I’m in the middle of hiring someone to replace my irreplaceable executive assistant, a title that barely does justice (as any executive assistant will tell you) to the extraordinary intensity and intellect of such a job.
The job search has yielded several excellent candidates, meaning that I’ve once again had the opportunity to ask my favorite interview question:
“What did you do to prepare for this interview?”
Oh, the answers I’ve heard – the good, the bad and the ugly, and so powerfully revealing in each regard.
“I’ve been stalking you for three days,” was one. I loved it! Especially after she described what that stalking involved: Reading virtually everything she could find ever written about me, plus reading or scanning everything I’ve ever written online and in print, including two books. As a result, she came to the interview ready to talk not just about her fit for the requirements of the job – but my interests, values, and, perhaps most impressive, the intellectual content of my life’s work.
Another candidate had this impressive response: “I looked at all of your social media platforms and tried to back out of that what your communications strategy is, and how I would advise you to change or refine it. I also evaluated the marketing plans you appear to have in place for your new book launch, which led me to put together a list of questions.” She opened her folder to reveal just that — a full page of them.
Hello! You’ve walked in the door over-delivering. I like you very much.
Other answers have been rather less mind-blowing.
“Well, I drove here last night with my boyfriend to make sure I didn’t get lost today.”
Another candidate answered, “I read your Wikipedia.”
Both OK, but hardly enough to demonstrate the kind of passion and curiosity I’m looking for, or, most importantly, the resourcefulness. Look, there are plenty of great interview questions out there, and there’s no doubt about it, you need to ask a slew, as well as carefully check references. (I also give candidates a good, old-fashioned editing test.) But this single query has proven its worth to me time and again.
Half the battle in business is being prepared. Make sure the people you hire don’t have to learn that on the job. – Suzy Welch