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Three Questions Hiring Managers Need to Ask


OK, you have heard it time and time again. Read it in the HR Manual, seen it on LinkedIn and been asked every time you interview for a new position:


“What are your three strengths and what are you three weaknesses?”


Isn't that about the dumbest question that could be asked? I mean, give me a break, should you tell the hiring manager that you hate being told what to do, that you love to surf the net instead of working when the task at hand bores you to death? Who in their right mind would actually describe their weaknesses?


What really happens is that the so called 'weaknesses' become, “I hate to be late on a project deliverable.” or “I get impatient with others who don't deliver their work on time.”. These and other 'weaknesses' are just a wast of breath. So is the question. This is a very subjective and tension creating subject. The interviewer is placing the interviewee in an impossible situation, causing stress and doing little to determine future job/project performance.


What the interviewing manager needs to ask is:


How do you believe you can contribute to the bottom line and success of the company?”


How do you believe you can assist the company with innovative ideas and project deliverables that will enhance the profitability of the company?”


How will your efforts make your manager's job easier and contribute to project success?”


This is, after all, what the job is all about. Making money for the company. The manager wants team players who will help him succeed. No one really cares about weaknesses; they will be demonstrated soon enough after the candidate is hired and starts work.


Technical skills should have been reviewed in advance, based on CV screening (by the HR Department, a resume parsing program or the recruiter submitting the applicant). No one can really tell how someone will perform in a technical role until they attempt to complete the task. This is the role of quality assurance, project supervision and management to make the assessment.


The same goes for inter-personal skills, drive, focus and ability to work with others. All these things can only be assessed after the person begins to interact with peers, subordinates and management.


For the interviewee, it is a different case. Many will be prepared, expecting to be asked this standard question. Responding to the suggested questions may shake up the interviewee, but the reaction to this and ability to respond in a succinct manner will be a strong indication of the candidates ability to handle stressful situations, deal with pressure to solve problems and in general deal with unexpected business situations.


If the candidate is prepared and knows something about the company and has an idea of what his job duties will be, based on a scope & objective statement in the recruitment letter/advert or other transmittal, the response will be revealing. It may even be constructive and lay a foundation for the future work assignments to come.


Too many recruitment advertisements from 'headhunters' and HR Departments are full of 'boilerplate' buzzwords. It makes no sense most of the time. Often skills and requirements overlap multiple functions that few, if anyone, could possibly competently perform. The laundry list of many 'job orders' more closely describe either Einstein or Superman. Little or no information defining the scope or objective of the job to be filled is presented. In fact, many job orders are placed just to fill seats or troll for talent and are not well thought out or defined.


Hiring managers need to spend more time defining the duties and expectations for a position. Defining the scope and objectives for a position (whether for contract worker, Free Agent, or W2) is the basis, or should be, for the addition of a working body. Of course obtaining a definitive scope definition of the work expectations, may be difficult to obtain if the line managers don't have a good understanding of their own responsibilities.


Failure to be able to succinctly define work objectives in a scope and objectives document, whether for a job order or for a work assignment is a major problem with many companies. Poor understanding of the expectations of the work to be performed, usually results in delivery of something other than what may have been expected. This miss-communication is the basic cause of project failures; no matter what the industry, discipline or environment.


Maybe hiring companies should first ask the three questions of the managers who are seeking to add/replace staff positions. The resulting answers from existing employees may indeed provide the company's senior management an indication of how well prepared and focused their employees truly are.


How many of the current management team can write a definitive scope and objectives statement about their current responsibilities? Are they just filling seats? Filling time between coffee and lunch breaks? Or are they so swamped with fighting fires and alligators, that they forgot to attach the fire hose or drain the swamp? Have they lost sight of the scope and objectives? Maybe these three questions need to be repeatedly asked of every employee, from the President down to the newest/lowermost employee:


How do you contribute to the bottom line and success of the company?”


What innovative ideas and project deliverables have you delivered that enhance the profitability of the company?”


How do your efforts make your manager's job easier and contribute to project success?”