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Published on April 8, 2019

How I Hire the Elites: 4 Good Interview Questions to Ask

How I Hire the Elites: 4 Good Interview Questions to Ask

In today’s highly competitive labor market, most hiring managers understand that identifying, vetting, and hiring top talent is a key priority––one a CEO must be invested in. Gone are the days when you can hang the “Help Wanted” sign on the front page of your website and expect dozens of quality resumes to show up in your inbox.

Certainly, in my role as President of my company BookBaby, I take the recruitment and interview process very seriously—not just because it’s important, but also because it’s difficult.

The truth is, anyone who takes the time and trouble to send you a resume and apply for your open position can probably do the tasks outlined in the job description. But that’s only half the battle.

What to Look for in a Candidate

A successful hire is one who can complete tasks while also succeeding within the context and culture of the organization that employs them.

For my company, that means being nimble, forward thinking, and having an understanding of the publishing world. More specifically, beyond having good interview questions to ask, I look for three things in every candidate I interview.

1. The ability to work autonomously

All of my employees would agree on this one fact: I’m not a micromanager. I don’t want to spend my time looking over my employees’ shoulders all day long––I’ve got my own job to do!

Thus, I need employees to be self-starters who can not only inspire themselves, but also solve tough problems on their own.

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2. The ability to communicate in various environments

Everyone expresses themselves in different ways. To succeed on my team, however, employees must be able to make themselves understood no matter their communication style.

This is true whether they’re communicating with their peers, managers, or especially customers. That means, of course, that new hires must also be able to adapt to different audiences––from those listening to their presentations in the office to those reading their words on Twitter.

3. The ability to make decisions

This might be the most important skill set that, truly, all managers look for. It doesn’t matter if you’re hiring a fresh-out-of-school marketer or a seasoned financial controller––candidates must be able to assess situations, determine the best means of achieving the optimal outcome, and make the call to move forward.

There’s a matter of trust here: as a company leader, you have to know that the people on your team will make the kind of choices and compart themselves in a way that is representative of your company, its ethos, and your ambitions.

Again, these priorities are not unique to me. These are things most founders, CEOs, and managers look for. They evidence, ultimately, abilities of reason and logic, levels of motivation, and self-awareness––the traits quality team members who’ll drive your company forward need to have.

Good Questions to Ask in an Interview

So the question then becomes: how do you go about determining if candidates do possess these qualities?

My strategy: ask the right questions.

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1. Tell me about your happy place

The first question I ask candidates is this: tell me about your optimal work environment. An experience in which you know you’ll thrive. The culture in which you are most productive and happiest.[1]

I also want to know the characteristics exhibited by the best boss they’ve ever had—or wish that they’d had.

If their sort of optimal vision aligns with mine––with the sort of environment and culture I’ve worked hard to build in my company––I know we’re on the right track.

2. Putting the boss on notice

Second, my very best hires have all been people who’ve helped to up my game, so to speak.

So I always ask candidates for three or four expectations that they have of senior leaders in an organization. What hopes do they have for the people they work with and for?

If they can speak articulately on that, I know that it’s likely they’ll be able to help me improve in that area, which is a good thing for me and for the company.

3. Serving the customer

At BookBaby, we depend on our people to provide world-class customer service all day long.

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It’s for this reason that I always ask candidates, then, to tell me a story about their most challenging customer and how they eventually made them happy––or didn’t.

You can learn a lot about the tolerance, patience, and one’s capacity for empathy and patience through stories like this. Plus, it’s important that candidates have experience to this end. Customer service is very much a skill.

4. That one decision

Finally, I do save one question for the end of every single interview. It’s a simple one––and I’ve received 100 different answers to it. Some amazing, some not so much.

Here it is:

Tell me about the very best decision you’ve ever made.

Was it a snap decision, or did you think it through? Were you happy with the outcome? Would you change it now?

This question reveals a lot about the applicant. Often it evidences their logic, and even gives you a glimpse of their creative capacity.

