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Throw Your Interview Questions in the Bin

Please tell me what you learned about yourself during the past five years of your career. Imagine receiving this question during an interview instead of; Talk me through your career.


What bothers me about job interviews is that recruiters don't see the person. They see two things, a job title which often doesn't reflect the actual job the person is doing or the skills that it comes with and the frequency of job changes.


None of the two is interesting or tells you much about the person. The "Please tell me what you learned about yourself during the past five years of your career" question opens up a whole new window to someone allowing us and the candidates to really think about the discoveries they made about themselves. This information then can be used to see how that person possibly would do in specific roles, and here I don't mean how well (s)he could do the job.

While technical skills and experience are undoubtedly important, mindset, personality, and strengths determine how employees approach their work and others, solve problems, and collaborate with others. This is what cultural fit is about. Not the exercise of trying to fit the candidate's answer to the organisation's values or competencies. Finding the right person for a team (not for the organisation because people work with their direct teams, not with the organisation) can only be achieved if we look at the person.


The "Please tell me what you learned about yourself during the past five years of your career" is a great opening question that may tell you that the person doesn't like to sit behind a desk all day. Whether the person is a strategic thinker or a doer. (S)he prefers close relationships and hence would do better on a small team. How the person feels about inefficiencies, how they like to learn, whether they are autonomous or need close supervision (Don't ask how you would like to be managed! Chat and listen. They will tell you indirectly.) When someone tells me I had seven jobs in three years, my question is, "Ok, tell me the pros and cons of each job." You can draw up a complete personal profile from one question like this.


So what other questions can we ask instead of the boring competency-based questions that can help us reveal the person behind the CV?

- What did you love most about your previous work? Why?

- What skills have you picked up quicker than other people?

- When were you last singled out for special praise? What happened?

- Which activities this week are you looking forward to? Why?

- What are the first three adjectives people who know you best describe you? (Not how your manager would describe you)

- When was the last time someone had to remind you to stop doing something? You were in the flow. What were you doing?

- How do you like to receive feedback?

- What was the moment when you felt most motivated?

- What is your favourite thing about yourself?

- What do you wish you could change about yourself?

- Do you work better with men or with women?

- Do you prefer to do things yourself or delegate them to others?

- When was the last time you got frustrated, and why?

- Do you talk to everyone at work daily, or do you have a small circle of specific people you would rather interact with?


If answered well, these questions allow the interviewer to paint a pretty good picture of the person's strengths, approach to authority, communication style, motivation, ability to self-reflect and desire to manage or lead people. Competency-based questions only allow for some of that.

By hiring for mindset, strengths, and personality, organisations can build a team of employees who are not only highly skilled and experienced but also possess the attitudes and beliefs that are essential for success within a particular group.


Why? Because mindset, personality, and strengths do clash! More often than competencies or ability.



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