This is the second part of our ongoing series on interviewing. We dive into why a hiring manager should ask these questions and what they should look for in an answer. We also offer advice to candidates on how to answer these questions to get the job.
If you like this episode, check out Episode 50 for Part 1.
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
How To Answer Five Common Interview Questions (Part 2)
Ian, you, son of a bitch.
Frankie, every day that I record with you, I ask myself, “Why didn’t I ask better questions during the interview process for doing this show?” I thought we should probably go back to one of our more popular episodes. This was a top-five episode we did. Episode 50 was, How to Answer Five of the Most Common Job Interview Questions. Given that people don’t just ask five interview questions. We are talking about five more common interview questions. I did a poor job of asking you questions at the end of our interview when you said, “Let’s do a podcast.”
In 1994, Adam Sandler released a song. He called it Chanukah Song. The song starts off like this, “Time to take out your menorahs, put on your yarmulke. It is time for Hanukkah, so much fun to celebrate Hanukkah. Hanukkah is a festival of lights. Instead of 1 day of presence, we get 8 crazy nights. When you feel like the only kitten towel without a Christmas tree.” He says, “In 1994, here is a list of people who are Jewish just like you and me.” In 1999, he released his sequel to this song. Everything was the same. He goes, “Here is a new list of people who were Jewish just like you and me.” This is a reprisal of that first episode. It’s different. The intro is the same. It is interview questions but it is a whole new list of questions.
We are older, wiser, and probably more experienced in this show is going to make this episode even more of a banger than the first one. Little known fact, part of the reason we are doing this episode now is when we initially put our outline together to do the first episode. That episode was going to be eight amazing interview questions you can answer. Sixty percent of our outline was already complete for this now. We went back in and thought, “That is a little less work to have to put it to a show. Just got to add two items door outline.”
We use a company called Podetize for those of you that are reading. You probably have seen this somewhere on the internet. Podetize celebrated with us because we got passed our 100 episodes, which is a big deal. This, for us, is episode 104. We had some delays between episodes 103 and 104. Some things have happened. Some life has gotten in the way. It has been over a month since we recorded. Now is hit-by-pitch. We are going to get on base.
Lean into one with the elbow.
Lean into a curve, not the fastball. In all seriousness, this is a popular episode for us because it is relevant. When we are recording this episode, Ian and I think we are heading into a recession. It is no longer called a recession nowadays. They got to wait for a board to appoint a recession, unlike the old days, where they just said, “It was a recession if you had two-quarters of either flat or negative GDP growth.”
Unemployment is low, and it is hard to hire people. You need to hire the right people because it is tough. Hiring is always critical. There are two sides to this. If you are an interviewer, these are questions that we think will help get you over the hump of hiring the right people. If you are an interviewee, these are questions you are most likely going to hear. If you have interviewed with Ian or me, you have heard some combination of these questions, and we thought it was something that is worthwhile to talk about because hiring is hard.
Just as Let Me Speak To A Manager was way ahead of the recession. I was talking months before anyone was talking about it. We did an episode on why we are already in a recession and how to survive it. What you are going to see and should be no shock to anyone who is out job searching, this market is going to quickly turn from a job seekers market to a hiring manager’s market. It is going to happen quickly because you are starting to hear about layoffs.
Big boys are laying off tons of thousands of people. We talked about it here. Amazon has laid off tons of thousands of people, Apple, Google, and Tesla. The first wave that is worth talking about is, “Am I getting productivity out of the people who are working here?” I have a friend who works at a monster company. He said, “The first wave, we put a hiring freeze. The second wave is that we look at our real estate and make sure there is no real estate. We go through and weed out the bottom 10% to 20% of the people who are here because when there is a euphoric hiring freeze, there are people who got through that chimney.” Those are the first things you are going to see. As companies do have needs, there are great people that are out and about that have resumes because they were working for bad companies. There is a poaching expedition by good companies.
Even the companies that are staying flat on their employees and a lot of the big tech companies have said that we are freezing the number of hires. What that means is let’s go. There are more people out there. We can be opportunistic for keeping more of our people. Let’s go shake hands with the bottom 10%, 15% who haven’t been performing well for several years, but we have kept them because we couldn’t find enough people. We were short-staffed. We were taking the approach that anyone who can fog a mirror can stay in that job.
Now that business is slowed down and customers are buying less of our products, we are going to replace those people with more talented people out there. That is an opportunity. If you are looking for a job, people are looking for upgrades. When you answer your questions, you need to be thinking about, “How do I clearly show that I’m an upgrade to someone who is already on your staff?”When you answer your questions, you need to be thinking about how to clearly show that you’re an upgrade to someone who's already on your staff. Click To Tweet
For managers out there, recessions are a great time to reset the deck. I have managed through multiple recessions. Every time I came out of recession with a much stronger team that I went into that is because, on the last legs of a big upturn for the economy, you end up with a bunch of people that you just brought on board because, one, you had a lot of fat, revenue, and profits. You could afford to be not as nimble with your staff.
