All4 has potential hires answer a series of hypothetical questions. Here are some of the answers.
To nurture a congenial environment, top workplaces are cautious about whom they hire. Attitude and personality are as important as experience and skills. That's why at All4, a $3.4 million environmental-consulting company in Kimberton, Pennsylvania, all candidates who pass a prescreening are e-mailed a set of hypothetical questions. Some questions assess problem-solving skills. (You have 16 hours to get up to speed on a subject that requires 24 hours of research. What do you do?) Others assess collegiality. (You made a promise to a co-worker to complete an assignment but were unable to keep it. What do you do?) Here are two candidates' responses to one of All4's questions.
You are in the office at 9 p.m. on a Friday finishing up a project for a client and the phone rings. On the other end of the line is a different client who is irate about not receiving a deliverable for a different project being worked on by a co-worker that was due by 5 p.m. What do you do?
"In this situation, it is important not to make any judgments or conclusions before listening to and understanding the situation from the client's perspective. The client should be aware that you are listening to all their concerns. Clearly identify the issues as you understand them and communicate them to the client. Based on your understanding, present a series of steps that initiate a resolution. Give the client assurance that any agreed-upon plan will be carried out and work with the co-worker to implement the solution."
Not So Great
"It should be clear to any sane individual that you have put in more than your fair share of time. The only thing to do is to let the customer know that we know about the issue and will approach the co-worker first thing in the morning. From there, it is up to the co-worker and the client. If they both appear to be defective, then it may be appropriate to jump in and try to remedy the situation."
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan