Interview Questions to Consider Asking, Part 2

Part 1 of this is More Interview Questions Not to Ask, Part 1. There are more questions from Interview Questions: Hiring Experts Reveal Their Favorites. I had mixed feelings about these questions. You need to be a savvy interviewer to pull these off: •    Describe an environment in which you would not thrive. •    So you’re a Yankees fan. If you were their owner, how would make the team better? They are hypothetical questions. Hypothetical questions beg the candidate to tell you what makes the candidate perfect, not what makes the candidate real. I would love to be perfect. I bet you would, too. However, I am real and human. Don’t start with a hypothetical negative, when you can turn this into a behavior-description question so easily and make it great: Tell me about a time when you thrived in an environment/project/team. Now, does that tell you about a candidate? Even better, shorten it: Give me a recent example about a time when you thrived. Now, if you have been practicing your interview skills, after you ask that question, so a candidate is grounded in reality, you can ask, Now, contrast that with a time when things weren’t so hot. Tell me about that. What were the differences? You, the interviewer are asking the candidate to reflect in real time, about real life events. No hypothetical what-if, la-la land required. See how this is better? By the way, there were some gems. The ones I liked were: •    You’re a project manager? Tell me about a time you had a delayed project. •    Describe a project in which you...

More Interview Questions Not to Ask, Part 1

I was reading Interview Questions: Hiring Experts Reveal Their Favorites. Some of them are quite good. But some of them? Not so much. Here are the ones you should avoid, and why: Who do you most admire and why? What is your passion? If you could do anything, what would be your ideal job? Why are you here? Here’s why you should avoid these questions. I’ll take them in order. #1, the admiration. Say someone admires someone political from the other party than the one you belong to. It could happen. You might stop listening. Maybe you’re a hardcore Republican, and the candidate says, “Hilary Clinton.” You don’t even hear why. Maybe you’re a Democrat, and the candidate says, “Michael Huckabee.” You don’t hear why. It doesn’t have to be political. It could be sports. It could be religion. The problem is relevance. Anyone you admire outside of work is irrelevant to work. Do you really want to discriminate for or against a candidate because of something irrelevant to work? #2, the passion. Maybe the passion is for a sport. Is the passion for something outside of work? How can you tell if they can turn their passion toward your work? Again, this is an irrelevant question. #3, the ideal job. Why put people on the spot and ask them what their ideal job is? Most people, unless they’ve done the introspection have no idea what their ideal job is. Are you offering it? Are you going to help people create it? This is offering people a glimpse of nirvana and then pulling it away. Bad idea. #4, the...

Interview Questions for Program Managers

One of the top posts on this site is Interview Questions for Project Managers. I bet some of you are interviewing for program managers, too. Here’s a little guidance for how to interview for those jobs. A program manager is a strategic job. Remember, a program is a collection of projects where the business value arises from the delivery of all of the projects. The program manager has to collaborate across the organization, use influence, negotiate, coordinate, and most of all see when the reality of the program does not fit the wishful thinking of the desired results. That’s when the program manager needs to do some problem-solving with the project managers and the core team (the cross-functional team from across the organization) to deliver the program. This is a challenging job. A couple of caveats: Make sure you ask behavior-description questions. Those questions will help you see the candidate’s most recent behavior. And, ask what the candidate learned from these experiences. You might be surprised. Tell me about a recent program you managed. What was your role? (You want to know if the candidate was the overall program manager, the software program manager, or something else. This is a closed question, but I have heard many answers. Get the data!) How large was the program? It’s another closed question. (Different size programs require different management styles. So do different organizations.) Did you have a program charter? If so, how did you charter the program? (First question is closed, second question is behavior-description.) Tell me about a problem on the program you encountered. What happened? (Every program has problems. Or...

How Do You Signal That You Are Ready to Listen?

I just read How to Listen. (Tip of the hat to Naomi Karten who tweeted it.) I’ve been saying for years that great interviews are collegial conversations. The interviewer wants to learn enough about the candidate to know: can the candidate do the job and fit our culture? The candidate wants to know: can I do the job and do I want to work here? The conversation is two sides of the same coin. When you start the interview with a nod, as the article says, or some other indicator that you are ready to listen, a smile, a settling into your chair, something, you indicate to the candidate you are ready to hear what the candidate has to say. When the candidate is done speaking for now, the candidate does the same thing. If you anticipate what the other person says, you are not listening. You are too ready to talk. That’s the end of the conversation. This is one of the reasons group interviews don’t work. No one knows when it’s time to listen. Everyone is too ready to talk. Everyone has to get a word in edgewise. Now, if it’s your culture to step on each other’s toes, be my guest. But if it’s your culture to give each other a chance to talk and listen, consider what the article says. Think about how you signal that you are ready to...

How NOT to Look for Cultural Fit

I saw this post in ere.net, Do You Look for Cultural Fit or Innovation, as if you could somehow separate the two. Oh my, the confusion about cultural fit abounds. Let me set the record straight. Cultural fit is  NOT about a person’s preferences outside of work. It’s not about what you would to a desert island. How would telling you that tell you anything about how I would fit into your work culture? It has no bearing at all. None. It’s an irrelevant question. Stop with the irrelevant questions! (Grr.) If you want to ask about cultural fit, first you need to understand your own culture. If you want to do that, you can look at Hiring Geeks That Fit, because the sample discusses that. Yes, I hope you buy the entire book, because then you can learn what other questions to ask, but the sample discusses how to look at culture. Let me start here. Culture is what people can discuss. It’s how people treat each other. It’s what’s rewarded in the organization. That means anything you discover about a person outside of work has no relevance. None. Nada. Zilch. You don’t have to ask about cultural fit or innovation. If you want to know about innovation, you can ask a question such as this one: Give me an example of a recent time you didn’t know how to solve a problem. What happened? That’s a behavior-description question. It’s a problem-solving question that’s partway to innovation. You might want to know about adaptability too. That’s a different question. Innovation is not just one skill, it’s a sum...

What Are Your Favorite Interview Questions?

I have an article coming out soon in the next Prag Magazine about some questions to never ask in an interview. I thought I’d let you know so you could warm up your fingers to quick click on the magazine. And, then I saw this article, 14 Revealing Interview Questions. Some of the questions are good. Some? Not so much. I like this one because it asks a behavior-description question that will provide you information about performance and cultural fit: 6. Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career. I like this part of this one. In the article, it has a whole preamble I would not use. Again, this tells you a lot about the culture of the interviewer because it asks about better, faster, smarter, etc.: Tell me about a recent project or problem that you made better, faster, smarter, more efficient, or less expensive. I might use this one on a second-round interview, after a candidate knows something about the job. Or, with a manager candidate, after I’ve explained the position. Otherwise, how the heck would a candidate know?: 11. Discuss a specific accomplishment you’ve achieved in a previous position that indicates you will thrive in this position. I like this one. This questions asks about adaptability and how people recover from setbacks. Have you ever had a setback at work or in a project? I have! I have had many Murphy Law projects… I’ve been turned down for promotions. But that didn’t mean I didn’t ask for them. This is a great question for that...