Often during interviews, candidates are asked questions about themselves. What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Who is your biggest role model and why? The list goes on. These types of questions naturally turn the focus of the candidate onto themselves, which can ultimately be the down fall of an interview.
I recently visited with a company in Western Massachusetts. We learned about their company’s culture, how it’s grown over the past few decades, how they use metrics to gage performance and a little bit about their interview process. Now, as candidates, we are often told to come to the interview prepared to ask questions. This company took it one step further.
At the end of the interview process (the person has made it through the preliminary rounds) candidates are invited into the CEO’s office for their final interview. The CEO asks a few questions and then gives the candidate 5 cards that have personality traits on. He instructs the candidate to rank them with their strongest personality trait on top and their weakest on the bottom. While this is happening, the CEO leaves his office and gives the candidate some time to think things through. In fact, the CEO gives the candidate more time than necessary, and he does this intentionally.
When the CEO reenters his office he’ll usually ask the candidate, “Alright, were you able to put the cards in the proper order”?
With all the time they were allowed the candidates reply with a confident, “Yes sir”.
“That’s great”, the CEO will say, “Now please tell me some things about myself”.
The CEO isn’t interested in seeing how the candidate ranked his/her personality traits; he is interested in seeing how observant and inquisitive the candidate is and has been while they spent time in the CEO’s office. Having been there myself I know that there were plenty of items in his office that told you a little bit about the CEO. From books and sports memorabilia, to quotes and pictures of presidents, an observant individual would be able to get a general idea of who the CEO is and the types of things in he is interested in.
If the person failed to pick up on what the CEO was asking, their chances of getting the job were somewhere between slim and none. The moral of this story is to go beyond “being prepared” by reviewing commonly asked interview questions and bringing questions of your own, but to take the focus off yourself and be aware of your surroundings and the people with whom you are speaking. You don’t want your next interviewer to enter the room while you are fully prepared to talk about the greatest challenge you’ve overcome. Next thing you know they’ll ask you to tell them about the person you just spoke with and you won’t remember their name or the color of their shirt.