Why you need to stop Interviewing the Traditional way

My lessons from months of interviewing for the DECA U BoD

Key Takeaway: Competencies are easy to find, someone to fight with you isn’t.

Throughout this post I’ll be talking about my process of building out the DECA U Board of Directors, and offering a loose guide on how to recruit your own team; I wish I had this when I started.

After a quick search, all interview tips gave me long lists of either generic, or completely irrelevant questions for the position I was recruiting for. I don’t care how many golf balls you think can fit in a school bus I care about how you’ll work with me, and how you will execute.

Note: DECA U’s Board is a one year, volunteer based term. I have no experience hiring for full time positions; but believe this post can be used as a guide for school clubs and extracurricular organizations

DECA U BoD 2016–17. From Left to Right: Andres Perez-Villarino, Jake Jardine, Wendy Wei, Sam MacDougall, Katie Rieger, Michelle Duong. Not pictured: Landon Tulk, Shayla Stausgaard.

My recruiting take-aways

Ask the right questions

One of the most overlooked crafts: the art of questions. A question can derail a conversation, or open endless possibilities. Give you the exact information you needed, or lead you in the entirely wrong direction.

Keep questions open ended, and allow the applicant to elaborate. I commonly found myself pausing after the applicant answered a question, prompting them to elaborate a little bit more. Don’t be afraid to say “Tell me more about..” or “Can you walk me through how…”

My Interview Structure

I probably spent more time crafting questions than I did asking them. This outline evolved and got more refined interview after interview; but the goal stayed the same:

I wanted to have a real conversation, that I could learn from. Not Q&A Type interview.

My interview process looked like this:

  1. Find out who you’re talking to (5–10 minutes). This let me confirm or deny what I could find out through lurking Facebook/twitter/LinkedIn. Take this time to learn about past experiences, and question how they were relevant for your team. This is also a great time to ask yourself: Would I be able to work with this person for a year? Focus on personality.
  2. Discover their ‘why’ (10–15 Minutes). To me, this is the most important part of the interview. I don’t care what you can do, I care about why you do it. In Stephen Pressfield’s The War on Art he claims the greatest artists and professionals would continue their calling, even if they were the last person on this planet. Is the person you’re interviewing interested in forwarding your organization, or mining for resume gold. Focus on motivation.
  3. Can they do the work? (~5 Minutes). This is generally an easy question for people to answer if they are competent, and very difficult if they are not. Inspired by Howard Schultz, I try to ‘hire people smarter than myself’. When asking questions, prod for metrics. If they can’t back up their claims, I personally consider them irrelevant. Applying for partnership? How much have they raised in the past. Applying for chapter development? Give me a three step, concrete plan on the spot. Focus on past experiences, and past success — metrics, metrics, metrics.
  4. What book has had the biggest impact on your life? (~2 Minutes). This question helped me not only build my to-read list, but allowed me to learn a lot about the person I was interviewing. This is a great chance to learn more about the core of this applicants being. I encourage you to ask this question not only to people you’re interviewing, but also your friends; I promise you’ll learn something about your friend you didn’t know before. Focus on ‘heart’.

Notice how competencies is the smallest category? I like to hire passionate autodidacts. Figure out what this person does on a daily basis to further educate themselves. What blogs do they follow, podcasts do they listen to etc.

Determine if you’re questioning competency or commitment

Several times during interviewing I noticed myself getting frustrated. I recall even saying to an applicant ‘okay, I believe you. You’re competent. Now let’s talk about…’ and pushing the conversation elsewhere.

(Generally) I don’t question competency, I question commitment.

Cal Fussman, in his interview with Tim Ferris mentioned a conversation with Dr. Dre: Dre is known to go for 72 hours without sleep working on a ‘passion project’. Now, in interviews, Cal will ask how long someone has worked on a passion project without sleep.

The point I’m trying to make is this: Anyone can do work. Not everyone will internalize it, make it their own and actually change things.

That being said: Some level of proficiency is obviously required. The trend I found out was proficiency was correlated to commitment. The people who are good at what they do tend to love what they do.

Finally, trust your gut.

This goes without being said, but I’m going to say it. Trust your gut. If you’ve been placed in a leadership position, chances are you are there for a reason.

Use your intuition, read between the lines, and trust your gut.

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Twitter: Jake A. Jardine

Linkedin: Jake A. Jardine