If you're still impressed with a job candidate after posing these questions, you might have a winner.
We all know that "every hire counts" and "the people make the company." What could be more obvious? But most of us have hired someone who seemed right in the interview and turned out wrong. You can't always hire someone you've had direct experience with, so how can you tell in an interview whether you've got a budding rockstar, or a future ex-employee?
Here are six questions to ask:
1. What do you need to have in your next job, and what do you want to make sure you don't have?
I love open-ended questions like this with no right or wrong answer. Do they need a cell phone plan and three weeks vacation? Do they need an environment in which their opinions are heard? Do they NOT need to be constantly told what to do? Does their answer jibe with you and your company culture? You can learn so much about where someone is coming from and what's important to them not only by what they say, but how they answer the question.
2. On the spectrum of strategic to tactical and execution oriented, where do you sit?
Of course most of us need to be both, so this is a great one to suss out how a candidate views himself or herself. If you need someone focused on execution, yet your candidate describes herself as very strategic, you have a problem. And often this question leads to a good detailed discussion of what you expect from the candidate and how she can best contribute. The follow-up question is, "Give me an example of when you've been strategic, and when you've been execution oriented."
3. What has been your biggest accomplishment, and your biggest failure?
Hopefully candidates will ask for clarification--work or personal? Either way, forcing a specific example helps you see what they value, what they think is "big," whether or not they are willing to take risks, if they have an ego problem ("I've never failed"), how they have learned and grown based on experiences, and whether or not they can judge the value of their own contribution.
4. What are you passionate about?
For me, the No. 1 trait I need in someone on my team is passion. If candidates hesitate to answer this question for any other reason than they can't decide which of their many passions to tell me about, then I'm out. If candidates can't convince me of their passion for something (anything!), then I'm pretty sure they won't have passion for a job. Be sure to leave this one open ended as well. Do you mean outside of work or at work? Either works, just show me you care about something!
5. Question for references: As his/her manager, what areas can I focus on helping him/her improve?
Unless you know the candidate, you must check references to make sure you're getting the real picture. But who gives out references that will be anything but glowing? I like to ask the above question of references as it makes them really think about the negative aspects of a candidate. If I hear something that is a red flag I can question further to assess whether or not it will be a management objective, or a real issue.
6. This one isn't really a question, it's a task.
Now ask yourself these same five questions and be ready to discuss them. If you have true rapport with a candidate, you can have an open back-and-forth dialogue and share your views and experiences. If you don't really feel like having this level of conversation with a candidate, do you really think you'll connect and collaborate with the person on a daily basis?
STACEY EPSTEIN: Stacey is VP of Marketing at ServiceMax, a leading SaaS start-up. Previously she was VP of Global Marketing Communications at SuccessFactors, where she was instrumental in the company's successful IPO. @staceyepstein