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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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1 How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life 2 How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1 3 5 Steps to Designing Your Life to Maximize Success 4 How to Set Long Term Goals and Achieve Success 5 How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

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Last Updated on November 9, 2020

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

How to Become Goal Oriented and Achieve More in Life

Why is it important to be goal-oriented? If you make goals without asking yourself what your true strengths and values are first, you could put yourself on the fast track to disappointment. On the other hand, if you don’t set any intentions at all, you could bounce through life like a pinball doing what others want without accomplishing what’s really important to you.

Fear not. Here are 8 powerful ways to be goal-oriented using the ENVISION method (Endgame – Nesting – Value – Inspiration – Superpowers – Intimates – Openness – Nourishment) that will help you create a successful, meaningful life:

1. Start With the End in Mind

To ensure that you make goals that matter, stand back and examine your life from a broader perspective. Think about the happy ending you would like to achieve, the “E” in ENVISION, and work backwards to determine how you’ll get there.

For example, if you’d like to generate goals for yourself over the next five years, write down where you’d like to be professionally and personally five years from now.

Where do you see yourself in relation to work? What’s your family life like? What type of friends and social support group do you have? What are your hobbies? 

Next, ask yourself where you would like to be one year from now relative to what you’d like to accomplish in five years. Write the answer out in enough detail so that it seems real to you. Then, ask yourself where you’d like to be three months from now. Be specific.

What about one month or one week? What one small action could you take this week to come closer to achieving your master plan?

This exercise is a fun and eye-opening way to line up your goals with the bigger picture of your life so that you won’t waste your precious time on passing fancies and other people’s agendas.

2. Create Nested Goals

The most efficient way to achieve your goals is to nest action items inside them, the first “N” in ENVISION. Goal-oriented people get specific about when, where, and how they’ll reach their objectives by breaking them down into sub-goals.

Make your aspirations challenging but not too hard. Each one should be measurable. Instead of writing “I’d like to write a book,” try setting an intention such as “I’d like to write two hours a day, four times a week” and mark space on your calendar for it.

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Make your aims positive and keep track of your progress. Instead of business goals like “I’d like to quit my stinking job,” think about what a desirable career would look like. Try “I’d like to develop educational toys with like-minded people in a virtual office,” and then send out your résumé to companies with matching job openings.

Come up with alternative pathways to your goals so that if one doesn’t work, you’ll already have plan B in place. It’s normal to fail and experience setbacks. This goal-oriented strategy will help you move forward on the pathway to your dreams no matter what happens.

You can learn more on creating effectively goals here:

3. Get Clear on Your Values

Before you start setting goals, it’s important to ask yourself what you really value, the “V” in ENVISION.

The number one regret of people on their deathbed is that they did not live their dreams. Don’t let that be you. To avoid living a life full of “shoulds” and obligations, make a wish list. Jot down what you really want, and put all the reasons you think you can’t have it aside.

These aspirations can range from the material (such as a new car) to the psychological (high self-worth), to the spiritual (inner peace), to pretty much anything you can think of. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy.

Giving yourself permission to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to getting it. Be sure your goals speak to your soul.

4. Make Time for Inspiration

As you put your goals together, think about how you can find downtime to become goal-driven and receive inspiration in your life, the first “I” in ENVISION.

Americans put in the longest work hours and get the shortest paid vacation time in the developed world. Those of us “lucky” enough to have jobs have added another day to our work week because we now check work emails and calls from home. It’s easy to see why it’s hard to stay motivated toward specific goals in the long-term. 

However, the second regret of the dying is that they wished they didn’t work so hard. Research shows that people who engage in creative hobbies and side projects are happier and flourish more in life because they can generate new ideas and express themselves uniquely.[1] Feeling energized and playful, they get more done in less time, become better problem solvers, and receive better evaluations at work.[2]

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5. Form Goals Around Your Superpowers

Research shows that people are more likely to succeed when they develop their natural strengths, the “S” in ENVISION, than work on their weaknesses.

You can find your superpowers by answering these questions.

Each of us has a unique purpose in life. Most of us don’t realize it, though, because we’ve been pressured to conform to someone else’s idea of who we should be. Fear of change and staying in our comfort zones stunts our growth. Stretch yourself and take a risk if you want to find out what makes your heart sing.

