The Magic Question

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Employers are always looking for the perfect interview question to stump a potential employee. There have been lots of articles written on finding the perfect interview question(s), since there is a lot riding on an interview. Finding the right person who can do the job after the interview is over and on the job is a 50/50 proposition. The odds aren’t good, but the stakes are high. 

It can cost 2.5 times the annual salary to recruit and hire a management-level employee. Finding the right person is worth it. Interview questions are important, but an article in Inc. Magazine by Marc Barros claims to have the ultimate, one-and-only interview question to find the perfect match for the job.

“Tell me about the last person you fired,” is the question. For managers, firing someone is probably the toughest, least liked part of the job. They will write favorable performance reviews, look the other way at policy violations and give second, third or even fourth chances to avoid having to make that call. And that’s not always a bad thing.

Termination is a life altering event. One minute you’re employed, with a salary, benefits, a pension plan, and paid-time-off to spend with family and friends. The next minute, it’s gone. You don’t want a person who is blasé about firing employees. It should be a last resort, something you have to do only after you’ve done everything to help an employee succeed.

On the other hand, you don’t want someone who is averse to firing anyone, dragging on a bad situation with a poor manager who ruins the team’s morale by keeping on employees that obviously don’t belong. This question, along with others, is worth taking note of for your next interview. How would you answer that question? It could mean the difference between getting the job or not.

“Are you a doer or a thinker?” Are you a worker bee, or are you an innovator, problem solver or analyst? Worker bees are great, but they are more comfortable with rules and processes and doing things over and over the same way without much innovation. Thinkers get things done, but are always looking for ways to do things better. Thinkers look for improvements, but also think of new ways that haven’t been tried before. 

“On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how honest are you?” This sounds like a simple question, but it isn’t. What if you say you’re a 9? Nine is good, but that still means you’re not honest all the time. An employer might appreciate your disclosure, but wonder what things you feel aren’t important to be honest about. The only acceptable answer is “10,” but then the employer might think you’re not being honest because no one is every totally honest. This question puts you between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Employers may ask you what kind of a tree do you think you would be, or what your favorite color is. It really doesn’t matter what the “right” answer is. The only right answer is an honest one. To be successful on a job, you have to be totally honest in an interview. Giving the expected or “correct” answer may get you a job on false pretenses. You may get a job you don’t like and won’t stay with, which is not a win for you. Employers are not trying to stump you when they ask these questions. They are just trying to find the "real" you. So, when answering the questions, do not answer the way you think the employer wants you to, but answer with honesty and confidence and the job could be yours.


Photo Source: Stuart Miles


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