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What is the best interview question you have ever been asked?

Posted by | September 6, 2016 | Interviews

Via LinkedIn : What is the best interview question you’ve ever been asked? Whatever it was, there is a very good chance you remember it. How about the worst one? Do you remember it, too?

An interview with Marissa Senzaki, recruiting lead at Slack, prompted my thinking. Senzaki says that since interviews tend to be highly stressful Slack has put a great deal of effort into designing a more human interview process.

Sensaki asks questions designed to “get the ‘whole picture’, not just their past experience, but who they are as a person. ‘What is something you are passionate about? What is a life lesson you’ve learned from your previous job?’ I like to understand their personal journey and story. ‘What drives you?’”

Good questions. However, would a different kind of question elicit better answers and so deeper insight?

I would be genuinely surprised if anyone arrived at an interview today without being able to describe their passions, or a life lesson, or their key drivers, and to do so in a way which (they believe) sounds most attractive to a potential employer. Do standard questions, with well rehearsed answers, deliver deep insight about the person?

“‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” is the favourite question of Slack’s CEO says Sensaki. “This is very humanising question that once again allows us to find out more about the person behind the resume.”

While the question is interesting, it doesn’t strike me as being particularly humanising. I fear it may actually be a little patronising, similar to the dialogue between an adult and a child. Questions such as these invite conformity, not humanity, encouraging people to say what they think others want to hear, rather than necessarily disclosing something truly deep and intimate. A job interview is not a conversation between new best friends, but the chance for someone to pay their rent and buy their food. They are unlikely to stray far from those answers that provide the best chance of of succeeding.

Do questions like these reveal anything meaningful about a candidate, particularly with regard to their fit and future with the organisation? How many people, in response to what drives them, say they want to ‘make a difference’? How many people think they are already grown up, and wish other grown ups would not treat them like children? How many people are going to say the life lesson learned was to spend more time with their family?

Sensaki points out, “It’s not just the tech skills we’re after — it’s more about emotional intelligence. We look for individuals who have values that align with ours such as empathy, courtesy, solidarity, playfulness, and craftsmanship. I think technical questions can result in very rigid and ‘practiced’ responses, which doesn’t reveal much about the person at all.”

The importance of emotional intelligence is well understood, and has been de rigueur in selection processes since the 1990s when Daniel Goleman popularised the notion. Establishing values alignment has been best practice for a similar amount of time. Meanwhile technical questions are rarely a detailed part of the interview simply because failure to clear the technical hurdle means you didn’t get to the interview stage.

Sensaki and her CEO’s efforts to understand the human person are commendable. However, they have almost certainly structured their questions to deliver particular insights which enable them to assess candidates for a role at Slack. This means you need to develop your own set of human questions that tell you what you or your firm needs to know with regard to the person and the role for which they are interviewing.

Here are some questions that may uncover something quite different about a person:

  • If an organisational value is, for example, transparency, ask what they believe about this value. Then ask for a story about when they have been transparent and when they have seen someone else be transparent.
  • Ask candidates how they resolved a moral dilemma. You need to know not just that people have values, but that they have sufficient awareness to recognise when those values are conflicted, and also understand how they apply these in uncertain, ambiguous situations.
  • Given the half life of technical and scientific knowledge is generally accepted to be 2 years, ask people what they are doing to upgrade themselves for the next phase of their career
  • If you want people who don’t see themselves as a finished product, ask what they are doing to grow and develop as a human being

The list is endless if you truly want to understand the person in front of you. None of these questions are ‘tests’ which must be passed. They are opportunities for you to gain deeper insight about the meaning others attach to words, actions and relationships, and so to understand a little more of their humanity.

What are the best interview questions you ask candidates?

What is the best interview question you have ever been asked?

Source : LINKEDIN | What is the best interview question you have ever been asked?

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