There is one job interview question recruiters and hiring managers must ask. And the answer should be a deal-breaker.
The most important job interview question for any role in every organization: Tell me about a time you received negative feedback.
This is NOT the same question as tell me about a weakness. Or tell me about a time you made a mistake at work. Those are also important job interview questions to ask. But they’re not the most important question.
Let’s assume everyone you interview is age sixteen and older. Unless your candidates live in a cave, never speaking to anyone, it’s not possible to arrive at age 16 without having received negative feedback. The feedback can come from a friend, teacher, or parent. It doesn’t need to be work-related.
The point of the question is to discover whether the candidate is open to feedback. People who are not open to feedback are extraordinarily difficult to work with. They aren’t coachable. Any type of feedback they receive will result in resistance and defensiveness.
Employees who aren’t open to feedback won’t change or improve their behavior, regardless of how effective a manager is. Instead of listening to feedback and taking corrective action, employees who are not open to feedback will tell managers why they are wrong.
Everyone you interview has received negative feedback at some point. The question is whether or not candidates were receptive to the feedback. People who aren’t open to feedback won’t be able to answer your question.
If candidates can’t tell you about a time they received negative feedback, ask a follow-up question. Your job as the interviewer is to give candidates every possible opportunity to be successful. If you don’t get the answer you’re looking for, ask the interview question in two different ways, until you’re certain the candidate can’t or won’t answer the question.
If candidates can’t tell you about a time they received negative feedback, ask what their reputation is at their current job or was at a previous job. Candidates probably won’t be able to answer this question either. Most people don’t know their reputation at work.
Even if a candidate doesn’t know with certainty their reputation at work, the answer they provide will give you a sense of how self-aware they are. People who are self-aware are more open to feedback and are easier to coach and manage than people who are not self-aware.
I eliminate candidates who demonstrate they aren’t open to feedback, whether I’m hiring for Candid Culture or for one of my clients. I don’t care how credentialed or experienced the candidate is. If candidates aren’t receptive to feedback, they don’t get a job offer.
The phrase Quiet Quitting is everywhere since appearing in a Tik-Tok video earlier in the year. Essentially quiet quitting is doing your job – just what is asked – not more and not less. Quiet quitters do good work during work hours, not on weekends and not at night. Quiet quitters don’t volunteer to do work outside the scope of their job, that they’re not paid to do.
Is there anything wrong with doing your assigned job and not more? No. Should you do it? If you want to. Should you use the phrase “quiet quit” at work or even with friends? No.
The definition of quiet quit is widely debated. Does it mean doing you minimal best, clocking it in, coasting, slacking, doing things other than work during work hours? It’s confusing and controversial.
The definition of the word quit is to leave, typically permanently. As a business owner who hires and works hard to retain team members, I don’t want my employees thinking of themselves as quiet quitters. It feels like a mentality – one foot out the door. And while the phrase quiet quit may not mean uncommitted, it has that connotation, so why use it?
If anything has become clear in the last almost-three years, it’s that many people want a different life. Many of us discovered that we enjoy being home, don’t want to commute long distances, travel for work, or miss family and social events because our jobs require it. So, let’s talk about that at work.
Employees – find the words to tell your boss what you need rather than labeling yourself with a controversial and confusing descriptor. Managers, find a way to talk with employees about what they need to be satisfied and stay in a job.
Employees and managers are often uncomfortable talking about the things that matter personally. Employees are often afraid to say what they need, for fear of being sidelined or fired. Managers are often afraid to raise the subject of what employees really need for fear of not being able to meet those needs. So, employees quiet quit and managers quietly hope for the best.
How about doing this instead – managers and employees meet individually, virtually, or in-person, every few weeks. Make a work-life check in a regular part of the conversation. Put the topic on the agenda to normalize the discussion and make talking about how work impacts personal an expected part of the conversation. Then start the discussion with something like, “I want us to be able to talk about how work fits in and supports your desired personal life. I want this job to support the vision you have for your life. I may not always be able to give you want, but I certainly can’t if I don’t know what those needs are.”
The world has changed, we have changed, and our needs have changed. We need to be able to talk about those changes without hesitation, worry, and fear. Instead of quiet quitting, schedule a conversation and open the discussion with something like, “I really enjoy my work here. There are a few things I’m realizing I need. Can we talk about it?”