Make an action plan to create a life in which you express your superpowers on a regular basis, whether it be through your vocation, a meaningful side project, a worthy cause, mindful parenting, volunteer work, or whatever else sparks your interest. This goal-oriented strategy guarantees you’ll thrive at work and at home.

6. Make Time for Intimates

When setting your goals, be sure to carve out time for your intimates, the second “I” in ENVISION. Intimates refers to close friends or people you have close relationships with.

The fourth regret of the dying is that they were too busy to see their friends much.[3] Make it a point to connect with real friends, people you can turn to for sympathy when you need it, confide in about most things, and be your true self around.

A new Cigna study shows that nearly half of Americans feel alone or left out.[4] According to Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad at Brigham Young University, the detrimental effects of loneliness is the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.[5] She warns that:

“Loneliness and social isolation are linked to around a 30 percent increased risk of having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.”[6]

Become goal-driven to avoid loneliness

    Being with your friends is not only good for your soul, but it is also essential for your health and well-being[7]. Put it in your goals.

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    7. Open up Emotionally

    When crafting your goal-oriented life, be sure to include ways you can open up about your feelings, the “O” in ENVISION. The third regret of the dying is that they wish they’d had the courage to express their true feelings instead of stuffing their emotions down to keep peace with others.

    To lead a fulfilling life, it’s important to prioritize talking and behaving honestly with others instead of hiding your true feelings. According to Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps[8]:

    “Start with identifying your emotions (e.g. angry, hurt) and understanding what triggered you to feel this way.”

    She recommends you try to understand your feelings and practice self-compassion for having them. When you’re calmer, try to understand the person who upset you. This will help you respect and care about yourself and the other person.

    If there is someone you need to talk to or a situation you’d like to resolve, honor your feelings. Whether it be writing a letter, making a phone call, or visiting someone you haven’t seen in years, put it on your goal list.

    Be sure to meet in a safe environment if you’re confronting someone who has abused or harmed you. Tell the truth as you see it, and try to be kind.

    Sharing your genuine feelings may bring you closer together, and it may not. It doesn’t really matter how the other person responds. What matters is that you expressed your true self. Make emotional honesty a habit by adding it to your goals.

    8. Nurture Happiness

    To be more goal-oriented and succeed in life, nurture the people and activities that bring you joy, the final “N” in ENVISION.

    The fifth regret of people on their deathbed is that they wished they’d let themselves be happier. Instead, they stayed stuck in old patterns and pretended to be content when they weren’t.

    If you don’t like your job, make it a goal to look for a new position that aligns your paycheck with your purpose. If you are entrepreneurially-minded, think about turning your passion project into a business you love. If you have multiple passions, consider pursuing a slash career (e.g., copywriter/coder/career coach).

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    According to Forbes Magazine, many companies are beginning to see the value in hiring employees who have side gigs that differ from their main vocations. You’ll bring in multiple streams of income and experience more meaning and fulfillment in your life.[9]

    If you are unhappy with your marriage or romantic relationship, set a goal to do something about it. Do you need to go to counseling? Do you need to move on?

    If you’re on the fence about whether to keep a friend in your life, be goal-oriented about getting closure on the issue. Take care of yourself in the process by completing positive daily tasks, like taking yoga classes or getting a much-needed massage.

    Whatever you do, make it a goal to show compassion as often as you can because it will boost your happiness.[10] By helping others in need, you not only can decrease their suffering, but you can also make yourself happier than you could by directly pursuing activities to make you happy.

    Final Thoughts

    In summary, the ENVISION method shows you how to blend lessons from the five regrets of the dying with effective goal-setting techniques that center around your strengths to become goal-driven.

    It may seem like a lot of work at first glance, but, in truth, it should only take you about an hour to piece together a list of goals following these guidelines. Why not trade an hour of watching television or engaging in social media to do this instead? You can always get online and watch TV later to reward yourself for becoming more goal-oriented.

    You’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain by exploring what would make your heart sing. It’s worth investing in yourself this way. You have the power to create a life that totally rocks by setting the intention to do so. As the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote,

    “What you seek is seeking you.”

    More Tips on Achieving Goals

    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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