Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Different Interview Technique

Have you ever sat back and thought about the top 10 or 15 personal accomplishments in your life. This was an interesting exercise introduced to me recently by an executive recruiter. At first you recall the big projects, promotions and awards, and your life's milestones like graduations, weddings or children (if you have any) and many other major events.

But these must all be set aside. The list should include achievements you made alone. Individual projects, special missions or personal efforts you set out to do and successfully completed. It took me a while to wander through the archives in the recesses of my mind and identify the kind of examples being sought. Many significant personal goals were on my list, everything  from setting my sites on a BMW in 1982 to deciding last July to write a daily column.

When I was very young, I would design and build my own toys. For example, I made a "garage" out of clay with ramps and working doors large enough to house my matchbox collection. As a teen, I enjoyed the challenge of assembling household appliances like swing sets or lawn sweepers.

While still in college, I was asked to deliver a presentation on software I was writing. The audience was a group of individuals who were directors of computing facilities at some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. As a partner in a small consulting firm, I stared down a client and closed a deal, which meant we stayed in business a little longer.

When virtually everyone at the company told me the Chairman and CEO would never send his own email, I was the proud recipient of his first electronic message after only a few private tutoring sessions.

Our discussion lasted well over an hour and we didn't get to every item. It was a very different and extremely innovative approach, unlike any interview I had ever been on before. The questions were all about how these goals were achieved, the motivation behind them and the source of the satisfaction derived.

My fear was that the outcome of the evaluation would be a need for quiet, rest and large amounts of medication. However, it turned out much better. It enabled the recruiter to understand what makes me tick. It allowed him to assess how well I would fit into a specific role, the team and the organization.

While we cannot discount entirely the skills needed to manage people, process and technology, it was refreshing to be evaluated on much more human qualities for a change.

Captain Joe

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