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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

More by this author

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 October 22, 2019

How Do You Measure Success? Here’re 10 Better Ways

How Do You Measure Success? Here’re 10 Better Ways

“Larry is a failure at everything except life.”

That was a memorable line from a somewhat forgettable Ted Danson movie in the 1980s. Pithy, it did encapsulate one eternal truth, namely that life is the goal. Making the most of one’s limited time in this world is the core measure of success.

So how do you measure success?

Money is meaningless until you do something good with it. Fame is fleeting and tertiary at best. But life and how you live it – in business, in family, in everyday interactions – is the true measure of accomplishment.

The Inside and Outside of Success

Life occurs within and outside of you. The two – yourself and everyone else – are interconnected. Their lives, and thus their success, are influenced by you and your success which is influenced by them.

It becomes clear that any measure of “success” cannot be one dimensional. There are many metrics, but if a person looks only at those that directly affect them, then they lack a complete measurement. It is good to succeed in business, but it is important to succeed in life. The two are not mutually exclusive, and in some ways positively reinforcing.

10 New Ways of Measuring Success

For a Successful Business

In business, it is not always the bottom line that defines success. I won’t argue against it – profitability is the first rule of business, because unprofitable companies do not survive. Just beyond that are some success measurements that are nearly as important:

1. Hitting Your Goals

If you call “8 ball in the side pocket” and scratch, then you failed to hit your goal. Knowing and achieving your business goals is important.

But goals in business have many manifestations. Aside from profitability, some business goals include growing your market share, disrupting a market, having very high customer satisfaction rates, reducing product defects, and more, and more, and more.

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However, you cannot achieve your business goals unless you know what they are, communicate those goals to your employees, and measure the results. Many people in business are vague about their goals. They are not clear in making everyone in the company embrace the goals or checking on progress.

None of these success-generating steps is difficult, but success will likely not come without them

2. Growing Your Business

“Growth” is quite personal, even to an executive.

In this, a business is a bit like a child. As the business’s parent, you get a certain satisfaction in raising it, helping past the stumbling toddler years, seeing it blossom into adulthood, and ever expanding its horizons. In the process, you grow the lives and fortunes of your employees, your shareholders, your community and your country.

3. Low Turnover

According to an article in Forbes, the turnover rate is the highest it has been in a decade. My company, Micrel, had the lowest employee turnover rate in our industry, as well as having the highest “boomerang employee rate (people who left the company and decided to come back).[1]

This form of success is a reflection of the corporate culture you created. A bad culture creates a high turnover rate, and a good culture a low one.

4. A Well-Balanced Life

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy, and often a jerk. The reason is that life is not work, only a part of it. A wealthy captain of industry that never takes long and relaxing walks holding the hand of a loving spouse is not a success.[2]

Measuring balance in your life is non-productive. But when you lack balance, it is easy to measure. The shortfall of joy, the failing health, the shattered marriages, the estranged children … these are the heavy weights placed on the wrong said of life’s scale, and they are a clear enough measure.[3]

5. Sharing Your Success with Others

Ebenezer Scrooge, and Jacob Marley before him, horded their wealth. It cost Marley everything.

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“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Sharing is perhaps the true measure of all success, be it a wealth of money, time, patience, knowledge, wisdom or good will.

For a Successful Life

Which brings us to the non-business side of the business life. As your business affects your personal life, so too does your personal life affect your business. The two cannot be separated. Some elements that should be on your success scorecard include:

6. Good Health

The enjoyment of life is at best incomplete in poor health. At worst, it is hellish.

Now take poor health outside of your body. How does being sickly affect your company (when you cannot lead fully), your family (their support and their stress over you), your community (when you can no longer serve)?

Good health is a gift unto itself, but also to everyone you touch. Don’t cheat anyone out of your good health. Do what is necessary to keep your machine in good working order as the first imperative toward success.

7. Healthy Family

Family is love and support. Every person’s role is to grow their family, to stay connected, to provide love and support. In that giving to others, you improve their lives while improving yours.

It also lays the groundwork for you receiving love and support when you need it. If you are launching a business and taking the risks that go along with it, you will need that love and support.

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8. Learn to do the Tough Things First

In or out of business, we are all faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But we humans have this funny knack of overcoming them.

Indeed, we do it so routinely that out sight miracles that go against nature – flight, the internet, leaving the planet on rocket ships – has become almost blasé.

None of these things were accomplished instantly. They were the result of many small successes. The ones that happened fastest were where a person or a team looked at all the problems, took on the biggest and toughest first, then conquered it. They did the Tough Things First, which made the rest of the project much simpler and more exciting for everyone.

This applies to daily life as well as business. If you are planning to relocate your spouse, several children, pets and all your worldly belongings across country, the task likely looks overwhelming. But the moment you prioritize the list of tasks, and knock the biggest and ugliest off the list, the rest seems like a cakewalk.

9. Being a Teacher

One of the highest compliments I ever received was from an industry analyst who said that I was a “teacher”.

Yet we all are, or can be, teachers. It may be providing basic life lessons to a child on your knee, instructing an employee in complex processes or technologies, or even teaching by example via living a good life.

For me, one joy has been writing a good book on management and leadership, and another about the intersections of people, society and business. It is by teaching, and in my case writing, that you directly benefit others.

Life can be complex, filled with many topics and problems. By sharing knowledge and wisdom, we lead others past difficulties and on toward their own greater success.

10. Dignity and Honor

My marketing director is a proper Southern Gent, which is easily discernible by a well-honed sense of honor. You don’t have to be a southerner to live a life of dignity and honor, but if you are male you do have to be a gentleman.

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Dignity circles around self-respect and honor involves acting with honesty, fairness, and integrity. The latter leads to the former. Indeed, you cannot have self-respect without practicing the basic virtues of honesty, fairness, and integrity.

Why is this a measure of success? Because we humans are social animals, and society exists only because of trust.

Honesty, fairness, and integrity are the cornerstones of trust, and thus the foundation of society. A person is truly successful when they add to society.

Final Thoughts

All this brings us back to the dictionary definition of “success”, which is:

“the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.”

You may or may not be a businessperson, but you are always a person. Your endeavors are both in and out of the office. Since each sphere affects the other, the true measure of success lies in how you managed your affairs in all facets of existence, for they cannot be viewed in isolation.

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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