Interviewing to discover who will succeed in your organization is a crucial component to hiring well. Many candidates will have the skills and qualifications you are looking for, but only a few will be the right fit.
Discovering whether they are the right fit during the interview process can be difficult. You need to figure out whether a candidate has the abstract qualities that will help him or her succeed in the culture of your organization. One way to do this in the interview process is to focus on your values and develop specific questions to uncover a potential new hire's values.
At Kabbage, we have created a series of questions, which we ask in our final panel interviews, that help us understand how candidates think about themselves, how they think about others and how they think through problems.
1. What are three negative personal qualities that someone close to you would say you possess?
This question tells us a lot about self-awareness and reflects the core value of transparency. We are looking for candidates who not only understand what their true negatives are but also are willing to admit them. There are a number of unacceptable answers here. We don't allow answers like "I'm a perfectionist" or "workaholic" or other positives-disguised-as-negatives. When we get answers like that, we buzz the candidate (with actual buzzers) and ask them to try again. There have also been occasions when we've had them "phone a friend." If they are unable to come up with three negatives on their own, their spouse or mother is usually a helpful source of information.
2. We ask them to add two fractions. For example, we might ask, "What is ¾ plus ½?"
This question elicits some of the best responses. What we are looking for is how they handle an unexpected question or situation. This isn't about math skills; we are fine with them grabbing their phone to use the calculator or to Google the answer. At Kabbage, our days are rarely predictable. We are looking to see how they handle the curveball. Do they panic? Blurt out a lot of wrong answers? Do they freeze and get stuck? Do they give up? One of our core values is innovation; we need to know that the people we hire are resourceful, capable of thinking outside the box and quick on their feet.
3. On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the absolute best in the world at your role, where would you rate yourself? And what keeps you from being a 10?
Like the first question, this also tells us about a candidate's self-awareness. This leads to discussions about growth, ambition and whether they aspire to be the best. Because one of our core values is winning, how a candidate answers this question is extremely important to us. While they might not rate themselves with 10s across the board (there's nothing wrong with humble confidence), we want to know why and what they are doing to get there.
4. Finish this sentence: Most people I meet are _______.
One of our core values is caring deeply, so it is important we understand how a potential new team member views others. The only answer that is off-limits is "interesting," because it really doesn't tell us anything. And we've found that it might also be code for something negative in disguise. We want to understand how candidates think about and value other people, and an answer like this is just too vague and open to interpretation.
5. Give me the first name of someone with whom you work very closely.
This, too, ties into caring deeply. If a candidate answers this question quickly and is able to answer several of the follow-up questions, we can glean that they are good at building relationships at work. It also helps us to understand whether this person will be committed to the Kabbage community. We want to hire people who will take ownership not only of the products we create and offer but also of the environment and culture in which we work.
Amy Zimmerman is head of Global People Operations at Kabbage, an Atlanta-based company that provides businesses with automated funding services. Jennifer Richard is Kabbage's head of Learning and Development.
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