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Published on December 13, 2018

The Very Best Interview Questions Employers Must Ask to Hire the Elites

The Very Best Interview Questions Employers Must Ask to Hire the Elites

When I worked in Campus Housing – now more than five years ago, wow – I was often part of an annual interviewing experience known as Placement. The University of Wisconsin-Osh Kosh runs an amazing event every year (as do other professional associations). They turn the entire conference center into an interviewing cattle call. And I just want to say that I mean that in the very best way.

Colleges and Universities descend upon the campus with their interview teams and they spend about three days meeting every possible candidate they can for whatever positions are available. By the time the final social event rolls around and the placement teams get back in the mini-van or Uber to the airport, there are always about 20 candidates who have risen to the top. The candidates whom everyone wants to hire.

At one of my previous employers, we would have a debrief meeting before leaving the conference site. Each interview team would make a list of our list of top candidates. And since our Director did not believe in wasting time, he would vet those candidates at the conference site so our Assistant Director could make on campus interview invitations the following Monday.

I’m sure that corporate America has a similar type of placement event, especially large organizations who hire entry level staff right out of college. The top talent have been identified and now “everyone” will do what they can to attract those candidates.

This is probably similar to colleges pursuing high school athletes to play for them.

However you, the employer, are going about hiring good talent, there are specific interview questions that can be asked. According to Forbes Human Resources Council,

“The secret to attracting high-quality applicants is differentiating yourself from other industry players, and showing top talent how joining your company can help them reach their career goals.”

How to Hire the Elites by Asking the Best Interview Questions

Craft interview questions that will convey your message: your company is unique, cutting edge, and values their contributions.

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Melissa Nelsen of Johnson Service Group shares specific things about what candidates are seeking in their next position. These include:[1]

  • Stability
  • Security
  • Opportunity for Growth
  • Vision
  • Culture
  • Benefits
  • Innovation

With this in mind, here are some possible questions that employers can ask to attract top talent.

Stability

If we define job stability as the duration one perceives to keep his/her current job without external factors, then ask a question about your industry. Require your candidate to forecast something within the company or industry.

“Please describe five ways you expect this position to change over the next five years, taking into consideration company growth, industry advancement, and technology changes.”

Security

Job Security exists when Human Resources cannot just replace “me” with another person. “I” provide unique skills and talents that won’t necessarily be found in a new candidate.

It’s different from stability, where the job you have is stable in the company and industry, and you don’t worry about not having a paycheck. Ask something that will require the candidate to share those unique talents.

“There are many other candidates applying for this position who possess the same skills as you. With that in mind, what three unique factors do you bring to our organization?”

Opportunity for Growth

Will there be room for promotion within your company for this candidate? He might be looking for a place where he can contribute and be promoted several times over.

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While in my experience, this is hard to do these days, it does not mean your top candidates will not aspire to do this.

“Where do you see yourself and/or your career five years from now?”

Or try this: “What are your long-term career goals?”

Vision

Candidates want to know that their company shares values and has a view of the future. Get to their ideas of this by asking what they are seeking in an employer. You’ll know if the top talent want to be with you if their answer aligns with your company vision and mission.

“What values are most important for you at your place of business?”

Or try this: “How does our vision and mission align with your personal values?”

Culture

Finally! That question of “fit.” Candidates want to know that their new place of business will feel right, they will belong and enjoy coming to work because they just love being there.

As an aside here, this is an area of my career that took me a very long time to appreciate and understand. There were days when all I cared about was salary, job title or a cool city. It took a couple very poor fit situations before I figured out myself how to ask the questions I needed in order to make a decision, should I be offered a job. Even then it didn’t always work.

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So we, as the employer, can make this a bit easier on that Top Talent by asking a few of these questions ourselves.

“What three things are you seeking in your day to day job environment?

Or try: “How can we insure that we are providing a work environment that is comfortable and meets your needs?”

I loved this question explanation from tint.com:[2]

“We know that you have choices, so if we make you an offer, we obviously want it to meet your needs. And that requires knowing what factors that you will use (i.e. pay, job duties, fit with your manager, levels of responsibility, etc.) to determine if ‘our job’ is the right job for you. So if you had a choice between two offers for your next job, please list the top five factors that you would use to evaluate and accept the superior job opportunity. Please list them in their descending order of importance to you.”

This question set doesn’t beat around the bush. Seriously. I wish I’d thought of this one myself.

Benefits

I’m not offering an interview question here, as I personally do not believe that benefits should be discussed during the initial interview.

Much of this can be found by the candidate on the company website. And if the candidate has done her research, she will ask anything that has piqued her interest.

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Innovation

Candidates want to know that they are going to work for a company or organization that is on the cutting edge of new and innovative practices and technology. They want to know that their employer is going places; and obviously the company wants this from their candidates.

We are only as good as our worst employee, right? Try these questions to sense how your candidate can utilize innovative practices.

“Tell me about a time when you lacked the skill or experience to complete a project or assignment? How did you get through it?”

Or try:Select one of our products (or services) and share with me three ways you might be able to make it better.”

The Bottom Line

By putting emphasis on these areas of value for today’s job seekers, employers can seek and sign the top talent for your industry and make your Senior Management proud. And don’t shy away from asking candidates to further explain their answers.

These are fairly “non-traditional” interview questions that could trip up your candidate. So give them room to think and encourage them through non-verbal cues. Here’s to hiring the best possible talent for your team!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

Reference

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