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The Best Interview Question... Ever?

Posted by denise on 3 January 2012 | 0 Comments

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If you were allowed to ask only one  (yes, only one) question during the course of an interview, what would you go for?  Try this one out for size…

"Please think about your most significant professional achievement.  Now, could you tell me about it?"

To see why this question is so powerful, try it out on yourself.  If you’re the candidate and I’ve just asked you this question,  what accomplishment would you select?   Now, imagine over the next 20-30  minutes that I obtained the following information from you about this achievement:

  • A description of the achievement
  • When it took place
  • The importance of the project to the company
  • The results and impact of the work on the company.  Then?  Now?
  • How long it took
  • The role you played
  • Why you were chosen
  • Detail of the team and reporting relationships
  • The 3 major challenges you faced and how you dealt with them
  • Some of the biggest mistakes you made
  • What you would do differently next time
  • Your learnings and how you have applied them since
  • Some of the major decisions made
  • What they learnt from the  experience
  • How you had to work differently to achieve the project goals; with specific examples
  • Aspects of the project you enjoyed/and didn’t enjoy.  Why?
  • The environment and resources available
  • When you needed information and help from others, and how you went about getting that
  • How you were challenged to do something beyond what you thought you could do
  • Your role in preparing and managing the plan and budget
  • How you did on the project versus the plan
  • How you dealt with conflict; with some specific examples
  • How you influenced buy-in to your ideas; with some examples
  • When you faced negative feedback about yourself and how you responded to that feedback
  • What new skills you learnt
  • What you learnt about yourself
  • How you knew if you were doing a good job or not
  • How others on the team would describe your contribution

How much stuff have I just learnt about you from one major achievement you have worked on?  Now overlay this information with some added stuff to look out for ....

Other stuff to look out for in the interview

As well as body language, look out for themes that may emerge in their behaviours and responses.  Demonstrated consistently throughout the interview they are an indicator of the normal 'type' behaviours that you might experience on the job.

Positive themes

Displays energy and confidence; has high standard; gets results with and through others;   experiments; adjusts to fit with the group; likes new learnings; appears objective and fair; anticipates questions and concerns; seeks feedback and assistance; humorous; knows what they are good/not good at; open to ideas of others; good communicator, easy to understand; remains cool and calm under pressure; changed during interview to adjust to interview and interviewer.

Negative themes

Relies on old behaviours; unaware of the impact on others; just described what happened; does not own up, denies or minimizes mistakes; refers to limited sources for information; a ‘blocked’ learner, cannot talk about what they would do differently; confusing and unclear communicator;  one way works for everything; avoids conflict; very serious; backs off under pressure; stayed the same through the interview, doesn’t adjust to the interviewer.

Irrelevant of the level of role you are recruiting for you’ll end up with a broad range of information that will point to their suitability, or not,  for the role.  Check out the information, and your own assessment,  through referencing and other assessments such as psychometrics and skills testing.

Try some of this out and let me know if it works for you



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