Two, you couldn’t find anyone better. You kept some people, and you were like, “They are 5 out of 10. If I replaced them, I get a four.” Now you can find some 8s and 9s. You are going to see a lot of people replace them. If you are a manager, that should be exactly what you are thinking about, “How do I come out of this recession with a better team than when I went into it?”
There is another sign that we are in a frothy job market. I don’t know if this is going to work on you as a series of questions because Ian only eats his meals at Ruth’s Chris. When was the last time you went to eat somewhere that wasn’t Ruth’s Chris, and the order came out right?
Even Ruth’s Chris has been screwing up the orders, forgetting about us, or you are waiting for a little long for someone to come out and give you menus. My answer to that is I only eat at Ruth’s Chris. That shows the market problem.
The only answer to this question I can come up with is that I was in Detroit with Ian for something. I went to Chick-fil-A, and it was the best experience I had with food in a while. People were friendly. The order was right. Besides that, when my wife and I go to 1 of 6 restaurants over and over again in Richmond, you can’t get the service right. They screw something up. They don’t write stuff down. I bet someone, “I will pay you 100% tip if you get this order 100% right.” She came back two minutes later and said, “Was that a sweet tea or an unsweet tea?” She couldn’t get the order right.
This is a sign because people working in restaurants are typically the last line. When the service is that bad, all the great people are employed. You tend to notice that when you are at the back end or the start of a recession, what starts to happen is that you can’t get good service. The pandemic is probably hasting this a little bit but it is a sign that there are going to be firings, and there are going to be a lot of them. This is the perfect time to dust this off and talk again about the importance of an interview.
If you haven’t read episode 50, I’m going to summarize what are the five questions that we talked about in that episode. The first was to tell me a little bit about yourself.
I’m going to pretend you are interviewing me now. The point of this question is that it is an easy softball start. You should get comfortable. The whole point and the goal is that people usually have some nerves. That is a question that professional interviewers are going to ask to warm you up to make you feel comfortable.
Frank, you are a fantastic color but at this point, I’m doing a tease because I want people to go read that episode. Don’t be given away the answers. The second question is, what is your greatest strength? We talk about how to answer that question. Number 3) What is your greatest weakness? Number 4) Tell me about a failure that you learned from.
Somewhere, Uncle Joe is saying, “Ian, stop talking.”
Number five, why do you want to work here? If you have ever been asked one of those questions and you struggle with it, read the first episode, part one. We get into great detail in that episode. Without further ado, without frank ruining any of my tees, we are going to get into our first question on five more questions and how to ask them. Number six, Frankie, why don’t you go ahead and say the question?
What would your coworkers say about you?
Frankie, when you ask this question, what are you trying to get at as an employer, especially as someone who owns their own business?
The most important thing I’m asking this question is self-awareness. I want to see what people would say. What is the perception? More importantly, I’m not going to interview those people. I want to see how global you are. How able are you able to see your performance from the outside? This is an incredible time to use humility.
This is the time for me to say, “I’m a hard charger. Sometimes I can step on people’s toes. What I have learned is that I have standards that I need to loosen up at times. Let me tell you something about that. I have run into problems with this. What I have done is I have adjusted to be better because of this.” It is the perfect time to lean into some self-reflection.
You always want to present yourself in the best light. You are in an interview. I get it. You want to come across as someone who is positive. The humility thing you said is important because it comes across as more believable when you paint yourself as a human being and not this perfect robotic employee that does everything by the books and everybody loves all the time.
One thing that I like when people do because it is more memorable is that I would recommend that you tell a story. “My coworkers say I’m a great team player or my boss has told me I’m a real people person.” Those are boring. They don’t separate you. If I’m interviewing five people and I ask the same question, if 4 of them use some superlatives and adjectives, and 1 of them tells me a cool story about what their teammates think about him, I’m going to remember the one that told me a story.
Instead of saying, “I’m a great team player,” say, “I can give you an example. For the past two months, our manager has spent extended time out of the office traveling. He’s opening up a new region. The best compliment I would get is if my manager told me how nice it has been that so few people are reaching out to him because they are going to me to answer the questions. I had a number of my coworkers go to my manager and say how helpful I have been. There is always a line at my door. That explains me as a person.”
That is a different way of saying, “My coworkers would say I’m a team player.” That is not memorable to me. That is something anyone would write on a resume or a cover letter. The second is a story that blows me away. That says, “That is cool.” I will remember that if five people all tell me something drab and you tell me that story.
I can’t remember when we talked about this last time or not. Whenever anybody comes to me for interview coaching, what I talk about is writing down and coming prepared with not only questions for the person interviewing you but more importantly, successes or stories about your career. What Ian touched on and what I talked about initially with humility, there is a way you can accomplish this.
