What makes an excellent interview? In this episode, Ken Courtright shares to us some key factors that lead to a meaningful interview with employees and partners. The fundamental underpinnings of an exemplary interview center around inclusion and giving employees a reason why they would love to work for you. Here, Ken shares his favorite questions and the reason behind his motivation from Priceline’s Jeff Hoffman.
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The Interview Is Everything
I want to talk about something that I was motivated by Jeff Hoffman, the Cofounder of Priceline. When he speaks for us at our Digital Footprint, he almost always mentions something about how he collected that incredible team at Priceline, at ColorJar and all of his famous companies. Some of you following this podcast know we’ve got about 80 employees. We have about twenty that are incredibly brilliant and spectacular minds that had the interview not gone right. We might have never had them. They’re an incredible and integral part of our team. My wife, Kerri and I have developed an interview process when bringing on a joint venture partner or an employee that we like to hit as many of these little buttons as we can and it gives us a feel. I want to continue this The Ask is Everything routine that I’m on.
This is episode number 60, Interviewing Employees or Partners. These are miscellaneous nuggets. They’re not in any particular order but they’re relevant and hopefully, there’s a nugget or two in here that people can take away. Number one, we all agree that if you want explosive growth, you’re going to have to surround yourself with great talent. I can’t think of a company that has grown consistently without a great team. I can’t think of one. I think it all starts with Dr. Stephen Covey’s notion to seek to understand before you’re understood. Before is the keyword. Many first time employers are excited to tell a prospective employee how great their company is. They don’t even remember the employee’s name when the interview is over.
Meaning, they did not seek to understand. They sought to be understood. The employer wanted to make sure that employee left knowing everything about that company. They wanted to sell that company to the employee. I’m here to tell you, after many years of interviewing, that has never worked and it never will work. This is strictly my opinion and this is one that has worked for us time and time again, is the fundamental underpinning of an excellent interview is to make sure the potential employee or joint venture partner and the company have an understanding of motives. A good interview ensures that both parties know what both parties’ motives are. Let me give you a great example and this is close to an exact true story.A good interview ensures that both parties know what both parties’ motives are. Click To Tweet
You know within five minutes that you are sitting in front of the perfect candidate to take your company to the next level. The meeting has started but you know based on the initial five-minute conversation that you’ve found them. “This is that person,” to the point where you jump the gun and you even offer them the job before the interview is over. Meaning, before you were seeking to understand their motives and their motivation. They accept the job. You virtually and physically hug and they begin working the next Monday. Nine months later, a call comes in and they have to move back out of state because their dad started a new business and they’re leaving to manage it.
Had you asked questions like, “Why exactly are you interviewing here?” Had that one sentence been asked to this person? We found out later that they would have said, “Honestly, this is a stop gap. I thought my dad’s business would be up and running already. Now, my dad says it’s going to be 9 to 18 months and I needed to find employment to buy time until my dad’s business started.” Had we asked that question upfront, we would not have hired that supposed perfect candidate. It would have been a waste of time for both parties. Here’s another great question, “Besides pay and benefits, what two reasons are you looking at this job?” That one’s awesome to hear some of the answers. “If you made two times more money than you expect to make here, how long do you think you would stay?”
I cannot even share with you some of the crazy answers that have come out of that one. “Why would you pick our company over another company?” I love that question. “What do you know about our company?” These last two begin to display their desire to be part of a specific team, dream or cause. Quite frankly, it exposes their ignorance that they’ve done zero homework about your company, which means they’re done. I want to cover a little bit of how Jeff Hoffman interviews and it works in a similar vein to what we’ve done for many years. Jeff gets the dream up front out of the employee. Here’s an example. He had an employee named Bob. Bob may still be with him. Upfront in the interview he asked Bob, “What is your number one dream?” Bob instantly, without hesitation said, “My number one dream is to retire my mom to Florida and build her a new home. One that she doesn’t have to do any maintenance on because I’m the one that ends up doing the maintenance. I need to get my mom out of the neighborhood she lives in and the association and get her with a more positive environment.”
Years later, Jeff Hoffman never forgot that. About two years into Bob’s employment, everybody was going home for the day and Jeff Hoffman was staying late. Five people, who were all leaving at the same time turned to Jeff and said, “Why are you staying late?” He says, “I’m working on Bob’s mother’s house.” Since every employee knows every other employee’s dream, every one of those five employees turned back around, went back to their computer and begin working on Bob’s mom’s house. Think about that. When you know your employee’s dreams and you can take your employees and make their dream part of your dream, you’ve got some synergy.
My favorite interview question is a two-part question and I have used this since 1994. It goes like this, “Outside of family and relationship, what is your greatest accomplishment to date?” and just pause. Do not fill in the blank. Don’t fill in the uncomfort when they realize they don’t have the greatest accomplishment to date and make them answer. They have one, they just don’t realize it or don’t want to admit that. Get it out of them. Part two, “If you could accomplish any two things while breathing, what would they be?” Don’t be nervous for them and fill in the blank. Let them answer that question. Those are powerful. As many times, one of the greatest predictors of the future is the past. You’ve got to get those answers out of them.
I want to throw in a couple of tiny mechanical things that need to be done. For every employee, for every joint venture partner, you must either assign someone or you to do a thorough investigation of their name spelled properly inside of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google images, BuzzSumo and Google Alerts. Especially if you have a head start before the interview, you’ve got to put their name into Google Alert, and especially if you’re looking at a company for a joint venture partnership. You are going to be blown away at what comes up in less than five seconds on some of those platforms. You will know instantly the reasons why you are not bringing that person aboard based on the goofball things you will find out for people that look like stand up people. It’s awesome, I love the world we live in.In this society, social media is relevant and important because it allows almost everybody a feeling of inclusion. Click To Tweet
Here’s the key, here’s how you finish this. Once you know they have dreams and goals, your job is to not sell your company’s pay and benefits but to sell how your company can be part of the path to them achieving their dreams and goals. Most especially smaller companies that aren’t used to interviewing, most companies want to sell the position, the pay, and the benefits down the throat of the potential employee because they need that employee worse than that employee needs a job. That is usually the case. That doesn’t work. It can work temporarily, but it doesn’t work long term. What you need to do is get their dreams and goals out of them. Shine a light on them. Sometimes they’ve even forgotten them and show that the position they’re walking into, let alone the positions that position might lead to, could be the stair-step mechanism for them getting their dreams and goals. There’s a huge difference. When done this way, they leave with the feeling of inclusion, not a feeling of a servant.
In this society, social media is relevant and important because it allows almost everybody a feeling of inclusion. Almost everybody, people that were bullied, people that were picked on, people with low self-images, which is 95% of people walking. Part of social media is it allows a feeling of inclusion. If you remember any of my prior podcast, I talk about the top ten reasons employees stay at a company for two years or more. Number seven is the pay, the first six have nothing to do with how much money that job provides. Its things like being part of a team, their voice is heard and their opinion matters. In essence, it all centers around the word inclusion. When you get out their dream and in the interview, you specifically make a point to include their dream into the company mission and vision, if anything, they leave with a feeling of inclusion and the warm fuzzies are amazing and the pay begins to dissipate as the reason they want to work there. They want to be part of cool people and cool companies. Hopefully, you can steal a nugget or two out of this and if it helps, jump on a desktop computer, go to iTunes and throw me a review. You guys are awesome.
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