You’re not going anywhere as a company if you can’t hire the right people. Slick marketing and sales will only get you so far. The right talent and the right leadership can single-handedly make or break a company.
As a fractional CMO marketing consultant, I have worked with more than 400 companies. Most of the time, I was working side by side with company leaders. I can tell you from experience: Less than 1 percent of the hundreds of interviews I participated in were conducted properly from a question standpoint.
If hiring the right talent is the single most important thing you can do to point a company in the right direction and accelerate growth, why are so few people trained on how to do it? Why are so few people prepared for an interview? For a vast majority of the interviews I have participated in, the person asking me the questions has only taken a brief look at my resume before diving into the standard questions they ask every single candidate.
What should interviewers be doing instead? Here are my thoughts:
1. Keep Context in Mind
Questions like “Tell me about a time when you experienced X to achieve Y” can surely shed some light on how a candidate would think through a certain situation, but there are so many variables in the world of business that the candidate’s prior situation could be vastly different from the one you’re imagining.
For example, you might ask me about a time when I drove leads from a paid ad campaign to achieve sales objectives — something stated on my resume. What you can’t glean from my resume are the specifics of the situation. In the example on my resume, I had a huge budget, resources, and an agency to execute the strategy. Your company may have none of those resources, meaning I would need to take a completely different approach to achieve comparable results for you.
If you want to ask a question like this, make sure you include context. Instead of “How did you drive leads at Company X via paid ad campaigns?” ask “If you were given $10,000 per month with one assistant, how would you generate a paid ad campaign?” Better yet, ask me about a time when I specifically did exactly that, rather than asking what I would hypothetically do.
2. Include the Team
For many interviews, I only talked with the person I would be reporting to and none of the people I would be working with. That’s a problem for two reasons.
First, if you want to maintain a great team culture, you need to be sure the person you’re interviewing will gel with their prospective team members. Second, the team members are the people who work on the day-to-day activities — which means they know what it takes to get work done, and they’re good at asking questions that are truly relevant to the job at hand.
3. Skip the Hourly Rate Question
Stop asking me about my hourly rate. For the most part, it’s a worthless measure of work output.
Imagine hiring two writers to write the same blog post. Both writers cost $30 per hour. Both writers deliver the same quality blog, but one takes four hours to deliver it and the other takes eight. You can ask all the questions you want in an interview, but you won’t be able to gauge a person’s work output quality, speed, and efficiency without actually putting them to work.
Trade the hourly rate question for one that leads to more useful insights, like something that probes why I’m interested in interviewing for this job.
4. Forget Weaknesses
“What is your greatest weakness?” is the most laughable of all interview questions. Has anyone in all of history ever given an honest answer?
I’ll admit I ask this question when I have to hire people — but just for a laugh, not to get a serious answer. I’ve heard answers like “Some people say I work too hard and don’t take enough breaks” and “I’ve had bosses tell me I’m a perfectionist.”
If people were being honest, they’d say something like, “I don’t brush my teeth before work, my breath stinks, and my coworkers constantly complain.” Or “I have zero attention to detail and constantly miss important things I should have caught.” Or “I clock in late and clock out early consistently.” No one is going to mention these things during an interview, so there is no need to even start that charade.
Instead of asking a question about weaknesses, ask what hobbies I have and how I bring those skills to the workplace. This is a fantastic question to see whether a candidate can align their life’s passion with their work.
5. No One Cares About GPAs
Since I am 20 years out of college, I don’t get this question anymore. Earlier on in my career, however, I was constantly asked about my grade point average (GPA). However, a good GPA doesn’t guarantee a good worker. Better to leave this topic out of the conversation altogether — it won’t tell you anything of importance.
In real estate, the three most important criteria are location, location, and location. In business, you need talent, talent, and talent. Hiring the right talent is the most important part of running a successful business — but if you conduct interviews the way most company leaders do, you’re not very likely to find that talent. Ditch the useless questions and take an interview approach that actually uncovers the insights you need to make an informed decision.