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If the answer is forgettable and cliché, for example––“When I decided to ask my wife to get married” (ho hum)––that shows you either that the applicant hasn’t done many impressive things, or that they lack the creative chops to ideate something exciting.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, of course more goes into whether or not you should make a decision as important as a new hire than just the interview––and four measly interview questions, at that!

But it remains that the interview––and particularly the interview with you, the leader of the company––is the most relevant and crucial opportunity a candidate gets to sell themselves. It’s inherently revealing, in this sense, and speaks to a candidate’s ability to perform under pressure.

Of course, you’ll only get useful questions out of an interview if you yourself put work into it on the back end.

It pays, in other words, to identify which questions, approaches, and strategies work best in helping you hire the right people for your company and its specific context.

More Resources to Build an Outstanding Team

Featured photo credit: Johanna Buguet via unsplash.com

Reference

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Steven Spatz

Steven is the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading eBook and printed book distributor. He shares about entrepreneurial tips on Lifehack.

How I Hire the Elites: 4 Good Interview Questions to Ask

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

How to Set Goals Smartly to Accomplish More in Life

How to Set Goals Smartly to Accomplish More in Life

We all know setting goals is the best way to give your life focus and direction. But did you know that by setting goals, it can also help you to get a lot more of your important work done?

Having clear and effective goals that are built around your values focuses your mind on what is important. It helps you filter out the unnecessary and gives you an ‘outcome mindset’ rather than a ‘task mindset’.

An outcome mindset is one where you are focused on the objective—the outcome— of what you are intending to achieve. A task mindset focuses on the tasks you have to do each day and this leads to completing unnecessary tasks (or spending too much time on the unimportant) and procrastination.

To help you with transforming yourself from being focused on the tasks and to be focused on the outcome, here are 17 ways having clear goals will not only increase your productivity but also supercharge your ability to get the important things done:

1. Make it a goal to have no more than 10 tasks on your to-do list each day.

One of the surprising benefits of having a small number of goals for the day is how frequently you find yourself accomplishing more.

When you have a random number of tasks to complete each day, the likelihood is you will not get them all done.

When you set yourself a small number of tasks to complete—your “must completes” for the day—and you restrict these to a set number, you are much more likely to get them done.

2. Decide what your monthly and weekly goals are.

What do you want to accomplish this month? What do you want to accomplish this week? These questions focus you in on the things that are important to you.

Most people are waiting for life to happen to them, after all, it is far easier to react to events around you than to create events around you.

When you create the events in your life by having weekly and monthly goals that reflect your objectives for the year, you are going to get far more of your important work done.

3. Work on what’s important to you and focus on your priorities

Building your daily life around your goals is going to keep you on the path you want to follow.

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Without any goals directing you towards where you want to go, you will find yourself drifting off your desired path and aimlessly wandering through life, wondering how you got to where you are. More often than not, where you end up will not be where you want to be.

4. Eliminate the unimportant tasks that come up each day

Every day throws up a lot of unexpected issues. These issues often come from our bosses, clients/customers and friends and family. It does not matter how well planned your day is, these things are going to happen.

When you have a set number of goals to achieve each day, these issues will not hijack your day and destroy it. You will find you can handle the unexpected while continuing to get on with your important work for the day.

5. Always stay focused

When you set goals, it means you have made a decision about what it is you want to achieve and what is important to you. This allows you to become a much more focused person because you are mindful of what you want.

Focus, in today’s world, is a skill in short supply. By developing your focus, you are going to put yourself way ahead of everyone else.

6. Begin the day with a goal

One of the best ways to accomplish more of your important tasks each day is to begin the day with a clear goal.

It could be to complete a specific project or to simply get outside and walk for thirty minutes in nature.

When you start the day with a specific goal to do something, you are much more likely to get it done.

7. Start small

If you have never had an outcome-orientated mindset, then begin will small steps.

A simple goal to have each day, and a very healthy one, is to go for a thirty-minute walk.

Another simple goal to set for the day is to choose one piece of work that you will complete that day, then focus all your attention on getting that work completed before you finish for the day.

