Friday, September 28, 2012

The 3, Uh 4, Big Recruiter Questions

When Forbes Magazine published the article "Top Executive Recruiters Agree There Are Only Three True Job Interview Questions", I had engaging dialogues with  colleagues and clients in the writing consulting industry about the topic. The first two questions (Can you do the job? Will you love the job?) relate to intrapersonal skills, how you deal with yourself; the third question (Can we tolerate working you?) relates to interpersonal skills, how you deal with others.

Since interviewees may answer preemptively yes, yes, and yes to these three terribly open-ended questions, recruiters have many indirect ways of asking them to yield specific responses and gain real insights into the job candidate. For the first they might ask, How long have you been in this industry? What projects have you completed? With whom have you collaborated? How did the project turn out? For the second they might ask, Have you done work at home? How do you describe your work to your friends and family? Has your formal education prepared you for this work? What connections do you see with your life and your work? And for the third they might ask, Why did you leave your last job? What were your teammates and managers like? Do you stay in touch with any of your former coworkers? What do you miss about your previous job?

Undoubtedly, these three questions are terrific for opening the door to real conversations and getting to the bottom of what makes a candidate tick. That's exactly why I believe a fourth question can reinforce the other three and effectively close the door to the interview. That fourth question is Can you live with yourself by working with us? 

I speak not only for myself but for hundreds of others who have talked to me about their work experiences. Many of them have said they want more from life. Sure, they can do the job. Sure, they love what they do. Sure, they love the people. But do they feel fulfilled on the job? Do they see themselves as contributors not only to the business but to the greater good? Do they go to bed at night saying, "What a great day of accomplishments! I love my life. I can't wait until tomorrow to do more of the same."

Now, some interviewers might say that answering the second question, Will you love the job?, is sufficient to gain insight into my proposed fourth question. I disagree. Many people have told me they love their job but long to do something more important, something that they have to find outside of work because it doesn't exist at their job. In other words, they would answer yes to all three questions but no to my fourth one. Those first three questions provide great insights into short-term matters; the fourth question lifts a window of understanding into long-term, career-related issues. Will you love the job? is a question of passion, but Can you live with yourself by working with us? is a question of commitment. Passion can be short-lived, but not commitment.

As I have helped many people with their resumes and cover letters throughout the past 35 years, I have insisted that they show more than accomplishment. They must show commitment. Employers are short-sighted if they aren't looking for the same.