13 CEOs share the most telling interview questions they ask job candidates
Startup founders, as digitally savvy as they are, are often faced with relying on old school tactics. Not cold calling, necessarily, or the trade-show dog and pony show, but in many cases, making a hire can't be done without face to face (even if on Skype) communication.
It got me thinking, after moderating an event recently, I polled a handful of CEOs and startup founders in the audience about the interview questions they ask potential employees. Specifically, I asked them to tell me the one question that yields the most insight into that candidate, and has the most positive outcomes.
You'll never know someone's background without asking. One company I spoke with was lucky enough to have a theater major in their demand generation role. When they were devising ways of creating video content to help prospects understand their lingo, they had a perfect candidate already on staff.
The answers I received are as varied as the founders themselves, and reveal much about how to marry the vision for your company with your team's individual goals.
"Tell me how you've approached change." -- Gerald Hassell, chairman and CEO of BNY Mellon.
"We're in an era where adaptability is one of the most important qualities in employees at every level," says Hassell. "The answer to this question, and the interviewee's body language and demeanor, will tell me a lot about their readiness for change and aptitude for rolling with the punches and inspiring their teams."
"Who are your peers?" -- Bill Johnson, CEO, Citi Retail Services
Johnson follows this question with "What are your strengths and challenges?" "Evaluating self-awareness and whether they are still learning and growing indicates their potential to contribute to the business today and in the future," he says.
"What was your journey like to get where you are?" -- Hari Ravichandran, founder and CEO of Endurance International Group.
"You can learn so much about someone based on what their creative path was and the decisions they made along the way," says Ravichandran.
"What do you hope to achieve in your next position?" -- Lynn Jurich, CEO, Sunrun
"Asking candidates this question--and how they will reach that end goal--is a good way to determine one's commitment to improvement and continued learning," says Jurich. "I believe the most valuable employees are those who are consistently looking to challenge themselves to be better and are willing to face some uncertainty and failure on the road to doing so."
"Tell me about yourself." -- Sean Foster, SEO of Crowdtap
"It's a simple yet effective way to get at the DNA of a candidate and it creates an opportunity to learn what they are most passionate about," says Foster. "Open ended questions force people to make choices and to be a storyteller. I want to understand the person, not the candidate."
What are you really into outside of work?--Piers Fawkes, founder, PSFK
"It doesn't matter what it is but if they don't have a passion or curiosity, we don't hire them," says Fawkes.
#1: "How many messages are in your inbox right now?" and #2: "How do you manage email?" -- Andy Crestodina, Principal, Orbit Media
"The answer to question #1 will tell you a lot," says Crestodina. "What is their approach to time management? Are they disorganized? Are they an overly compulsive perfectionist? How do they handle communication, service and support? How to they manage stress?"
"For question #2, email is a challenge for almost everyone, so this question will give you insights into their general problem solving approach. You might hear frustration, you might hear about tools, you might hear about prioritization approaches."
"How do you learn?" -- Stephen Baker, CEO of Attivio
"Every employee is constantly faced with new tasks and new challenges. The best employees always want to be pushed out of their comfort zone. Having a candidate articulate how they would learn a new topic or skill is a great sign of discipline, organizational skills, and intellectual curiosity. This one question provides critical insight into how you can expect them to perform given the particular demands of the role you are potentially hiring them for."
"When it's all over, how do you want to be remembered?" -- Gino Blefari, CEO HSF Affiliates LLC
"This question makes prospective employees think long-term and gives me insight into what they want their legacy to be."
"Don't just tell me that you were a rock star, show me how!" -- Andreas Bodczek, CEO, Fyber & RNTS Media
"I don't think there's one specific question, it's unique to every candidate," says Andreas Bodczek. "As CEO, I usually enter the discussion late into the interview cycle, so what interests me is assessing how the candidate perceives the role and its challenges after all of the discussions they've already had with other team members. At this stage they should have an impeccable grasp of the challenge at hand and what they can bring to the table. If this isn't clear, an alarm bell rings in my mind. I also challenge candidates to be extremely specific about their personal contributions to any successes they highlight on their resume."
#1. "How did you get your last job?" #2. "On a scale of 1 to 10, how lucky are you?" -- Are Traasdahl, Tapad CEO and Founder
"On question #1, it's a very good sign if people consistently get jobs through previous work relationships," says Traasdahl. "It indicates the ability to function well on a team."
"And the answer to question #2 tells me a lot. If they say '10,' things have likely come too easy--they may not be able to read situations very well. If they say a '2,' it's a likely sign of someone who consider themselves a 'misunderstood genius.' When it lands closer to a 7, there's a sense that the candidate has a healthy balance of appreciation for their good fortune and an equal ability to work hard."
"In one word, describe yourself." -- Sloan Gaon, CEO of PulsePoint.
"This goes to the heart of who they are as a person. If they respond that they are a visionary and they are an accountant, you may have the wrong candidate. If they say accountable and they are in ops, you have a winner."
"Assuming there is only one job (leave aside HelloFresh for a second) that you could apply for at this stage of your career, where would you apply and why?" -- Dominik S. Richter, Global CEO & Founder, HelloFresh
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