversation.

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