How to find the perfect employee

Indiana Jones

In today's guest blog Angela Lussier looks at a tried and tested interview technique which can help you find the perfect employee...

If you could ask just one interview question, which one would you pick? This is the question I am repeatedly asked by busy entrepreneurs, overworked HR executives, and business owners who are continually searching for a faster way to execute effective interviews.

I could give you one question to ask, but what would you say if I told you that you could do the most effective interview of your life, without asking a single question?

Today I unveil to you the Holy Grail of interviewing. Over the last 10 years of using this approach myself and recommending it to others, I have never seen anyone fail or try to modify it because it didnt work. Much like Indiana Jones felt in the Last Crusade, I am equally surprised at its lack of glamour and sex appeal. The secret lies in its craftsmanship and keeping quiet to see what the interviewee does.

In order to do a zero-question interview, you must setup the interview appropriately. This is where the interview begins! When you call the applicant to set the time and date, you MUST say the following line: When you come to the interview, bring something that represents yourself. At the end of this sentence, stay quiet. Allow the candidate to process this information and confirm that he/she heard it. 9 times out of 10, they will probe for clues. This is your cue to say Its whatever it means to you and repeat the same request again to make sure they understood. You then hang up, and see what they produce.

I have had many people show up to the interview with nothing, stating they didnt understand the request. Ive had others show up with their car keys or a CD from their car, explaining that their keys (literally) get them where they want to go, or the music keeps them motivated to pursue their dreams. Boring.

Ive also had people show up with some of the most amazing items, like family heirlooms or elaborate and colorful resumes. These interviews started off great, but didnt end well because the why wasnt there.

The best interviews were with the people who brought meaningful items that really did reflect who they were. One man brought in a pair of muddy hiking boots and put them on our conference room table. He explained that his life isnt about the destination, its about the journey. Life is messy, but its all about making mistakes and trying things. His why was impressive and I hired him.

Another man brought in his sons basketball score sheet and explained that it takes a team, with each persons strengths and weaknesses, to accomplish something important. He learned that he isnt perfect and needs to rely on his team if he wants the job done right. I also hired him.

Everyone I have hired through this approach have turned out to be excellent employees. The reasons?

1. This exercise gives them the opportunity to showcase their problem solving abilities (since they were given little information to work with and decided to risk being wrong instead of doing nothing at all).

2. You can see how creative they are in approaching the question by what they bring with them and how they define it.

3. You can assess their risk-taking ability by how unique the item is and what it represents.

4. This model only appeals to the people who will work without needing a lot of direction. The people who showed up with nothing could prove to need more hand holding and may feel comfortable with not being accountable.

5. Coming up with a good representation of yourself first requires awareness of who you are. Being thoughtful and reflective are excellent traits for people in business because it helps them to know where their strengths lie, and also find growth opportunities where and when they need them most.

6. Most importantly, each of the candidates showed up, brought their item, explained it, and waited to see if they had succeeded. They followed through on the request. They delivered.

The skills any strong team needs are all demonstrated in this exercise: risk taking, problem solving, creativity, initiative, thoughtfulness, and follow through.

This zero-question interview model is perfect for any company that values these traits in their employees. It also gets us away from focusing solely on years of experience, industry match, and past failures. What is most important is finding the person with the success traits outlined above because it gives you an excellent foundation to work with. People with these traits also tend to be easy to train and are quick to absorb new information. To find these star performers, all you need is five minutes and an open mind. Youll be surprised what you find!

Image from Thomas Duchnicki on Flickr

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