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  • Writer's pictureJody Glynn Patrick

A key hire: 3 questions to ask & answer

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” 

We might add to Red Adair’s quip, “Or wait until you hire the wrong candidate for a key position.” To mitigate that likelihood (and it’s happened to all of us), the routine interview process usually falls to the H.R. department for prescreening, background searches, and applicant presentation. However, when key employees are hired, and executive management is included in the decision-making process, three unintended results are commonplace:

· The interview team spends more time talking about their company and less time finding out how the candidates will fit, hiring instead on the basis of applicants’ reactions to information presented (rather than collected).

· The process moves forward with irrelevant questions focusing on personality “types” or questions geared to weed out candidates who might show similar traits to the departed manager who, after all, left for a valid reason.

· Too much emphasis is put on translatable past industry experience rather than transferable results, interest in the company’s future, or aptitude to learn.

These three simple questions belong in any job interview:

· How did you find out about this job?

· What initially attracted you to the last position you held?

· Why did you leave?

From those questions, you can discover if the candidate turned to the newspaper, an online job board, a recruiter in the industry, or had they developed a network of their own based on relationships in the field?  Were they recruited due to reputation by an inside champion of their work? Were they attracted to a job for benefits (dollars, flex time, title) or challenges? Were they lured by the opportunity to learn something new or to showcase talents already acquired?

Some professionals will quit a job because they didn’t have enough work, or couldn’t identify new opportunities inside an existing structure. Did your candidate move from opportunity to opportunity or routinely have challenges with bosses? Do they take any responsibility if they reference a “poor fit”?


Previous experience does not predict future performance or tenure. Nor does job hopping or being unemployed signal a potential problem hire. Previous experience does not predict future performance or tenure. In fact, studies show, the best predictor of future success isn’t past success or failure, but who will supervise your new hire. The best supervisors’ employees are nearly six times more likely to stay than employees with supervisors who were worst at retaining staff. In fact, research shows that an employee’s supervisor is a stronger predictor of his or her likelihood to quit than every other factor combined. They don't quit jobs -- employees quit managers.

Assuming you have great candidates and a capable supervisor, here’s what I believe to be the final consideration: what did the job applicants ask you when giving the opportunity? Are they focused on benefits or opportunities? I have found that the candidate who asks, as well as answers, questions rise to the top of my list, and here are the specific questions I most appreciate: 

· What is your vision for the company (or my department) for the next six months?

· What would you expect me to accomplish in the first two or three months on the job?

· What are the traits or special skills of your top three performers or managers – what really drives results for the business?

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