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These pieces of completed work add up over time, and you’ll find that you are getting far more done than you ever did before.

8. Ask yourself: What one thing you could do today that would have the biggest positive impact on your day?

This is a great way to accomplish even the hardest of goals.

Asking yourself this question really helps you discover what projects and work are important. This question is not focused on completing the goal. This question is all about making progress on the goal.

Once you have completed that task, you will find the next step happens naturally. Before you know it, you have made a huge impact on your goal.

9. Consistently take small steps which lead to great distances

One of the biggest reasons why most people never achieve their goals is their goals seem impossible because of the time and effort required to achieve them.

The best way to make even the most difficult goals achievable is to break them down into small manageable steps. Even the smallest step moves you forward towards achieving the goal.

Just two or three little steps completed every day will, over time, take you towards where you want to be.

Want to write a book? Writing 500 words per day will give you a 60,000-word manuscript in around ten months.

10. Plan what you are going to achieve the day before with the 2+8 Prioritization System

This one always works. Before you finish your day’s work, take ten minutes or so and decide what two things you will achieve the next day. This is what I call my “two objectives”.

Once you have decided on your objectives, write down eight other tasks you want to complete the next day. These tasks I call my “focus tasks”.

You then make sure that whatever gets thrown at you the next day, you will complete these ten tasks.

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Over a period of one month, you will have achieved around 300 meaningful tasks all related to your goals and important work.[1]

11. Know what your majors and minors are

This one is the secret of all highly successful people. They know what work has the most impact on their life and business and what work does not.

For example, checking emails, while necessary, is not a major task. It does not move you forward in any meaningful way. Talking to your most important customer and reinforcing your strong relationship with them, that’s a major.

One of the best examples I’ve heard comes from Brian Tracy. In his example, Brian says a salesperson doing work in the office is doing minor work. A salesperson talking with a customer is doing major work.

Focus all your time and energies on your major work and reduce the time you spend on your minor work.

12. Add positive pressure to get more done

When you have goals, you feel obligated to do something about them. When you do not have a goal, you are much more likely to procrastinate and spend unproductive time thinking about what to do next.

Goals give you clarity, goals give you purpose and when you have both clarity and purpose, you find you no longer procrastinate and you utilize your time much more effectively.

13. Have specific, clear goals to incentivise you to move forward.

How you write the action steps related to your goals is important. If you have a goal that says “make an online course,” you will not achieve very much.

Writing your action steps out such as “make progress on the online course outline” or “make five slides for online course” is specific and is going to lead to action and achievement.

14. Make progress that drives more progress

When you see you are making progress on your goals every day, you will find you begin getting much more done.

Momentum is created once you start and when momentum begins you find positive habits develop. Put momentum and motive together and you have the ingredients for massive progress towards your goals and your work.

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15. Take up accountability

Something amazing happens to our brains when we set ourselves goals. Having goals we are very clear about and determined to achieve gives our brains the necessary incentive to focus on getting the goal achieved.

We have accountability to ourselves. That accountability gives us all the incentive we need to get the work done every day.

16. Use the power of Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

When you have set goals to achieve each day and you begin the day with a review of what you want to get completed, Parkinson’s Law will take over.

This means no matter what else gets thrown at you throughout the day, if you have set yourself a time, you will finish your work for the day, you will find you will finish what you have planned for the day at that time. This one works brilliantly.

17. Become a highly focused, goal achieving individual

Having goals you are focused on each day develops a ‘can do’ mindset. When you have a strong ‘can do’ mindset and the discipline to focus on what you want to get accomplished each day, you find work you previously thought would take weeks and months to complete soon start being completed within hours or days.

A great mindset and a strong work ethic, coupled with daily goals will make some very positive changes in your life.

These 17 tips are just the start. When you begin focusing your daily activities on your goals instead of on your tasks, you will see an incredible transformation take place in your life.

Your energy increases, you feel happier more often and you start to feel you are making progress on the things that are important to you which just leads to accomplishing more and more.

More About Setting & Achieving Goals

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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