3 Questions You Should ALWAYS Ask When Hiring

3 Questions You Should ALWAYS Ask When Hiring (1)

In our latest blog for employers and those leading and managing teams, Fionnán O’Sullivan, Managing Partner at Barden’s financial services practice and expert on financial services careers focuses on interviews and the 3 questions you should ALWAYS ask when hiring.

Interviewing…An Art In Itself 

Interviewing for performance is an art – that even the most experienced of us haven’t perfected. We’ve all been there, in the aftermath of a new hire’s honeymoon period where things start to unravel – it’s a sinking feeling, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll always cast your mind back to your hiring process:

But they performed well at interview, didn’t they? They had the skills we assessed, didn’t they?

The truth is, most organisations, and interviewers, don’t go deep enough at interview. And it’s understandable– you’ve got a tough role to fill, you meet someone who meets most of the criteria and that you feel, at face value, would be a fit, so you hire them to fix a short-term problem. Let’s face it, it’s difficult to find people with the right ‘skills’, and the temptation is, when you find one, you want to grab them with both hands and ask when they can start.

As the interviewer, it is imperative that you develop an interview framework that will really help you find out what you need to know. It’s about digging deeper; way beyond skills, academics and job titles to really establish how, in simple terms, this person will perform in conducting the work you need them to do.

I’ve listed below what I see as a number of ‘eye-opener’ questions. Ones that usually catch people off guard, or at least, if not off guard, will require them to dig deep and give you something less scripted than a lot of the typical interview questions.

What would your boss, or your peers, say about you if I sat them down for a coffee?

There’s actually two aspects to this question. Number one, you’re requiring them to give an authentic response, as by the way the question is asked, there is a possibility you might do exactly this when taking references – so they can’t ‘rose-tint’ an answer. Secondly, it’s a good way of testing self-awareness. People who falter with this question typically haven’t given much thought to how other people see them – which, if you are interviewing for a leader, or potential leader, should be a red flag. If they answer with clarity and conviction – there’s probably a good chance they have high levels of self-awareness, and in turn, high EQ.

Tell me about a time you have failed…

There is a stock standard response to this which goes something along the lines of talking about a situation that you nearly failed at, and then ‘recovering’ it at the last minute. Watch out for these answers. If you’re looking for a leader, or potential leader, you want someone who can self-analyse and learn and that means talking openly about failure in order to develop. As we all know, failure is the quickest route to learn the best lesson! Equally, if someone has never actually ‘failed’, this could be a potential issue. It’s all well and good being a high achiever, but high achievers are often the least resilient when it comes to failure. If you have someone who is used to the good times, you might have an issue on your hands when things aren’t going so good.

What would you do in this situation?

Obviously, you need to give them a situation, but this is probably the most effective way to actually test someone’s thought process without a more detailed psychometric testing or case study exercise. Walk them through a tricky business issue and ask them to talk you through what they would do to fix or address it, in stages. You’ll be able to see the cogs ticking, in real time, and unless they have encountered this exact situation, a scripted answer won’t help them. Once you’ve given them the opportunity to put their thinking forward, ask them to reflect on why they decided on that course of action.

Don’t be tempted to feel that you are labouring a point – gaining an insight into past behavioural patterns and future thought processes will provide you with a deep understanding of an individual’s performance capability.

Above all, keep it focused. Don’t be tempted to use competency based interview templates that aren’t fit for your recruiting purpose. Taking ownership for your interviewing strategy will reap rewards in future years, not to mention time in the short run.

Target and test thoroughly – it’s your call!

Building Your Team?

Fionnán O’Sullivan is Managing Partner at Barden’s financial services practice. He is an expert on financial services careers including asset management, banking, insurance and wealth management.

Reach out to Fionnán to see how he, and his team, can help you build and retain truly world class financial services teams.




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