If I was faced with this question and said, “I’m not exactly sure what my coworkers would say about me but here’s what I would hope they would say about me.” I would go into stories, accomplishments, things that we’ve worked on together, and areas and times where I have helped pick up the ball for someone. What I will tell you is if you are sitting across from me interviewing, I know you are not a messiah of job hires because if you were, you wouldn’t be sitting in my office. You wouldn’t be allowed to walk out. There is something there. Being honest, forthright, and talking about things but showing a demonstration of things that you have done well is critical.
Past performance is not an indicator of future performance but it is a pretty damn good hint. If you show hints and stories and you talk about things that I can latch onto, that is important. I’m going to go into the process quickly because this makes sense. In our business, we use a panel-style interview. What that means is that you will be interviewed by 2 or 3 different managers. The managers will rank you on sixteen key components. We talk afterward about the interview.
What usually comes up is that we are talking about problem-solving or team orientation. There was an incredible story that they told about this. Those stories are critically important. If you come in prepared with a story about teamwork, this is the perfect time to not make it about you but make it about the team. That is how you can answer an interviewer’s question about what people would say about you in a way that doesn’t come off as arrogant, global, as 360 type of feedback, and it makes it like, “This person is aware of their surroundings. He sounds like he is somebody we want to have on our team.”
We started with why an interview interviewer would ask this question. I’m going to finish with that. If you are a manager, I value this question very much. I got a story to tell on this, Frankie. Do you remember a kid by the name of Connor Cook? He was the starting quarterback for Michigan State for three years when they were winning the Rose Bowl, and they were good. This was probably 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, maybe around time.
The name sounds familiar but I couldn’t remember.
I follow Michigan sports a little more in Big Ten but he is a good quarterback, has a big arm, and won a ton of games. They were wondering, “Is this guy a 1st or a 2nd-round quarterback? Could he play for the NFL?” Something that kept bringing up in the process was during his junior and senior years, when he was the starting quarterback of a good team, his teammates did not vote for him as 1 of the team’s 5 team captains.
I remember at the time thinking, and that is overly harsh. You are the quarterback. You should be the most respected person. He dropped way into the later rounds, and Connor Cook ended up not being much of an NFL quarterback, and part of it was that he was a problem in the locker room. It matters what your teammates think about you.It matters what your teammates think about you. Click To Tweet
You are not always going to be able to say, “I was voted team captain in my office and my settlement services branch.” People don’t vote captains but you should be able to tell some stories, and it could be recognition that you received from something. If you are answering this question, guessing what they would say about you is one thing, and that is nice. Maybe tell a story. It would be cool if you shared with me, “Instead of guessing, I could tell you some recent recognition I got from one of my peers. Would you like to hear that?” Tell a story about why one of your peers went to your boss and said great things about you and what you did to deserve that honor.
The best way you could explain it is by saying, “Let’s not guess. I will give you a great example of something someone said about me.” That is why I think you want to go out and, even further, show your confidence. Be willing to offer references, “Would it help if I gave you a few phone numbers of my current peers that I work with?” Choose some people who aren’t and tell your boss that you are interviewing. Pick a few people. Would that help? No one is going to call those people but you could say, “I will tell you exactly what these folks will say and why they would say it.” That shows confidence that, “Don’t take my word for it. Call my coworkers.”
Ian and I are different people. I would respond differently to this question in the end clearly. The point of the matter is lean into the question the way that suits you the best and allows you to provide your best foot. That is important to you. How you answer the question means less than the content with which you answer it. That is what an interview is. You get to show individuality. The point of the matter is that you can show who you are in your way that fits you.
The important thing is that you are tolerable by others. You do work with others. You have an understanding of other people’s opinions of you, and you can express them. If you tell me, “Everybody loves me.” That is the end of the answer. That is going to be the end of our interview because I know you are a dipshit, and I’m not going to interview you. Honestly, you probably don’t even make it to my office if you said that somebody else because I will cut the interview short.
The second question that we are going to talk about interview question is Jack Welch, who is my favorite leadership guru, CEO of GE for several years, and manager of the century. He said that if you could only ask one question in an interview as a manager, this is the interview question that you should ask, and you should ask it over and over. That is, “Why did you leave that company? If you are still at the company, why are you considering leaving the company?” I spend ten minutes on this. I will go through your whole resume and ask you why you left every company.
If you are reading this and are about to apply for an interview, this can be a trap question. Pay close attention to your tone when you answer. The reason why I say that is when I ask you why you left a company, you describe a company that is very much like mine and complains about everything. You say the manager was an idiot, and all of those things or you describe an office setting that is run the way ours is, and you didn’t like it, you are likely not going to be happy working for me either.
