A job interview should not always be a perfectly orchestrated undertaking.
It is not 100% science, but many companies tend to focus only on specific job credentials and not on the person who achieved those credentials. They turn the process into an exercise in data collection, following the lead of Silicon Valley, and overlook the fact that we're all human and make mistakes. We've had successes and failures, and sometimes we even learn from those failures. For some reason, we don't want to have a real conversation about the ups and downs in a candidate's career.
That's not the case at the cloud e-commerce company BigCommerce, which provides a platform for online retailers to sell products and track results. I spoke with Robert Alvarez recently, the CFO/COO who has interviewed nearly every new job candidate.
He says he puts questions into two buckets. The first bucket is all about those credentials. He goes through a typical set of questions about background, education and experience. This is obviously helpful in determining if the candidate has the right skills. Then, he asks questions on a second bucket list that are a bit more unusual. Here's just a taste:
1. What are the top 3 factors you attribute to your success?
2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how lucky are you in life?
3. Tell me about a time you were at a company and disappointed someone.
4. Tell me about a time when you were at a company and someone disappointed you.
5. Tell me a time at a company where you felt your values or beliefs were being compromised. What did you do?
6. If you were starting a company tomorrow, what would the top 3 core values for your company be?
7. Did you build any life long friendships while on past teams?
8. Tell me about a time when you've wanted to quit, or did quit. Why? What did you do?
9. Tell me about a time when you witnessed company culture go bad.
10. Tell me about a mentor or coach you've had in the past.
Curiously, he finds that the candidate often reveals whether he or she will thrive in their firm, which has hundreds of employees, based on how they answer a question, not even as much on what they say (in some cases). Sometimes, it's the phrasing they use. Candidates might talk too much about themselves or how they protected their own interests.
In one example, he asked a candidate for a role in their operations group about how he handled a situation that disappointed someone. The candidate explained mostly how he felt and how his team reacted. That was a red flag for Alvarez because he wanted to know how the person who was disappointed felt and how the situation was ultimately resolved for that person. The question was meant to find out how the other employee felt.
He says many employees in a company like BigCommerce have to work with those outside of a specific department, so that interview stuck out. It seemed like this was a person who would not see things through the eyes of another employee.