Choosing the Best Person

Now, let me give you some additional general guidelines. Do not give candidates too much time to think about their answers; it diminishes the value of the response—the quicker the response the better. Give candidates a maximum of 10 seconds of thinking time before answering a question. Don’t let candidates “qualify” their answers; keep them short.

However, once the candidate has given their answer, feel free to ask them to elaborate. If it seems appropriate you may ask some follow-up questions to make sure you both agree to the meaning of the answer. After all, this is an interview, or better, a discussion.

Also, emphasize that there is no such thing as a right or wrong answer, and it is not necessary to answer all the questions.

Next, the type of questions and their sequence is meant to let candidates first describe their own positive qualities, as most people like to highlight what they like about themselves. But, almost in the same breath, let them mention their weaknesses. By allowing candidates to discuss their strengths and weaknesses at the same time, you encourage consistency, and it makes the weaknesses less painful to mention. Furthermore, by mixing the questions about professional and personal qualities and weaknesses, and placing them side by side, you reduce the candidate’s ability to “hide” behind only professional issues.

Also, some of the questions (9 thru 14) let candidates indirectly reveal themselves by talking about other people, whom they admire and why, and how those qualities relate to them. It often gives a good picture of a candidate and you can assess their consistency with the answers to questions 1 thru 4.

Now that we’re done with the introductions, here we go with the 20 questions:

1. Name your three greatest professional strengths, in random order.
2. Name your three greatest personal strengths, in random order.
3. Name your three greatest professional weaknesses, in random order.
4. Name your three greatest personal weaknesses, in random order
5. What was your greatest professional achievement ever, big or small, that you are most proud of?
6. What was your greatest personal achievement ever, big or small, that you are most proud of?
7. What was your greatest professional failure ever, big or small, that you most regret?
8. What was your greatest personal failure ever, big or small, that you most regret?
9. Who is the person, personally known to you, whom you admire most?
10. Why?
11. Name the three personal qualities you admire most in other people, in order of importance to you.
12. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, rank yourself in those three qualities.
13. Name three personal characteristics you most dislike in other people, in order if importance to you.
14. On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, rank yourself in those three characteristics.
15. Where do you see yourself in life five years from now?
16. Where do you see yourself in life 10 years form now?
17. Where do you see yourself in life 25 years from now?
18. What are the three things you like doing best, besides, before or after work, in order of importance?
19. Do you think that, through this interview, I have had the chance to get to know you?
20. What question did I not ask that would give me better insight as to who you are?
(Then ask the candidate that same question.)

At this point, invite the candidate to ask you any and as many questions they want to ask. Answer with the same sincerity you expected from the candidate, and in the same way, thus without hesitating or hedging. A good way to prepare yourself for this is to have someone else conduct a mock interview and ask you the same questions listed above.

Stay open and involved and do not make it sound routine. Even though the pace should be brisk, listen carefully for nuances. Are they self-confident or hesitant? The answers can be important qualifiers. Self-confident answers can show real conviction, or it can mask underlying uncertainty. Hesitancy can illustrate doubt, but also modesty. By listening carefully you can determine on which side of the coin their answers fall.

Write down the answers and indicate the non-verbal characteristics.

Last but not least, listen and weigh the spoken and non-verbal answers carefully, but ultimately do not let just the ears, eyes and brain make any determination. Your gut and your heart will help you choose your best people. Have fun!