I’m looking here, “Do you have coth? Do you know how to be professional? Do you know how to professionally say it was time for me to move on to another opportunity? Do you spray bullets all over the place, the office that you were working for?” If that is who you are, you will probably do that with me at some point.
I have joked before that my sister has never had a manager that she didn’t think was an idiot. At some point, there has got at least 1 in a 25-year career there. It is maybe just you, Monica, that doesn’t like working for managers, which is fine. If all you do is complain about them, you are likely not going to like the one you are interviewing with.
In an interview, an interviewer is going after several things. They are coming after problem-solving and team orientation, if it’s a sales-related role, persuasion, judgment, and results orientation. Those are your major macro categories. This is a question that shows judgment and problem-solving. Let me tell you why. Judgment comes down to, “What am I sharing? What am I talking about? What is and is not suitable for a manager that I might work with to hear? Do I phrase it in a way that is complimentary yet, somewhat dismissive in saying, ‘This is not the right spot for me?’”
That’s high judgment, a well-chosen story, and a well-executed answer. There is some strategy that comes into this. During the pandemic, I loved interviewing great people that work for bad managers or bad companies. They didn’t have a strategy. They didn’t know what to do. They had to close for an extended time. That is problem-solving and judgment at its finest. I saw there were problems ahead.
I have 50 employees at this point, and 10% to 15% of them have taken pay cuts to come here. The reason they have taken the pay cut to come here is that they like how we are positioned to go forward. That is incredible. They say, “We have seen and researched you. We know what you are about. We like the mission. I might make a little bit less to start but because of the trajectory of the company, I’m going to have an opportunity to make more long-term. That is what I want to do.” There are two people that you have recommended that I have hired. That was the exact opportunity. It was a little bit of a pay cut to hopefully leap forward.
For the record, I offered him both jobs with me but the pay cut would have been substantially larger. Frank is making a little more money than me. He was able to pay him a little more than the less they would have been making.
Why are you considering leaving? That is a way to spend that in the positive, “I love the mission of this place. I love what you do. I think the product is exciting. I need something fresh. I like how it is different every day.” That is a very positive way to spin what could be a shit-flinging exercise, and instead, you turn it into a real positive.
This is a good chance to show your homework, to show that you prepped a little bit, to show why I would go to Cava and make less money. Not that everyone makes less money going to Frank. Those are unique examples. Being able to describe what you have learned during the interview process and your prep and, “Why I want to come here is more about the windshield and the rearview mirror. It’s not about I’m trashing my other company. It is about how damn excited I am about the environment and the culture you have been building in this company. I want to be a part of it. It’s amazing.”
How you can take a potentially negative and turn it into a huge positive is talking about that. You can spin it. I don’t care if you answer my question. What I care about is to understand you and to get some examples into your brain. Do you fit with us? You are going to spend 2, 3 or 4 hours with us in total. This is a big decision to offer a position to someone.You can take a potential negative and turn into a huge positive. You can spin it. Click To Tweet
You have to get inside of that person’s head. Where you take the question is almost as important as how you answer the question. Ian looks at prep, homework, and those things. I look at spin, story, likability, problem-solving, and intelligence. Those are the things I’m going for in that question like, “What flexibility do you have?” That is what is critical.
Frankie, go ahead and take the next question. This is your favorite.
Ian, tell me about a professional achievement that you are incredibly proud of.
You will ask that in multiple different ways. You won’t ask for one. You will follow up. Give me another. What is something else you have accomplished here? What is another achievement you have?
I’m going to start with the answer and work backward. Here is what I want to understand when I ask this question. “I’m hoping you give me a lifetime achievement award.” I don’t want to perjure you. You might say, “I have had this happen. I survived cancer. I’m a single mom. I had every answer you can possibly imagine, and I’m going to get to learn something about you. I will lean in and ask some questions about it.” I said professionally, “You told me about cancer. What did you do?” They will tell me about incredible achievements that they have done, like all kinds of crazy stuff.
What I want to understand is this. Straight-up doesn’t exist. If you look at the stock chart of EMC until 2001, it was a hockey stick. I have been looking at it since. It is a jagged edge. I don’t even think it exists anymore. The point of the matter is that most careers are not meteoric rises. What they are instead is they are ups and downs and backs and forwards. There are achievements, failures, and successes.
What I want to understand is this. Do you have a pattern of success? If you have a pattern of success, have you figured out how to make it happen over and over again? We have talked about this before. You asked me in the beginning or it was before we started recording, “Do I have a cool story?” There is somebody that I interviewed that we have ultimately hired. He had eight jobs at the same hotel. He started off as a dishwasher and ended up as a manager. We went through each role. He told me about how he learned every role.
