It was January when I flew to Minneapolis to interview with a Fortune 100 company. I was picked up at the airport in a limo, dropped off at a fancy hotel near the Mall of America, and dinner was at an elite restaurant that evening. I sat with two hiring managers and two other job candidates. I knew very well that my interview wasn’t starting the next day. It started the moment I was picked up at the airport. At dinner I made sure I brought my A game. I was polite, engaging, and smiled appropriately. I remember going back to my hotel room that night feeling exhausted. But I sat at my desk, overlooking the city skyline, and prepared all of my answers for the potential behavioral-based questions I would be asked the next day. I was ready.
The morning came early, and the limo dropped me off at the front doors of headquarters. My series of interviews began. Throughout the day I met with high-ranking leaders in the company, staying poised even when I didn’t know exactly how to answer their question. But I remained confident. My day ended with a personality assessment. Of course, I over-thought all of the questions – wondering how they wanted me to answer. It was an exhausting day but a good day. That company does a lot of things right. They invest in the time to find and hire the right people. And I’m sure that they have hired many great employees that fit their company culture.
Interviewing has changed and evolved over the years. It’s not all about the behavioral-based questions anymore. And we all know those questions. Tell me about a time that you worked well with a team? Tell me about a time that you overcame an embarrassing moment at work? How would you describe your communication style?
Too often, we are finding ourselves in a desperate situation and willing to hire just about anyone. In the long run, that person doesn’t end up being a good fit, and they end up costing us significant amounts of money in hiring/training/severance pay. We need to learn how to ask the right questions.
Patrick Lencioni, CEO of The Table Group, is an expert on this topic. Lencioni is the author of 11 books and has addressed millions of people on the topic of leadership and organizational health. The Wall Street Journal called him, “one of the most in demand speakers in America.” Lencioni has developed three personalities that companies should seek when they are hiring.
1. Humble – Are they centered on others, or are they self-centered? C.S. Lewis defined humility as “not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” You can be a confident person but still have an attitude of focusing on others.
2. Hungry – Do they have an innate desire to work? Will this person do more than what you are asking of them?
3. Smart – Are they interpersonally smart? Do they have common sense when it comes to interacting with other people? Can they read a room?
Knowing these three personalities, how do you ask the right questions to find the right person? It starts with your job posting. Does your posting say Large company with excellent benefits and vacation, seeking someone with 10 years of accounting experience? If so, you will undoubtedly find someone with accounting experience, but will they have the interpersonal skills that you are looking for? How about trying an ad like this, Innovative company seeking a team player who wants to work hard, is great with people, and has a love of learning? Of course, you will have educational and skills requirements, but this type of job posting will weed out the people that wouldn’t be a good fit.
Keep in mind that you do not want to convince someone to work for you. It’s not your job to win them over. You want a hungry employee. A desperate hiring decision never ends well. Patrick Lencioni suggests that instead of spending a lot of money on job postings, simply ask around. Find the people that you know and trust, and ask them if they have any recommendations. The great people around you undoubtedly surround themselves with other great people.
At this point, you should have a good pool of candidates. Next is the interviewing process. And remember, it’s not all about the behavioral-based questions anymore.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
(If you want to learn more from Patrick Lencioni, click here.)
I graduated from high school in the top 5% of my class. When I went on to college at Northern Arizona University, the “pond” got bigger, and I was no longer one of the brightest students. I still managed almost all A’s. But there were lots of smarts kids in college. I did, however, work very hard and graduated in only three years. When I went on to graduate school at Purdue University, the “pond” became even bigger. All of my classmates were very bright and had an impressive background.
The first year of the MBA program was one of the hardest years of my life. I spent more time at school than at home. I ate almost all of my meals in the "Drawing Room" at school. The studying never stopped. I was pushed and challenged and exposed to concepts I had never heard of. Math problems had answers that took up pages and pages in my notebook. I remember an exam in my accounting class that had only one question. But it had so many parts to it that it took up a stapled book of computer paper. And the worst part was that half of it I had to leave blank. Did we really learn this stuff?
Like most MBA programs, we were assigned to a team of four or five students to complete projects and papers. Each class project would require analysis, Excel spreadsheets, comparing data, making projections, writing up our findings, and then creating a Power Point presentation to “wow” our class and professor. This wouldn’t be so hard if it was just for one class. But these assignments were happening for 5 classes, simultaneously. That is why I often found myself eating a sub sandwich at the Drawing Room table at 9:00 at night.
One of the biggest life lessons I learned during business school was that it was impossible to do everything perfectly. When you are an MBA student, a business owner, or an entrepreneur, you are juggling so many responsibilities. You are the accountant, the marketer, the sales force, the social media specialist, the web developer, AND you are also the one providing your service or producing a product. You do it all. You are constantly thinking, creating, and learning.
One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, recently said, “If you’re the CEO of a company, or an entrepreneur starting a company, you cannot optimize for any one attribute. The minute you do that, you compromise your ability to perform at a high level in another area.” Gladwell and Lance Armstrong compared this with triathletes, explaining that they have to perform three very different sports at an extremely high level. They cannot put all of their training efforts into running and fall short on their swimming or cycling. Instead, they train at a less-intense level (which, compared to most people, is still at an intense level) for all three sports.
The same is true in business. If you put all of your efforts into one aspect (like marketing), your other responsibilities will suffer. And what’s a company with lots of great marketing and no widgets to sell? Malcolm Gladwell said, “The job of running a complex organization or starting a business is all about four or five different things that have nothing in common. Pay too much attention to any one aspect of your job, and the other aspects suffer.” That’s why being an entrepreneur can be so challenging. It can also be very rewarding. There is nothing like creating something, nurturing its growth, sweating, and worrying over it, and then reaping its sweet rewards.
As an entrepreneur, you must not be the best at one thing, but good at many things. And that is what makes you great.
(If you want to learn more from Malcolm Gladwell, click here.)
I'm Erin! I'm an MBA graduate with over 15 years of experience in HR, small business management, academia, and social media. I am an author, wife, mother, half marathon runner, and lover of the outdoors.