July 22, 2018

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The Nine Question, Twenty-Minute Interview

Part 1 of 2

We have limited time to dedicate to any search, whether contingent or retained. Recruiters must be ruthlessly efficient in determining whether an individual might be a potential candidate for the search.

I have seen recruiters spend an hour or more interviewing individuals who could have been rejected in twenty minutes or less. The same holds true for corporate hiring managers. Enormous amounts of time are wasted interviewing inappropriate or unqualified people.

It's fairly easy to look at a person's resume and determine whether they have the technical know-how or the right background for a specific job, but how do you determine the deeper issues of personality, cultural appropriateness, and style? These are important factors that determine a good fit. These "gut feel" factors constitute approximately 50% of the hiring decision. How can you determine these factors quickly and efficiently?

For candidates who get past an initial resume screen, a brief interview consisting of nine basic questions will allow you to gain a clear picture of whether or not the candidate is suitable for a particular position. Indications of a person's character, drive, and competence can be gleaned from listening carefully to the candidate's answers to these nine questions. When you put this information together with impressions of their personality, their ability to express themselves, and their social presentation, your odds of a successful hire will increase dramatically. Let the candidate know that this interview will last only twenty minutes so that their expectation is set appropriately. Here are the nine questions:

  1. Of The Jobs You Have Held, Which One Did You Like Best?

    The answer to this question suggests specific areas in which the candidate can be of the most value to your client. If he or she is noncommittal, or liked all of them, this may indicate a lack of direction or planning for future growth. It is normal to have preferences, but if their preference is for a job in no way related to the one you have to offer, you may have a discontented newly hired employee after only a short time.

  2. How Did You Get Each Of Your Positions?

    If your candidate sought out and achieved a position he or she wanted, this indicates a strong "go getter." If they were recruited into the position, find out what their dissatisfaction was with their previous position. This will indicate their level of loyalty, or "stick-to-it-iveness" when the going gets tough. Generally, the response to this question is an indication of resourcefulness. Was it through their personal contacts or influential friends? Was it merely a means to an end? Will your job, also, be such a means? These answers, together with the short and long term goals questions, will give you an overall impression of their career direction and their ability to get what they want.

  3. What Are Your Short Range Goals For The Coming Two Years??

    Every person should have definite plans for where they want to be and what they hope to be doing one and two years from now. Failure to verbalize these goals indicates that the candidate has not assessed his potential or relationship with his chosen work. A definite plan will not only give the interviewer a chance to see if their goals coincide with the position, but will also give the candidate a plus just for having specific goals, because many people don't. A person who doesn't know where he or she is going will probably end up someplace else.

  4. If You Could Do Anything In The World, What Would You Choose To Do?

    The answer to this question can give you deep insight into the candidate, if they answer truthfully. You may need to ask it a second time, as many people will first tell you what they think you want to hear. I often add, "Really, let your imagination go, and think about it as if you didn't have to worry about money or what other people think." I have found that when you get past the expected answers about immediate gratification of spending a year on a sunny beach, what all people want at their deepest core is to make a contribution to others, to make a difference. The answer you get, however, will indicate where a person fits in the organization you are representing. Look for some creative imagination meshed with both reality and the individual's capabilities. Check to see whether what the person "really" wants to do matches the job responsibilities you can offer them.

Part Two

-Lion Goodman
A business and life coach specializing in helping independent recruiters and small firms accomplish their business goals and achieve work/life balance. With 22 years experience in retained search, contingent recruitment, and executive coaching, he offers coaching to recruiters who are seeking management expertise, support, and advice. He can be reached at 415-472-6500 or by email:
Copyright by Lion Goodman