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What good leaders ask in a recruitment interview

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Recruiting talent which fits the business needs is one of the leader’s most important tasks. Good leaders are magnets of talent. When meeting with a candidate in a recruitment interview, they will focus on this key question: What is the candidate’s most important quality and how would this make a real difference to the business?

What achievement are you most proud of?

Start every interview with this question. Ideally, the answer should be work-related, but it can also come from personal life. Then, let the candidate explain in detail how exactly he made it happen.

Focusing on the candidate’s biggest success will create a constructive atmosphere for the interview. But there is a deeper reason: it is about finding out the quality that made the candidate succeed, and how exactly they applied it.

What is the candidate’s core quality?

When you ask your candidates about success, you are looking to identify their one and most important core quality.

Most leaders will ask for qualities and strengths in an interview. But in many cases, there will be just too many to bring up and these will stay abstract or vague as they will not directly be connected to big achievements and successes.

Start with the assumption that every candidate has a core quality which makes him or her really stand out. It is not easy to recognise your own core quality because when we rely on it, things usually go so easily that it goes unnoticed. It is a special gift to explore this together with another person.

… and how can it make a difference to the business?

In the second part of the interview, a good leader will explore how this core quality fits the company’s needs. How will this core quality make a significant difference in the development of our business?

Describe the challenges your business is facing and ask your candidate how he would address them. What support does he need in order to be successful?

In summary, a purposeful interview is really about discovering the core quality of the candidate and understanding how this links to the business’s key development needs.

Or, as management guru Peter Drucker put it:

“What can the candidate and no one else do which, if done really well, would make a real difference to this company?” 

About the author:

Bertram Valentin has over 20 years of leadership experience. As its CEO, he grew the German branch of a Scottish financial services provider from a startup to a well-respected provider with half a million customers and 400 employees. Bertram Valentin studied mathematics and earned an MBA from INSEAD. He has been a freelance executive coach and consultant since 2012.

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