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HIRING

The Most Revealing Interview Question You Should Ask

It may not sound like it, but this question tells you an awful lot about a potential candidate.
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Good people hang out with good people.

Oh, I am sure you can find an exception or two, if you think long and hard enough on it.

But it is invariably true. High performers associate with other high performers. You can find them together at work and find them together outside of work. They may not be employed doing the same thing, but achievers tend to associate with other high achievers. You are not going to find a slacker in the bunch.

The converse is also true. People who like to do the minimum and gossip and complain can usually be found hanging out with like-minded souls.

That's why I listened really hard to the answer the people I was thinking about hiring when I asked them: "Tell me about your friends."

Invariably, they ended up revealing a lot about themselves.

Sorting Out the Responses

If they talked about how they came together to create a bike path in town, or even organized a field trip for the high school, you know a lot about not only what is important to them, but their organizational skills as well.

If their friends are outgoing, high achievers, that say something as well.

On the other hand, if their friends sound like someone you wouldn't hire, that also tells you a lot.

It is really hard in an interview setting to find out if someone is going to be a good addition to your team. And we all have a certain thing we look for.

A buddy of mine who has built a billion business always watches to see if someone fidgets.

"If they can't sit still, it tells me they are going to be energetic on the job."

Another company-builder I know has a bias against people who went good schools and/or who came from upper-middle class families.

"Give me smart people who had to work hard for everything they got. Those are the people I want working for me," he says.

I can't vouch for those two approaches. But I will say in all the years I was hiring people I found "tell me about your friends" to be the most revealing question I ever asked.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Aug 15, 2014

PAUL B. BROWN | Columnist

Best-selling author (and Inc. magazine columnist) Paul B. Brown's latest book, Own Your Future, has just been published. Brown's blog appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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