Hiring Tip #2: Ask about what’s important

Ok, so you're all nodding your heads saying, “JR, why wouldn't I ask about what's important? Do you think I'm an idiot?”

No. You are absolutely not an idiot. You may not remember to ask about everything that *is* important. A colleague on Jerry Weinberg's Shape forum was discussing a problem she had with a new employee. New employee lasted a day and a half, discovered she had more unemployment benefits due, and left. Just walked off the job. Colleague and I are both flabbergasted.

Now I'm not going to ask a candidate, “Would you rather work than receive unemployment benefits?” because that's broadcasting a correct answer (“I'd rather work, of course”). Instead, I'd ask a behavior-description question:

  • “Tell me about a time you've faced a difficult decision about your work.” Then listen to the answer. Listen for: choices about coming to work, choices about ethics and integrity.
  • “Have you ever run out of work to do?” When someone tells me they never run out of work, I'm suspicious of their environment or their approach to their work. I tend to follow up with something like this:
  • “How do you know you're performing the most appropriate work? Give me an example of a time you made some choices.”

Responsibility, ethics about work, and initiative are important to you, no matter what the job is. They are much more important than the language, operating system, database, design or test technique. It's harder to ask about things like responsibility. And it's much more important.

So, ask about what's important. Your employees will be happy you did.

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