As a CEO, you have a lot of people working for you who have to interview candidates for crucial roles in your company. Do you have any idea how good their interviewing skills are? You had better know, since they are hiring the people that are either going to propel you to the next level, or drag you down like a sinking ship.
Here is your first telltale clue that your people don’t know how to interview. After they interview a candidate, and you ask what they thought, you might get some answers like these: “She’s good. I really like her,” or “He really sounds great,” or “I think he’ll be a good fit.”
If you hear anything like that, you can pretty much assume the interview was subpar.
Another clue is the kind of people that have already been hired. If you are having problems with people not meeting their goals, behavior issues, or you are surrounded by B and C players…you can rest assured that your staff doesn’t know how to interview.
They are probably asking all the wrong questions
You know the kind of stuff I’m talking about:
“Tell me about yourself.”
“What’s your biggest strength?
“What’s your biggest weakness?’
“How’d you do in your last job?”
The list can go on and on. And why do your people ask these types of weak and useless questions? Because that’s the very questions they were asked when they interviewed for jobs. Over the years, we learn from the people that interviewed us, and we repeat the same bad questions over and over again because no one ever taught us the right questions to ask.
If you think you have a problem with the interviewing skills of your staff (and even if you don’t), you should audit their interviews. You need to sit in on some interviews, keeping your mouth shut, and listening to the questions they ask. It can be a real eye-opener!
But even before you do that, YOU need to know the right questions to ask, and how to interview. You can’t coach others unless you know what you are doing yourself.
So, drop all of the softball questions, and all the useless “strength and weakness” questions.
You need to ask candidates for specific examples of when they succeeded and when they failed (and how they overcame it). For example, instead of asking what a person considers to be his greatest strength, ask him for an example of when he went above and beyond, and achieved something that was outside the scope of his job description. Then get the details about it: Were you part of a team? What was your role? Why did you choose that strategy? How did you manage the process? Who worked with you? When did you know you were on the right track?
The questions can be endless, but the point is to really dig down into it to see if the candidate is puffing things up or can really describe the situation. It will give you insight into how they think and how they will react in your environment.
As for the age-old weakness question, instead of saying: “Tell me about your weaknesses?” (I always love that one because the standard answers are “I work too hard,” or “I’m a perfectionist.”), ask questions like this: “Tell me about a time you failed to achieve a certain goal.” “What did you do that didn’t work?” Why did you choose that strategy?” “What do you think was the primary reason it failed?” “What did you learn from it?” “What would you do differently now?”
You’ll learn a lot more about the person from this line of questioning than the horrible questions we typically ask.
Get your people into the habit of asking questions like this. Do some mock interviews. I know a CEO who makes all of his direct reports interview for their jobs each year. I love it! It’s a great way to make them articulate what they are doing and describing their challenges, but it’s also a good way of teaching them how to interview.
So do the following:
- Learn and practice asking relevant and useful questions, drilling down to find out more.
- Audit your staff when they interview. See what kinds of questions they are asking.
- Teach and coach them on better interviewing skills.
The results will pay off for the company. After all, you deserve the people you hire.