Post written by Meredith Xavier
Whether you are a business owner or manager, it is guaranteed that you have done your fair share of interviews. The process alone is daunting, between shuffling through hundreds of often unqualified candidates and spending hours narrowing it down to the 10 or 20 resumes that are worthy of an interview. Once you have those few in hand, the real qualification process begins.
I have personally done over 100 interviews since I started my business and have enjoyed very few of them. I found that I wasn’t really getting to the core of the applicant even after the second or third interview. The questions I was asking were too generic: “Why do you want to work here?” “What strengths can you bring to our business?”
I found that I hired individuals that I have now coined as “professional interviewers.” They know all of the right answers, they know what you want to hear, and once they get in the door, they fail in the capacity for which they were hired.
Something had to give, and it turns out it was me. I was the problem. I loathed the interview process and therefore didn’t challenge myself to throw the candidate off, properly question them and really get to the core of their competencies. That is when I decided it was time to make things uncomfortable — for me and for them. I realized, as a marketing and public relations agency owner, there was one question I wasn’t asking that was the most essential and critical determination of a candidate’s capability:”What do you know about me and the company?”
It is now always the first interview question and the most essential of the entire interview. Why you ask? Let’s break it down:
It shows preparation. We live in a world where information is constantly at our fingertips, so there is absolutely no excuse that any candidate should ever walk in the room and not know as much as possible about you and your business. A quick Google search of your social media outlets and LinkedIn page would be enough to answer this question. I once had a candidate walk through my door and immediately say, “Wow, you have red hair, I wasn’t expecting that!” All I heard was, “I didn’t take a single second to Google you!”
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It shows initiative. Research is key in every industry. Taking the time to thoroughly research the person conducting the interview not only shows initiative but a basic understanding of the importance of being prepared. Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so what better way to make a lasting impression on the person interviewing you than talking about their resume and taking a genuine interest in their career? After all, a serious candidate is interviewing to become a part of your company and should have taken the time to learn as much about it as possible before stepping foot in the door.
It shows they want the job. If the candidate isn’t serious, I have no desire to waste my time or theirs. If they can’t name a single client or fact about my company, the interview is over. Never apologize for ending an interview after one question. If they didn’t come prepared to get a job, can you imagine how apathetic they will be once they actually have one?
This one question has reshaped my interview process and, in turn, has resulted in hiring talent that has the core competencies and drive that I have always been after. Two candidates may match up on paper, but it is the one that really wants it who will make our payroll. It has become apparent over the years that it isn’t the smartest one in the room that becomes the most successful but the one who wants it more than anyone else and is willing to work for it.
A version of this article appears in https://www.forbes.com