Finding the right person to be your virtual assistant or operations manager goes beyond scrutinizing resumes and putting in calls to references. If you want to hire someone who can help you elevate your business, you have to focus most of your attention on the interview process—and you’ll need to ask smart questions. “Most people tend to ask generic questions in interviews, like ‘Tell me about your past experience,’” reveals Claudia Miller, a career coach and workplace expert. “But boilerplate queries like that won't tell you how reliable, gritty, high-performing or innovative a potential candidate may be. ”
With the average cost of a bad hire being almost $15,000, according to CareerBuilder, it pays to spend time making the right choice. Miller gave me her best advice on finding freelancers, contractors and employees who can not only do the job well, but also excel. Drawing from her experience helping hundreds of clients stand out from the crowd in their job interviews, she offered up these four insightful questions to help employers avoid a bad hire and identify the best of the best.
1. When Was The Last Time You Failed At A Project?
Most interviewers ask questions about success, but focusing on a failure is far more revealing. When your interviewee starts discussing a failure, pay attention to how they describe that setback. “Someone who is able to explain what they learned as a result of a failure will be your best employee,” says Miller. Whether they realized they didn’t create an accurate timeline for a project or that they didn’t ask a client enough questions, as long as they figured out a better process for the next time, that shows they have a growth mindset. “People with growth mindsets tend to be the best employees,” explains Miller. “People with fixed mindsets will try to avoid failure so they won’t extend themselves at work.”
If a candidate says they’ve never failed at a project, that tells you they probably never tried something new or took any risks, Miller says. They just stick to what they know. As entrepreneurs like Jimmy John Shark, it is not only important to find someone who can execute the job well, but also someone who is able to expand and innovate in the role. Which brings us to the next question.
2. Can You Tell Me About A Time When You Had To Adapt To Meet A Goal?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us how important it is not only for a business to adapt, but also for individual employees to do so. “At the rate our world is advancing, you’ll appreciate it when your staff is willing to learn new skills and pivot with changing demands,” says Miller. “In a growing company, roles and responsibilities tend to shift for the business to stay relevant and competitive.”
By hiring a candidate who has strong adaptability skills, you will not only be able to benefit from their work, but you can also give them opportunities to grow within your company. The better a candidate is able to relay to you that they can adapt to various scenarios, the better they will be able to respond to unexpected situations at your company.
3. Can You Tell Me About The Last Time You Invested In Yourself?
“A person who continually invests in themselves will outperform in the long run,” predicts Miller. “They are constantly looking for opportunities to thrive and perform to the best of their abilities.” That doesn’t mean they need to spend thousands every month as part of a mastermind or working with an expensive coach. You can invest in yourself using free resources whether you get a book from the library or watch a Netflix educational series.
“Investing in yourself is following thought leaders on social media and actually reading their posts, it’s getting free certifications from Google and Facebook or attending online workshops,” says Miller. “Money is never an obstacle to investing in yourself.”
4. Would You Consider Yourself A Workaholic?
While we all appreciate hard workers, Miller says to be mindful when a person describes themselves as a “workaholic.” “A common quality in workaholics is that they tend to focus on how much they work, and not by how much value their work brings to you,” says Miller. “We may find that workaholics need extra support in prioritizing their work and managing their time.” By asking this question about how they see themselves, you can determine whether the candidate wears this title as a badge of honor or if they recognize its pitfalls.
Once you’ve selected your candidate and made an offer, pay attention to whether or not they try to negotiate their salary. Surprise, negotiating is a good thing! “Negotiating their salary means they see value in themselves,” says Miller. “It shows that they have the confidence to advocate for their ideas and themselves. And at the end of the day, you can trust that if a candidate negotiates for themselves, they can do the same for your company, too.”