If you’re in a position of hiring personnel or looking to contract someone’s services for your business, what questions do you ask during the interview process?
I know this is tricky; with HR policy and legal issues some questions cannot be asked. Yet two questions I believe are the most important but overlooked is asking; what is it You (the potential hire) want to achieve in your career, and how far do you want to climb up that corporate ladder?
It’s important to understand employees’ goals to ensure they are in line with yours. Many fail to find out the true aspirations of the person sitting in front of them. Do they want to grow? Are they there to help you reach your goals?
For example, when I was offered a job with a construction supply company as a sales representative, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to achieve in my career. Climbing the corporate ladder was not on my radar. I accepted the position because of the benefits and potential commissions I could make.
I was one of less than five women in Florida at that time in this field. I sold erosion control, soil stabilization, and water and sewer products. Sounds really glamorous doesn’t it? I loved it, I had fun and made a lot of money.
Within six months I surpassed my sales goals and beat out two men as the top sales person two years in a row. My Sales Manager was so impressed with my achievements he sat me down to explore my next step. Then he popped the question…..
“Rena where do you see yourself in five years?” For the first time in my life I didn’t know what to say. I had never been asked this before. I had just received my bonus check for exceeding my sales goals and with a cocky smirked I blurted “Doing your job” Then the reply I never expected: “Good because I want to buy the company, and I want you to be my successor.”
He began to lay out a five year game plan for me; continued sales training with added courses in communication and management. He was excited for us; I on the other hand was mortified at the thought of moving into management. Between you and me I preferred sales over management.
The problem; he didn’t ask if I was really willing to train and take on the role of management. Just because I said it, I didn’t mean it. For the men reading this, when you ask a woman if we are OK and we say “FINE”, do we really mean fine? Of course not.
He wanted me as his successor, and he assumed that I wanted his job. He heard what he wanted to hear and did not take the conversation any further. This was his goal for me and the company, it wasn’t mine.
Had he struck up the conversation about my hobbies and interests, he would have found out that I loved to travel, ride motorcycles and really was not determined to have children. I was a free spirit with no ties and having a blast. I didn’t want any responsibilities personally or professionally that would strap me down.
At the time I felt management was a bit of a babysitting job. A management role was more responsibility than I cared to take on, and I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk. I loved the freedom I had as a Sales Rep. My job was selling making lots of money, and that’s the way I wanted to keep it.
Within a few years my manager left the company and started his own. He offered me a management position but I refused and told him I would come on board as a Sales Rep. I continued in sales for many years until the economy tanked in 2007. People change and so do goals, and I became the owner of my own company.
Action Step: Check with HR what questions can be asked and which ones you should avoid. You want to find out if they are the right person to help you achieve your goals, or are they just there to collect a paycheck.
Try to avoid taking someone at face value when they say something. Conversations must be taken deeper to really evaluate their aspirations.
Once you hire someone build meaningful relationships, and have those heart to heart conversations occasionally. We should do this with loved ones too. As time goes by and life presents other opportunities, we change and so do our goals.
Do you want people who are there just to collect a paycheck, or do you want people who are willing to grow and develop into leaders that can help you grow too?