This is an incredibly cool story, Ian. This kid had made it to the bartender. He found himself getting bartending shifts on Mondays. One of his managers came up to him and said, “I’m giving you Mondays. You are bad. Our cost per drink is high. Our service times are slow. This is not good. I’m going to have to move you back to the waiter if you don’t get better and fast.” He was like, “Message heard. I know I stink.” I said, “What do you do about it?” I don’t care if he is a crappy bartender. He is not going to be serving drinks here. What I care about is, is this part of the story.
I took the feedback seriously. I found who was the best person at the company, that was a mixologist. I went and learned from them. I sat down before and after my shift when I was off with a notepad. I would ask, “How do you make these drinks?” I came up with things in my head that allowed me to remember what a drink was because it is critical to be quick. I wanted to remember what the components of the drink were. In addition to that, when I would finish my shift, I would take notes. Before my shift would start, I would sit in my car and study my drink sheet.
I want to hire this person. That is someone who leaned into the feedback. Everyone stinks in a new job. That is what promotion feels like, “I went from great to terrible.” What do you do about it? What I thought was cool is that he got promoted after bartender into another role. He used those lessons. I went back to the same type of script, “I learned from what I didn’t know the last time. I took notes. I found the best person.” That is perfect. That is a wonderful answer about a great achievement, “I went from terrible to great, and here is the process.”
It is in a not-so-sexy industry. It is in an industry that doesn’t take a college degree. I don’t even know this guy, Frank. I know he is coachable. He took criticism and didn’t get defensive. I know that he is resourceful. He didn’t go say, “Tell me, manager, what do I need to do better?” He went and found someone who was great. He is resilient. He figured it out. He put in extra work.
That tells me about his work ethic. He was willing to study in his own time so that he could make more money and be better at his job. I learned 6 or 7 behaviors of that kid from your little story. We harp on it a lot. Stories matter. They matter everywhere. They matter whether you are interviewing or recruiting and trying to convince people to come work for you. They matter if you are a manager or you are in sales. That story is impactful because I will remember him. I hope I meet him the next time I’m in your office because that is the person that I would like to work with.
There is something else there. Ian told you 2 or 3 things that now he can score, resilience and problem-solving. It’s a story about achievement but you are getting so much more out of it. I’m not asking, “Tell me your biggest example of persuasion.” It’s a terrible question. What I want to know is an achievement. I want to see where you take it. That also, to me, touches a little bit on problem-solving and persuasion.
The other thing it did was it connect with me, “I bartended. I was terrible at it. I had to do the same thing.” I like this person more now because I can relate to him. I leaned in and said, “I remember that. I was awful.” He goes, “Yeah.” I was like, “I always used to get confused about Tom Collins.” He giggled because it was a simple drink. There are three ingredients. There are ice, gin, and a piece of fruit. It is the simplest thing. I’m like, “That’s where I had to start.” We have a dialogue.
As a hiring manager, if you are paying attention to these things, what you also can do is make notes. What we have gotten in the habit of doing is taking lessons that we have learned in an interview and jotting them down. Your people are the most vulnerable. They are talking most personally about themselves. You can say, “Bartender, next time you see them, you joke with them.” That connects to people. That is how you build camaraderie with people quickly because they tell you a story, and you remember the story.
You don’t need to be a bartender for that story to resonate with you. When I hear that story, I think of myself failing as a new salesperson and my manager giving me some feedback and saying, “You better start selling or I’m going to have to replace you.” Instead of whining and saying, “I haven’t been trained,” I went and sat with good salespeople. I went and took notes, listened, and asked them questions, “How do you talk to customers? How do you get people interested?” Every time I failed on a cold call, I took notes after and tried to learn from what worked, what seemed to keep them on the phone, and what didn’t.
His whole process of learning to be a better bartender, you could translate it to any high achiever who didn’t have a lot of training and figured out how to get there without whining. That translates to almost any job. As an interviewing manager, you can’t look at it and say, “He is a bartender. How does that translate?” There are tears of bartenders. They are the absolute elite that makes a lot of money and the crappy ones that have bad service. He found a way to go from crappy to good.
I got a vice president’s job answering a question exactly like that. It was slightly different. It came out of my mouth, not his. I became a Vice President at NVR. I talked about failures, setbacks, and how I became an achiever in multiple roles. I probably started with a bartender. I worked my way through the Project Manager, Sales Manager, sales rep, Costing Manager, and Production Manager. In every single job I had had prior to becoming Vice President, I talked about, “Here’s how this works.”
You are a great achiever. You are capped on the shoulder. You are asked to move to the next role. When you move to the next role, you are bad at it. You have to understand where your inherent strengths. What are your inherent weaknesses? Who is good at your inherent strengths or your weaknesses? How do you mimic some of those things inside of your job? How do you do it quickly?
