Revealing interview questions

Getting the real scoop on a candidate you’re interviewing is not that hard: here are some tips from a pro.  Listen up, job seekers.

The hiring manager from a Minnesota ad agency told me she starts with a couple of innocent questions:  “Did you have trouble finding the office? And how was your commute? You can learn so much right off the bat from these.”  Some people launch into a story of how they overslept and missed the train or couldn’t find a parking space.  Or that they went past the building three times before they figured out which one it was.  Really. They don’t realize that this is neither interesting nor confidence inspiring. Even if you did arrive on time, the details of this triumph are not the story you ought to be telling.

Candidates, I suggest that you scout the commute in advance, or at least build in fifteen minutes of slippage time so that you are not flustered when you do make it. The Japanese believe that arriving early is just as rude as arriving late.  So they often give themselves a time bumper, and bring a book to read in a coffee shop or on a park bench – then they walk in right on the dot.

So what does she ask after the how-did-you-get-here test?  “I ask if you’ve done your homework on our company, and before I start my questions, do you have any questions about us? And then I ask if the job description makes sense to them.”  Their answers give a good indication of how they will approach the job.

Then one more revealing question: she asks people if they are comfortable being out in front, or if they prefer to work behind the scenes; in a team or a silo.  “And when they tell me – I ask them why.”
The right questions from the interviewer – beyond the substance of work history and accomplishments, can elicit so much about the candidate’s attitude and confidence.  These answers provide the first impression: the frame for everything that follows.  They are extremely important indicators of how the candidate will perform and fit in. 

This recruiter keeps the job description in front of her during the interview so she can be sure she remains focused on the needs of the position and the tone of the company. Just as the candidate should have clearly in mind how they want to be perceived, so too does the interviewer.
“So did you have trouble finding us today?”