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The Truth Serum for Job Interviews

Job interviews are very predictable.  The candidate arrives beaming with smiles and optimism, you ask a bunch of generic questions, and you part ways convinced you found your next Superstar employee.  Not so fast, my friend.

Job candidates always look their best at interviews—they say all the right things and present professionally.  But after she’s hired, you begin to wonder what happened to the person you interviewed.  Your new employee shows up late, gossips about co-employees and even bad mouths you! Sooner or later, you have to fire the “Superstar” employee and start the hiring process from scratch…and that really sucks!

Defining Your Perfect Employee

The best law firms have a culture with clearly defined virtues for their employees.  The best law firms don’t hide the culture and virtues of their firm—they are very explicit about them and share them with their clients, peers and Facebook friends.

The best law firms strive to attract employees who are hungry, humble and have people smarts. It’s a bonus if the new employee has technical skills, but you shouldn’t budge an inch on the three virtues of your “ideal team players”. Okay, great, but how can you tell whether a job candidate is a fit for the culture and virtues of your law firm?

Questions for the Humble

A humble employee lacks ego, easily admits her mistakes and shares credit for team accomplishments.  A humble employee emphasizes the team, and rarely seeks self-promotion or bragging rights. Humility is the most important virtue for a team player.

“Tell me about the most important accomplishments of your career?”

Look for more mentions of “we” than “I”.  Does the candidate talk about team accomplishments or her individual success?

“What was the most embarrassing moment in your career? Or the biggest failure?”

Humble people are comfortable with their imperfections and more willing to admit their failures and mistakes.

“How did you handle that embarrassment or failure?”

Look for how she accepted responsibility for her mistake and learned from it.

“What is your greatest weakness?”

Candidates who present their greatest weakness as a strength (“I work too hard”) are afraid to admit their weaknesses.  The key is not what the answer is, but that the candidate is not afraid of admitting something that is real.

“Tell me about someone who is better than you in an area that really matters to you.”

Find out if the candidate has a genuine appreciation for skills that they do not possess. Humble persons are more willing to admit their admiration for others.

Questions for the Hungry

A hungry employee goes above and beyond what is required. A hungry employee does not gripe about work and does not hesitate to accept work that technically does not fit her job description.  A hungry employee will often work outside of office hours, i.e., weekends and after 5 p.m.

 “What is the hardest you’ve ever worked on something in your life?”

Look for sacrifices made by the candidate and whether she is grateful for the sacrifice and hard work.

“What do you do when you’re not working?”

Be on the watch for persons with too many hobbies—a long list of hobbies might be a red flag that she is not committed to work.

“What kinds of hours do you usually work?”

Hard working people do not work nine to five and some work bring home work. If a candidate wants to work strictly from nine to five and seeks balance in her life, she may not be hungry.

Questions for the Smart

A smart employee has self-awareness and understands how her actions impact others.  A smart employee can read your mind and know what you want before you ask.

“How would you describe your personality?”

Smart people are introspective and have a good sense of who they are.  Smart people talk about their strengths and weaknesses.

“What do you do that others in your personal life might find annoying?”

Smart people have a better awareness of the things they do that annoy others.

“What kind of people annoy you the most, and how do you deal with them?”

Smart people know how to deal with difficult people and exercise self-control.

The questions are derived from Patrick Lencioni’s excellent book, “The Ideal Team Player”.

photo credit: Women In Tech – 83 via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.