What I wanted to point out to him in that process is this. He is already solved how to enter a new job and do it well. When I told him that when he gets into this job here, he will get feedback from us and that he needs to be honest with himself about what he is great and stinks at and figure out how to be better at things he is not inherently great at right off the bat and rounds out those edges. If you do that, you will start to succeed much faster than most. I was like, “The hard part was done. You know the process.” If you know that process, I want to hire you. It doesn’t matter what role. If you figured this piece out, you have solved the biggest trick of getting a new job.
I got a counter-example to this. I had a young guy that had worked for a bank, and he had been there for four years. In those four years, he was promoted an insane amount of times, 5 promotions in 4 years. When I was asking him about accomplishments, all he could say was, “I got promoted this many times, and I have been promoted.” Do you remember the criticism that Buddy Ryan gave Cris Carter for the Eagles? Cris Carter was a star wide receiver. I won’t put you on the spot. All he does is catch touchdowns. They cut him.
On its surface, it sounds stupid, like, “That sounds pretty good. He catches touchdowns.” What Buddy Ryan was saying was, “You don’t block. When the ball is not coming to you in the end zone, you don’t run hard routes. You don’t do the little things. You will only run a hard route when you know you are getting the ball and you can score.”
This kid, I told him at the end, “You are not getting a job because all he does is get promoted.” He couldn’t tell me why he was promoted. When I dug, he couldn’t get behind the why of, “Why they gave him these jobs,” other than people were leaving. They didn’t have anyone else to give the job to. It wasn’t a big office. He was proud of these accomplishments but he was over-inflated. He didn’t earn them and deserved them.
He didn’t get the job for me. I told him why. I said, “All you do is catch touchdowns. You can’t even tell me why you have succeeded. You have been promoted fast in all these jobs. You weren’t around long enough to even see if it worked. Several years later, we hired him. He came back. He interviewed, took that feedback to heart, and had something to show, “I started here and took it. I made it better and grew.” We hired him, and he has been with the company for many years. He did an amazing job for us.
In the first pass, he had no self-awareness. He couldn’t tell you what was happening and wasn’t sure why. He is like a post-turtle. The turtle is up on the post. He doesn’t know how he got there, what is going on or how he is going to get down.
He overinflated his opinion of himself because all he has known is a success even though it was happening because there was no one else.
You are a Hiring Manager, and that is what you hear. This is what I hear as a Hiring Manager. This person doesn’t have problem-solving skills or communication skills that can explain to me what is happening. Maybe they are great and wonderful but I can’t feel or sense it. You can’t sell me on why. I don’t know all the other parts of the story by just hearing this but what I hear point blank is that you can’t convince me. What I do here is lean in. I push, ask and say, “Can you tell me why you got promoted? What happened? Give me a clue. Help me understand it. If I get a crap answer, what I will come back to is, “Let’s go through another accomplishment. Let’s do something else. Talk to me about something.”
It goes into our next question, “Why should I hire you?” It’s a perfect time to pivot if someone moves off of a story. “Let me ask a question. I told you something about why I got promoted a bunch of times, and you pivoted to this question. What did I not give you? What don’t you have?” Those are questions that you can ask as an interviewee. I love when I get a question like that. “Did I not answer your question properly?” “Yeah. I don’t feel comfortable.” Were you the only 1 that 2 got promoted? Was battlefield promotion or journey?
I dig in more on, “Why should we hire you.” The first thing I will say is to get over yourself if someone asks you this question. I see a lot of people get irritated of, “That’s such an arrogant question, and who says I want to work for you in the first place?” You are here. You need money. Give them something to talk about here.
This is an opportunity to prove that you can listen and that you have been paying attention in the interview process. You are unlikely that you will get asked this question right out of the gate. If someone sits you down and within two minutes says, “Why should I hire you?” They are probably a crappy interviewer. It is not a great environment to go to work in the first place because they are busy, “I’m going to do a speed five-minute interview.” That is not the place you want to go to work anyway.
Normally, when I ask this question, it is exactly what Frank said, “I have spent 40 minutes with you. I’m on the fence. I’m not sure you are assertive enough, and you can explain yourself well enough. I’m going to put you on the spot here, and I’m going to ask you to close me, especially if you are in some customer-related or management sales position. I’m going to ask you to close me as a customer might do to a salesperson.”
This is where you prove you have been listening. This is where you can stop and say, “That is a great question from everything I have ascertained from the types of questions you have asked me. The types of questions other interviews have asked me, the type of people you have told me have succeeded in this company. You are looking for someone who is resilient. You are looking for a person who is a problem solver and resourceful. I have a great story to tell you about why I’m that person.” Share one of your best stories right there and say, “That proves that I’m the type of person that your company tends to hire.” Don’t throw a bunch of adjectives at me. Tell me a story.
