The One Blockbuster Hiring Question

If you could ask a candidate for hire only one question, for any job from entry clerk to CEO, what would be the most powerful, most revealing question? I should know — I’ve written 6 books on hiring, trained tens of thousands of managers in the most effective interviewing techniques, and I’ve conducted over 6,000 five-hour interviews of candidates for top jobs. I’ve been asked many times: “Brad, what’s the one best, most revealing question?”

There are 3 parts to my answer. First, to get the most revealing answer you have to inject all candidates with a truth motivator. Before interviewing anyone, always tell them a final step in hiring is for them to arrange reference calls with their managers. When candidates realize THEY will have to arrange reference calls with bosses, two things happen:

  1. The poor performers drop out, knowing they’d never get their managers to talk to you, and
  2. The high performers will be honest and give you accurate answers.

Second, ask these questions for all jobs. Do a Topgrading Interview, a chronological interview covering every job. And for every job, ask candidates what they did and how they did – their successes and failures, how they liked the job, and about their manager:

  • Who was your manager? Pat Smith?
  • What did you like and dislike about reporting to Pat?

That question is super valuable. If you’re hiring, of course you’ll want to know what your candidates liked and disliked about their bosses. And finally, here’s the one blockbuster question:

  • What is your best guess, assuming you’ll arrange a call with Pat, as to how she will rate your overall performance on a scale of Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor?

Do this and I promise you’ll get accurate guesses, their managers will rate them as they predicted, and you will avoid costly mis-hires.

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