The single most important thing to understand in the hiring interview. Understanding a person’s dreams, goals, passions and the actions they are taking to get there gives us great insight about their character and core values. And learning how the goals have changed over time gives us a clue about their persistence in the face of adversity. If we can learn the truth about their quest and their path of forward motion, what’s been left behind is far less important.
Beyond the transaction of the job and the compensation on offer, the job interview is for understanding how we are going to help each other realize our dreams by working together. So the challenge then isn’t to determine the hard skills, the aptitude, how much or how fast we each can produce. More important is to understand what we care about, what difference we are trying to make and how we plan to get there.
determining if we should do work together…and as a result work together. It’s a time to determine if working together as a team will result in our best work.
Conversely, if the work is already determined, and we’re merely finding a person to do it, we might overlook the opportunity to create something entirely new together…more meaningful work and an experience we haven’t imagined yet. That’s a journey reserved for groups of people who come together because they are aligned in purpose and core values…and that’s when the magic happens.
We (I) want to do work with you because…
A meaningful interview occurs when both sides answer this question with something they have to offer (other than pay, skills and solving an immediate problem)…and when both sides come prepared to walk away when they can’t.
The perfect job interview, where everyone tells the truth, is a rarity. It only happens when both sides are completely secure, neither is going to “win”, and there’s no transaction at stake. At this level it’s not about a “job”. It’s about the alignment of goals and purpose and building trust. It’s less about the work, and more about the culture. Every job interview should be this way. But it’s not.
It’s not because a job is also about solving an immediate problem. Job seekers are solving the problem of paying bills, obtaining experience (so they can earn more to pay more bills) and relieving peer pressure to be successful. Companies need someone to answer the phone, serve a customer, bake cookies and solve math problems. The work is done for now, not later.
But later matters…a lot. Without later, now is irrelevant. Other than mere survival, the present is meaningless without a thought about later. Culture is later brought forward. It’s the version of the future we are working to create today. It’s what gives us and our work purpose. It creates challenge, tension and fear. But it also leads to excitement about the prospect of meaningful change. And it’s the toughest thing to talk about.
The job at hand is important. The work needs to be done. So there needs to be a discussion about that role. More importantly though is how the work is to be done…what’s the posture of everyone in the mix. And that’s defined by culture…so best talk about that first.
Famously and often said…it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Well, not really. The real leverage isn’t in the casual acquaintance. It’s through the trusted connection…the I’ll vouch for her…because I trust her. Trust is earned through shared work, failure and success and being there in the moment when others aren’t watching. These experiences then lead to genuine stories...an inside look into the character and core values of a person. And it’s this insight that is so valuable in sharing confidence for someone.
If receiving a reference first determine how the person giving the referral is related to that individual. If they haven’t had direct, shared experience, please find someone that does.
And if giving a reference, only do so when you throughly understand the context of the next project and the details of the work to be performed. Otherwise it’s virtually worthless information for everyone involved. A reference discussion should benefit the person vouched for as much as the receiving party. The insight gained during that conversation might be more valuable to your co-worker or friend than the interview itself.
And finally, reference letters are shortcuts, an easy method of conveying mostly surface information to a broad audience. They’re kind of like most brand advertising…largely ineffective with no way to measure results.