She knows if she's going to hire you in just 30 minutes -- or probably even less.
Though 30 minutes of face time interviewing a candidate is not ideal, that's all Jess Greenwood can usually squeeze in. The senior vice president at RG/A co-leads the advertising agency's strategy practice across the United States. She oversees six North American offices total. She has not a minute to spare.
So Greenwood has become extremely efficient in her hiring process. She has her interview process practically down to a science, as she recently wrote in Fast Company.
5 questions in 30 minutes
In those 30 minutes, she asks five questions. They are always same five questions. This not only makes for a streamlined conversation, but also allows her to compare candidates against each other as fairly as possible. "I've found that asking this same set of questions has helped me get a sense for how everyone is performing against the same criteria," Greenwood writes.
Of those five questions, she keeps candidates discussing the first one as long as necessary. In that 30-minute interview, 10 minutes will usually be dedicated to digging into this single question: What's your greatest career hit and the role you've played in it?
Why this question matters
In describing their proudest career accomplishment, Greenwood pays particular attention to how candidates describe the process. She wants to hear all the nitty gritty details. Everything from the project's inception to completion is fair game. If the project exists online somewhere, she'll even ask the candidate to pull it up and walk her through it.
Greenwood isn't necessarily looking to be wowed by the result itself. (Though if it's your greatest career hit, hopefully it's brag-worthy.) She cares more about the "why" in a candidate's response than the "what." In Fast Company, Greenwood describes a winning answer as:
A detailed walk-through of the project that outlines their sources of data, inspiration, challenges and triumphs, along with a clear explanation of why it was successful and why they were proud of it.
This question can work for employees interviewing for any job. A candidate vying for an entry-level position might walk her through a student project they're particularly proud of. A management-level employee might discuss a months-long digital campaign they spearheaded. "This question allows you to get a sense of the individual's working process, whether they can lead and contribute, and how enthusiastic they are," Greenwood says.
Answers that don't work
Bragging comes easy for those savvy in the art of BS. But can you do the heavy lifting to get the job done? That's what Greenwood is trying to find out.
What if the candidate can't quite articulate how they helped made this splashy accomplishment happen? Red flag. That might signal they weren't as involved as they claimed to be. Or, that they are poor communicators -- a quality that can make working any position at an advertising agency difficult as much of the work is team-based.
What those who opine on something that could have been great, but never really got there because someone else dropped the ball? If they veer towards finger pointing, that's also bad news. Greenwood's not interested in the blame game.
She wants to know how this individual brought their contributions to make something great happen. She doesn't expect that every single project a candidate has ever touched on to be a grand slam. But they should be able to confidently walk her through at least one stand-out accomplishment. If they're grasping at straws to explain this to her, Greenwood is probably moving on.
She's got four other solid questions in her interview arsenal. Each digs into a different aspect of how she qualifies candidates, from their approach to work and expressing their opinions to their passions and interests. Check out Greenwood's Fast Company piece to collect them all.