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4 Things You Need to Know Before You Hire

Recently, at our organization, we have been talking a great deal about interviewing. Since we are in the employment services industry, this is a very important topic. In a moment I will write about the four things you need to know before you hire a leader, or anyone for that matter. But first, let me share a story.

workers looking at screen

Recently, at our organization, we have been talking a great deal about interviewing. Since we are in the employment services industry, this is a very important topic. In a moment I will write about the four things you need to know before you hire a leader, or anyone for that matter. But first, let me share a story.

My First Real Leadership Interview

When I was a 20 year old junior at the University of Maine I was asked by the University President, Howard Neville, to be the student representative on the search committee for a new Dean of Arts and Sciences. I can remember one candidate’s interview like it was yesterday. This candidate, who was a full tenured professor, had just finished sharing with the group what his many strengths were. I then looked at him and asked, “what one weakness do you have that might limit your success as Dean and what will you do to minimize its impact?”

He looked at me with a look that said, “Who are you to ask me such a question? You’re only a kid and can’t possibly have a clue what it takes to be a college dean.” He then actually said, “you know, I don’t think I have any weaknesses. At least none I can think of right now.” During his answer he had a smirk on his face. After he spoke he turned away from me and asked the group if they had any questions.

After the interview the administrative chair of the committee thanked me for my question because it allowed a negative trait of the applicant to emerge. The committee removed him from the list of finalists.

Four Things You Need to Know

Recently, when I was reading The Build Network, I was reminded that Peter Drucker once said, “you only need to know four things about a leader before you hire them.” Here they are:

  1. What has the candidate done well over and over again in her/his prior roles? (These are natural strengths.)
  2. Knowing this, what will she/he be able to do well in our organization?
  3. What does she/he have to learn or what resources will she/he need around them so as to get the full benefit of their strengths and replicate her/his success here?
  4. If I had a son or daughter, would I be willing to have him or her work under this person?

The first two questions focus on the candidate’s strengths. The third helps you know what the person needs either via training or support so they can be successful in your organization. The fourth is all about whether their personality is one that will resonate with others. I think these four things should become the goals for your interview.

Your Interview

With these four things as your interview goals, you then design and ask questions that help you discover whether the candidate is the right fit or not. In this exhibit, I have written an example of one question and a follow-up question for each of the four goals.

You can use this same interview logic for every applicant, for every job. And even if they won’t be supervising anyone, you can try to decide whether you would want this person working side by side with your son or daughter. I have a colleague, Ryan Mountain, who often asks himself this question about someone coming onto his team, “Would I invite this person over to share Thanksgiving dinner with my family?”

We believe you will have more success with your new hires if you go into an interview with clear goals and questions that help you discover whether the person can satisfy the goals or not. A quality leader candidate will provide you with clear answers you might not have thought of yourself and inspire you, not your children, to be on their team.

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