Interviewing job candidates requires finding the right questions to help probe their abilities and fit. Here are some suggestions by Paul Falcone, vice-president of HR at Nickelodeon, from his book 96 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire
What was your favourite job position, and what role did your boss play in making it unique?
As with the question we often ask about greatest strength, this query early in the interview allows the person to reflect on positive and comfortable moments. It also sets up the tougher question that should follow, and will change the temperature a bit: "What was your least favourite position and what role did your boss play in your career at that point?"
What have done in your present/last position to increase your organization's revenue?
Any member of an organization should be capable of generating revenue for the firm - and this probes whether the individual has, even if not in sales.
What have you done to reduce your department's operational costs or save time?
This is a more natural question for a non-salesperson to answer, and again probes their bottom-line thinking - time, of course, being money.
What has been your most creative achievement at work?
Mr. Falcone stresses that individuals with a penchant for reframing problems and customizing solutions deserve a special place in your organization. This helps to spot them.
How many hours a week do you find it necessary to work in order to get your job done?
Mr. Falcone feels this will check if the candidate's view of a typical working day and your view are in agreement. If you pride yourself on completing everything by 4:59 p.m., you may not like someone toiling until 8 p.m. every night, and vice versa.
What kind of mentoring and training style do you have? Do you naturally delegate responsibilities or do you expect direct reports to come to you for added responsibilities?
This helps to clarify the candidate's attitude to training and motivation. Some managers enjoy sharing their expertise and helping staff members to grow while other managers have little patience for what they consider "holding people's hands." It helps to know which camp the person is in.
Every company has its own quirks - its "dysfunctionality quotient." How dysfunctional was your last company, and how much tolerance do you have for dealing with a company's shortcomings and inconsistencies?
Again this probes the compatibility of business styles between the candidate and you. As well, Mr. Falcone notes, "with this question, you'll want to assess candidates' insights into the problems they've faced battling bureaucracy as well as the solutions they've provided in attempting to overcome those organizational flaws."
How would you describe the amount of structure, direction and feedback you need in order to excel?
This is again a compatibility issue, but Mr. Falcone warns that most people will say they want a combination of feedback and independence, so you need to probe if they had to choose between one extreme or the other, which would it be?
In terms of managing your staff, do you 'expect' more than you 'inspect'?
Mr. Falcone stresses that both styles can work well, but the question is what does your department need?
How do you approach your work from the standpoint of balancing your career with your personal life?
This question is meant to be the opening for a person-to-person discussion on values.
LEADERSHIP: BLOGGING FOR MANAGING AS WELL MARKETING
In business, blogging has been primarily a marketing tool, employed to reach out to prospects and customers. But on the Harvard Business School blog, Becky Bermont, vice-president of the Rhode Island School of Design, says her organization has used its blog to spark dialogue from within. Anyone from that community - students, faculty and staff - can comment, suggest topics that should be initiated, and on Tuesdays even comment anonymously subject to some modest rules on proper behaviour.
"For the leaders of the organization, the blog provides us instant feedback on management decisions and direction. Some of the whispers of private conversations and reactions are brought out in the open for all to see. Because the feedback channel is instant and visible, it keeps the community's reaction to decisions present in the minds of decision makers," she writes.
At the start, they feared the blog's unmoderated nature, but after a year, in a culture that doesn't shy away from conflict, only a few comments violated the rules and had to be pulled down.
The blog has revealed opinions that might not otherwise have come out and also showed executives when greater clarity is needed on an issue. Finally, it has flattened communications hierarchies, giving people outside of authority easy access to top officials.
MANAGEMENT: WATCH YOU OWN RIGIDITIES
Everyone these days enjoys castigating the Big Three U.S. auto makers for their bloated bureaucracy and inflexibility to change. But on his blog, management guru Tom Peters asks you to consider your own organization's rigidities.
He suggests visiting your newest employee to ask: "Have you run across any procedures since you got here that you think are silly or overcomplicated? If so, have you passed your concerns along? If you haven't, why not - do we make it intimidating to surface such concerns? If you have passed such concerns along, have you been praised for doing so? Has anything happened?"
Also, ask your best customer whether you have become more bureaucratic, or slower, or more resistant to meeting customer needs?
Image consultant Catherine Graham Bell suggests that if you use your personal data device for taking notes during meetings, make sure it's obvious what you are doing - that you are not being so gauche as to be checking e-mail. If your device is on to accept an emergency call, make it clear at the outset, and quietly step outside the room for the ensuing conversation.
The big file
If you have a hanging folder so full that the bulge is overwhelming your filing cabinet, try using a large safety pin to make the ends stay closer together.
Cliché to excise: "Pre-planning." Planning means to do something ahead of time.
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It's the little things
Improve your e-mail customer service by ensuring that after you respond to the initial request, you send a follow-up note a few days later to make sure the customer was satisfied with your assistance.
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