Here is the other way I have seen that answered insanely well. Is it okay if I open up my notes? I go, “This is your job. This is how I, in my career, have done this job. This is how I can do this job. This is how I will do this job.” They make the answers specific to me. If I was on the fence and you were that prepared, ready, and able to take a fastball thrown by me directly at you, and you can diffuse it, that is the person I want to hire. “Tell me about it. Why? What was your problem solved?” This isn’t magic. You are giving me some type of reason, a story, a thought-through process, critical thinking, a strategy or something that you have worked on that you knew how to counteract that question.
When you walk into my office, I have an intimidating office. When you sit across from me and crush that, you are not going to fold. That is the person I want to hire. That is what I’m looking for. “I have said everything that you asked for, and I will do a good job here.” The interview is over. You pivot that, and you give me back a heater. You give me back depth and things that I want to lean into. I’m writing vigorously. Those are the types of things that you want to drive towards.
The last question that you could have in a fantastic interview with me is the last question that I’m going to ask you, and you can destroy everything right here. The last question I will always ask an interview is, “What questions do you have for me?” I try to give the last 10 to 15 minutes to the candidate. On its surface, this is a softball but this is also another test. What would I be testing for, Frankie? When I ask that question, is it hiring a manager at the end of an interview?
A few things, problem-solving, intelligence, and prep. “Did you prep?”
There is nothing worse than asking that question.
I asked everybody else I had interviewed with. I got all my answers.
Maybe you look at their notes, and they will say, “I think I got all of my questions answered already with some of the previous interviewers.” I’m always shocked by that. You have no questions for me. It is almost insulting like you don’t care about my opinions or how I got into this company. There is a thousand questions individual to me that you could ask. All you had to do was show a little bit of preparation. Google me, google the company, go to my website, look around, and talk to a few people in the process. In this part where you say this, you should ask questions until I, as the Hiring Manager, say, “I got to wrap it up.”
Keep asking questions. Be eager to get information because this shows me also that you are not desperate for a job. When someone has no questions, and they just want to take the job, they don’t come across as in demand to me. That doesn’t come across as you are evaluating whether this is a good career opportunity. It feels like you need a paycheck. “Why would I ask any questions? Can I have a job? I will come to work.” The more questions you ask, the more I’m starting to think, “This person has choices. They don’t have to take this job. I better do a great job answering these questions.”When someone has no questions and they just want to take the job, they don’t come across as in demand. Click To Tweet
Let’s have a little fun. Here are some answers. These don’t have to be complicated answers but these are some good ones. “What does my first day of work look like? Who will I report to? What will I be doing? How does compensation work? Do you have a 401(k)? What about benefits? What is your longest-tenured employee? What would they say about the company?”
“Why is this position open?” I love that question. “Did you fire the person? Did they leave? If they left, why? Could you tell me a little bit about your management style? What type of people do you love to lead?” “Let me get a little personal with Frank. You have been with this company for several years. What keeps you at this company? What do you love about this company? You have done the right things. You have been promoted within. How did you move up in the company?” Get me working on my ego. Show that you have some personal interest in me as your potential manager.
I’m easy because my name is on the door. I’m not very creative. If you don’t have questions for me and, I started a business, we have been at it for several years and have fifteen employees that show zero creativity. Come up with something like, “How did you come up with a name?”
When you say that, that’s obvious. Do you still have people that will say, “I don’t have questions left,” because they have been asked?”
You are Frank Cava. I’m sitting here talking to the founder and owner of the company. If you did any research, you know when you founded the company and how you have grown it. You are in this big office with employees everywhere. You got a chance to talk to the guy whose name is on the door. I don’t have any questions. I have asked them all. Think about that. If you have a 50-minute interview and you are like, “I’m thinking, I like this person.” They say, “I got no questions at all for you.” Is it like the cold, wet rag thrown on you? It can completely change your decision.
I can’t think that I’ve ever hired anybody with no questions for me. “If it was no questions, we already established the fact that this is the wrong fit.” What I think we should pivot to is this. Let’s pivot to a good question. This is my favorite question. This is my favorite answer to this question. “Frank, I have given you everything I can in this interview, and I think I deserve this job. I’m going to ask you this question. Is there something from me that I haven’t told you that you wish you knew about me, so you offer me a job?” I have had that question multiple times, mostly by salespeople. That is a great question. That is a question of, “Is there something I missed?” That is my absolute favorite question.
Usually, I will answer it. I will ask questions back. It turns into another spirited conversation. I will be like, “Seriously, are there any questions for me about the company? Is there anything about the job? Is there anything about comp?” I’m asking you and trying to dig out of you like, “Are you going to say yes to a job offer?” That is what I’m getting into then because I’m already sold, and I got to talk to the other folks that have interviewed you but at this point, I want to pivot from interviewer to salesman. I wanted you on my team. I’m figuring out, “Are there any hurdles I need to cross?”
