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Simple Trick to Finding Extraordinary Employees

Skills and experience aren't necessarily the most important assets to look for in a job applicant. Instead, try putting their imagination to the test with this simple question.

Of the myriad feats an entrepreneur performs, hiring new employees is one of the most complex, weighty, and dreaded.  How do you know if your candidate is as fabulous as his resume claims? Will she be a good fit for your company culture, getting along with other employees and--perhaps more importantly--your clients?

There are some clever interview techniques that can help, but first you have to stop asking the same old dead-end questions. Instead, use a little imagination--and ask your applicants to do the same.

If I asked you to describe the qualities and characteristics of your ideal co-worker, what traits would you give your new imaginary friend? Go ahead, take a minute imagine the co-worker of  your dreams.

Did you imagine someone who is always willing to pitch in, has a positive attitude, and can problem-solve with the best of them?  Or did you find yourself listing all of the negative qualities that you don't want in your new co-worker? Whatever you came up with, chances are you display those same traits in your own life, according to a recent study.

Study participants at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who conjured positive imaginary co-workers were found to contribute more in the actual workplace, both in job performance and going above and beyond their job descriptions to help others.

While most interviewers inquire about things like "the most difficult peer-to-peer situation you've ever encountered," these questions are limiting and don't necessarily tell us much about the applicant.

According to Peter Harms, assistant professor of management at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, imagining coworkers, instead of reporting on how you perceive your real-life coworkers, produces more accurate ratings of having a positive worldview. According to the study, those who envisioned workers as engaging in proactive behaviors or quickly recovering from failures were actually happier and more productive in their real-life work.

Ask your applicant to tell you all about his or her ideal, imaginary co-worker. This little game of imagination will offer you valuable information on how they see the world, interpret events, and create expectations of others. It will give you a unique insight to how they think.

So make a list of the qualities that are most important to you in a new hire. If your applicant misses the mark in designing his ideal co-worker, you just might want to move on to the next resume!

Last updated: Apr 17, 2013


Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.

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