Want to spend less time managing performance issues? Hire the right people. The right people make everything work. The wrong people drain your time, patience, and resources.
Instead of spending 60-90 minutes doing multiple interviews, which tell you little, give candidates a chance to experience the job, and see how they do.
I used to conduct thorough interviews after screening candidates via phone. I’d ask a lot of questions, and I still hired the wrong people. And as a result, we’ve changed our hiring practices at Candid Culture. We no longer do traditional interviews after phone screens. Instead, after conducting a phone screen, we give candidates about an hour to do parts of the job. Then we decide if we want to talk with them further.
Too many companies spend too much time interviewing candidates they won’t hire. You might have multiple employees interview a candidate. It’s not uncommon for candidates to meet seven or eight people and spend multiple days interviewing. The ultimate decision maker often interviews the person last, cuts the candidate, and thus wasted existing employees’ and the candidate’s time. If you want your employees to be involved in the hiring process, have them interview only the candidates the decision maker would be willing to hire. Why waste everyone’s time?
Here Are Seven Interviewing Techniques to Make Better Hiring Decisions:
Interviewing Techniques Number One: Consider hiring a recruiting firm to source and screen candidates. Reading 100 resumes is likely not how you want to spend your time.
Interviewing Techniques Number Two: If you choose not to outsource recruiting, create a few steps for candidates to follow when applying for a job with your company to weed out the people who aren’t serious. It’s better to see 20 resumes from serious candidates than 100 resumes from candidates who potentially aren’t really interested in your company.
Interviewing Techniques Number Three: If you’re sourcing and screening your own candidates, conduct thorough phone screens. Assess culture fit and candidates’ ability to do the job, and eliminate candidates who don’t meet your criteria.
Interviewing Techniques Number Four: After conducting phone screens, schedule interviews with the candidates you’re interested in. Tell candidates they’ll be participating in a practical interview during which they’ll get to do parts of the job, so they can see if they’ll enjoy the work.
Interviewing Techniques Number Five: Have candidates do some work, observe them and/or the work they produce, and provide some positive and improvement feedback. If, after observing candidates do some work, you think they can do the job, and the candidate accepted your feedback without becoming defensive, conduct an in-person interview. If you don’t think they can do the job or were not open to feedback, eliminate the candidate.
During interviews, I screen for a candidate’s willingness to accept coaching and feedback. People who aren’t coachable or open to feedback are exhausting and difficult to work with.
Interviewing Techniques Number Six: If you’re interested in a candidate after both the practical and in-person, video or phone interview, conduct detailed reference checks. Never, ever skip the reference check.
Interviewing Techniques Number Seven: Lastly, if you’re going to extend an offer, ask your finalists to spend a day or half a day job shadowing. Job shadowing virtually is trickier than in person, but with some creativity, it can be done. Candidates and employers are on their best behavior during an interview and become more relaxed outside of the traditional interview. You want candidates to get a feeling for what it’s really like to work in your organization. Culture fit is the hardest thing for candidates and hiring managers to predict. Job shadowing helps.
Slow down your interviewing, be more thorough, and make better hiring decisions.
Every time I ignore the red flags I see when interviewing a candidate, or when I feel an employee is struggling, or a project is off track, I pay the price. Every single time.
You interview a candidate who has had six jobs in the last year. You think, “Maybe this one will work out.” No it won’t. Move on. You haven’t gotten an update from a project team in over a month. You think, “This group is typically reliable. Things are probably fine.” Check in. Even the most diligent employees need accountability and attention.
They call them red flags for a reason. If you suspect a problem, there likely is one. Don’t just wait and ‘see how things go.’ Make a hard decision, get more information, or get involved. Wait and see is often a recipe for disaster.
Sometimes we don’t get involved because we don’t have the time or want to focus on other things. Other times we just don’t trust or listen to our gut.
Here are a six steps you can take to help listen to yourself and ensure you don’t overlook or ignore red flags:
1. Become very clear about your desired outcome. Decide what you want.
2. Eliminate distractions. Get quiet, aka, still your mind.
3. Think about the situation at hand. Weigh the facts and your options.
4. Decide without belaboring.
5. Act on your decision.
6. Don’t look back. Your initial decision is usually the right one.
Trusting and listening to ourselves can be hard. Perhaps it’s the fear of making a mistake or being wrong. Chances are you’re right. So pay attention to the red flags, trust yourself, and listen to your gut.
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