I love that question, and that is the salesman in me. A good salesperson is not hoping. “Let’s have another meeting. Let’s follow up later.” It’s, “The two of us are here. Let’s close. What do you think? We have spent some time together now. Do you think I’m a good fit?” That is a great question. Put them on the spot. If they hem and haw, say, “I haven’t convinced you. What area are you still concerned with that I might not be able to do this job?” Get them to say it if they are hemming and haw a little bit and say, “That’s fair. Could I share a story that might change your mind there?” Don’t hope that somehow, in the interview panel is going to get fixed. Deal with it right there. Get close to every hiring manager.
This happened in the interview. I have been asked that question. I’m like, “Give me a second.” I go through my notes and like, “I’m a little bit unclear about this.” I will ask a question. People who fold, it is over. People who lean into it and crush it. That is when you have a hire on your hands because it’s exactly what we talked about with the bartender. You have a bit of a brief setback. How do you regroup? How do you gather yourself and move forward? That is what’s critically important.
It’s not showing up beautifully. It is making yourself as such through hard work and doing things. That is what you are trying to drive out in an interview. I got some feedback at one point, and it’s worth bringing up at the end. Someone that I trusted as a hiring manager and was an early mentor to me in my career, and it’s a baseball reference. I admired a baseball card at the moment. It’s perfect.
He goes, “I walk into that interview, and I’m me. The door closes. I become Barry Bonds, the all-time leader in home runs. Self-assured and arrogant, as a way to put it. I pound my chest, that door opens, and I walk out on me. I was like, “Explain that.” They were like, “That is my hour and a half to prove to you that I can do every single thing that this job requires. It is my job to convey to you that I can do it.” You don’t want to be overly arrogant but at the same time, that is the type of tenacity that you need to have inside that interview. Don’t waste it. It could come down to one decision. If it’s a question, don’t miss that chance.
For the hiring managers and people that have to interview, this is now two full episodes. There are no trick-banger questions here. These are simple, open-ended questions that give someone a chance to elaborate. You can go in a lot of directions. They are very open-ended questions so that you are forced into a story. There are not a lot of close-ended questions that get a yes, no or one word. These are questions that get someone talking so they can share more with you.
I’m not a big fan of trick questions. I know Frank isn’t. I’m into simple questions that I can ask everyone the same thing, and you provide the color. I’m not the star here. I’m here to evaluate. I’m here to learn. Most of my questions are probes off of the same ten questions. “Could you tell me more? Do you have another example? Is there something else?”
Frank said he would ask the same question on success or achievements 3, 4, and 5 different ways because he wants to keep hearing your process. I asked the failure question over and over because I’m a big fan of growth mindset folks. That matters to me how you think about failure. Don’t overthink the questions you ask. Don’t try to get too tricky. Don’t try to get too interesting. Ask open-ended questions and sit back, listen and probe to try to let people tell you their stories.
As a close for me, what I will say is this. Interviewers and interviewees, be mindful of the process and understand what you are going in to do on both sides. As an interviewer, I know 6 to 15 things I’m looking for, and I have already summarized those here. As an interviewee, that is what the person sitting across the table from you is driving at. I have plenty to do. Since I have been on this show and in an interview with someone, I have probably gotten 10 or 15 text messages. My phone rang a bunch of times. I got a bunch of emails, and this is not driving revenue. The interview doesn’t do a damn thing to help move the needle.
I want to hire you if you are sitting across from me. I posted an ad. I want to find a good candidate. I want to hire you. It is your job to convince me that you deserve to be here, to be on this team and that you are going to do a great job. You are not going to be perfect but you are going to do those things. The way you can set yourself up to achieve this is you talk in ways that you are paying attention to and that I can latch on to.
If I’m sitting back in my chair in an interview and nodding at you, I’m half checked out. If I’m leaning forward and my pen is moving, I always ask for permission at the beginning of an interview. I say, “I’m a vigorous notetaker. Please don’t be distracted by that. I’m listening. You might see the top of my head but I love to jot down notes, so I can remember things that you have said later. Ask more questions. I have my notes. If I’m scribbling or saying, “Can you hold on a second?” Those are good things. I’m into the interview. You are telling me the good stuff.
If I’m not doing it, pivot it. This is your hour. Own that hour, “Frank, maybe I’m off on the wrong footage or something better I can do.” I will guide you. A good thing to do in an interview is to realize what’s happening and speak in a way that, if you are talking to Ian, it’s connecting with him. If you are talking to me, it’s connecting with me. If it’s anybody else, it is exactly that because we want you or we would not be in that room trying to hire you in the first place.
If you are new to our show, click the subscribe button. Click the download button. You get automatic downloads. If you have been reading for a while, we would love it if you gave us a five-star review wherever you consume our product. Frankie, it is a pleasure to be back on the horse again.
I agree, brother. Good talking to you.
See you, Frankie.
- Episode 50 – Past Episode
- Episode – Are You Ready For This Recession?
- Ruth’s Chris