“The most import decisions that businesspeople make are not what decisions, but who decisions.”  Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

If you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away. The right people don’t need to be tightly managed or fired up; they will be self-motivated by the inner drive to produce the best results and to be part of creating something great.

Jim Collins, Author of Good to Great

Your success rate as a manager is 90% the result of how good you are at hiring the people around you.

We define an A Player this way: a candidate who has at least a 90% chance of achieving a set of outcomes that only the top 10% of possible candidates could achieve.

Screening Interview Guide:

What are your career goals?  (This question is powerful because it allows you to hear about a candidate’s goals and passions before you taint the discussion with your comments.)

What are you really good at professionally? (push for 6-10 strengths with specific examples)

What are you not good at or not interested in doing professionally? (Push for 5-8 areas where a person falls short, lacks interest, or doesn’t want to operate).

Who were your last five bosses, and how will they each rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we talk to them?  (You are looking for lots of 8’s, 9’s, and 10’s.  A players are highly valued by their bosses.  B and C players often are not).

Top-grading Interview Guide (ask the following set of questions for each relevant job in chronological order)

What were you hired to do?

What accomplishments are you most proud of?  (A players tend to talk about outcomes linked to expectations.  B and C players talk generally about events, people they met, or aspects of the job they liked without ever getting into results)

What were some low points during that job?  Reframe the question over and over until the candidate gets the message.  “What went really wrong?  What was your biggest mistake?  What would you have done differently?  What part of the job did you not like?  In what ways were your peers stronger than you?

What was your boss’s name?  How do you spell that? (Send a strong message that you are going to call that person).

What was it like working with him/her?

What will he/she tell me were your biggest strengths and areas for improvement?

Why did you leave that job?  (A players perform well and are pulled into bigger opportunities.  B and C players are often pushed out).

Management level hires:

How would you rate the team you inherited on an A, B, C scale?

When we speak with members of your team, what will they say were your biggest strengths and weaknesses as a manger?

What changes did you make?

Did you hire anybody?

Did you fire anybody?

How would you rate the team when you left it on an A, B, C scale?  (Do they accept the hand they have been dealt when they inherit a new team, or do they make changes to get a better hand?  What changes do they make?  How long does it take?)

When we speak with members of your team, what will they say were your biggest strengths and weaknesses as a manger?

Sales Interview Questions:

Please describe your company’s unique value proposition.

Please describe your major competitors’ value proposition.

Please explain the top 3 objections you must overcome to close sales and how you overcome them.

Please describe what you like and dislike about your boss.

What were your greatest failures, mistakes and lessons learned in your previous job?

What were your boss’s strengths and weaknesses from your perspective?

What do you read?

Has your compensation increased ever year in sales?  Why or why not?

Have you gotten any sort of systematic feedback (360 degree feedback) from clients, peers, supervisors?  If so, what did you learn?

How do you know if an accomplishment a person tells you about is great, good, okay, or lousy?  Use the three P’s.

How did your performance compare to the previous year’s performance?

How did your performance compare to the plan?

How did your performance compare to that of peers?

People who perform well are generally pulled to greater opportunities.  People who perform poorly are often pushed out of their jobs.  Do not hire anybody who has been pushed out of 20% or more of their jobs.

Stop at the stop signs.  Watch for shifts in body language and other inconsistencies.  An entire science has evolved to tell when people are lying.   The biggest indicator, as it turns out, is when you see or hear inconsistencies.  If someone says, “We did great in that role,” while shifting in his chair, looking down, and covering his mouth.  When you see that, slam on the brakes, get curious, and see just how “great” he actually did.  There is probably more to the story than he wants you to know.  Ask What? How? And tell me more questions.

There are 3 things you have to do to have successful reference interviews:

Pick the right references.  Don’t just use the reference list the candidate gives you.

Ask the candidate to contact the references to set up the calls.

Conduct at least 4 reference interviews personally including; past bosses, peers, customers and subordinates.

Reference Interview Guide:

In what context did you work with the person?

What were the person’s biggest strengths?

What were the person’s biggest areas for improvement back then?

How would you rate his/her overall performance in that job on a 1-10 scale?  What about his or her performance causes you to give that rating?  (Remember that a 6 is really a 2.  You are looking for candidates who consistently get ratings of 8,9,10).

The person mentioned that he/she struggled with ____ in that job.  Can you tell me more about that?

The person mentioned that you might say he was ____.  Can you tell me more about that?

Nobody will come back to you to say that somebody is awful.  But if they just confirm dates of employment, that is a bad sign.  If somebody really thinks that a person is good, they’re going to do more than that.