The Job Interview and The Unwelcome Question

First, I introduce everyone in the room.  Then I quickly review the hiring process. Then I say “Unless you have anything you want or ask or say, we will begin.”  Mostly the interview then gets underway. Occasionally, though, I will get this:

Before we begin would you tell me what you are looking for in a candidate?

I have to admit that I don’t like that question, because I want to find out about the authentic person.  I do not want them to adapt their answers based on what they think I’m looking for.  This feels like dysfunctional dating:  “I love nineteenth century novels.” “Oh, me too.”  “I like Korean historical dramas.” “What a coincidence!”

Does answering the question give the candidate an unfair advantage over those who did not ask it?  Does the interviewer even have a short, clear and coherent description of what qualities they are looking for (an elevator pitch, if you must call it that)?  When I was first asked this question I realized I had never actually put my requirements into a few succinct words.

I am now of the opinion that a description of “what I am looking for” should be part of the introductory remarks for all candidates.  Beyond specific job skills and experience, these would be those qualities that demonstrate “fit”, such as enthusiasm, proactivity, creativity and treating others with respect.



Press for examples and detail. It will soon become apparent if the candidate is regurgitating your own words back at you.  If they keep generalizing, keep pressing.  This also means that interviewers must accept college, volunteer, and other experiences as examples.  After all, if the candidate posses these qualities, they will be seen in all aspects of the candidate’s life, whether the person has been in the workforce a long time or not.

If a candidate later learns they have been deemed “not a fit” this might at least help them be clear as to why.

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