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Letter to Leaders

What I’m Thinking When I Interview You

Picture for BlogWHAT AM I THINKING

Years ago, I lost track of how many people I’ve interviewed.  There was a four year period where it was easily over 100 candidates a month (we were a sales division with lots of turnover).

A few years after that, part of my job was to be involved in a 3-manager interviewing panel, where we interviewed about 15-20 people every Thursday. It became mind-numbing for someone like me who resists routines (“If it’s Thursday, it must be…”)

But when I started my own company and interviewed my first candidate for my own, I changed. I was no longer interviewing for my business; I was interviewing for my life  – both present and future. Even though I had a huge experience conducting interviews, it didn’t matter. Interviewing as if your future depends on it changes someone. It certainly changed me.

I now interview hundreds of people each year, mainly for my clients but also for my own business. I’ve interviewed candidates for CEO positions and waiters and bartenders.  I may have seen it all.

But I digress.

My fundamental point is that I know what I’m looking for by the time I’m interviewing you.  While you’re giving me some answers to questions, here’s what I’m thinking about:

  1. I don’t care about your experience or education. I’ve seen your resume, and it’s likely I, or someone who works for me, did a video or phone screen with you already. So don’t spend time on that. Your resume got you to this point. Now it’s time for you to make an impression. After 10,000 interviews, I want you to be memorable. I have a really low tolerance for boring people.

  2. If I hire you, what gaps will there be? Sorry to be the one to tell you – you’re not going to be perfect at everything I need, so if you join the team, what will the rest of us need to do more of? And of course, what gaps are you filling? What differences are there between you and the person you’re replacing?

  3. Are you trainable? Experience is overrated. What I’m looking for is someone who I can develop to be the person I need them to be. I want to know if I can develop you, and that you’re willing and able to learn.

  4. Do you have an open mind? If I think you have one way of viewing things, and one way only, you can’t be on a team that demands innovation and adaption to change.

  5. What new ideas/innovations can you bring to my team? “Culture Fit” is (fortunately) a dying concept. I want people who can add to my team, not conform to it.

  6. Can you fit on my team without pissing everyone else off? On the other hand, you can’t be so far away from the rest of my team’s values and norms that you’re going to piss everyone off. Are you a team player? Are you answering my questions about your past work/education with “We’s” or “I’s”?

  7. What intangibles do you have that I don’t have? I recently hired a project and innovation manager. Her attributes are technology-driven. She’s a gamer, she has her own 3-D printer, and she knows things that I’ll never know. She’s a perfect fit for what I need in terms of knowledge but also in ways she looks at things.  She has the potential to greatly help me change my view of work.

  8. Are you capable of growing enough to be the person I’ll need 5 years from now? I’m absolutely not hiring for today. I’m hiring for two years from now, or beyond.  I’m in it for the long run (it’s my company, after all). I want people who will comfortably fit in the vision I have for the future.

  9. Do you have a sense of humor? Can you laugh at your mistakes, or take a joke? Working with people who don’t have a sense of humor makes for very long days. And people who take themselves too seriously are never good to be around.

  10. Do you want a job, or do you want a job working at my company? I’m going to ask you a lot of questions about what you know – or don’t – about my business. If you don’t know, it tells me you want a job more than you want to work for me. Bad mistake.

And finally, don’t worry about being nervous. That’s something I generally overlook; people who are nervous often want the job so badly they don’t want to make a mistake. If you’re paralyzed with fright, that concerns me.  But if you’re simply nervous, that’s normal.

Good luck, and I can’t wait to interview you someday!


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