As an executive recruiter, I interview a lot of people. An executive recruiter interview is not all that different from one given by Human Resources or hiring authority. We want to find out if a candidate meets the criteria for the position, is open to relocation (if necessary), meets the compensation parameters, and will be a good cultural fit. I’ve tested out numerous interview questions in the 12 years I’ve been a recruiter, but there is one final qualifying question that I keep coming back to, because quite simply, it works.
The questions I ask are designed to efficiently gauge whether a candidate can do the job, is enthusiastic about the job, and will thrive in the organization. I serve as the “gatekeeper” for deciding which candidates are formally presented to a search committee or hiring authority, so the stakes are high. My goal is to make the search committee’s job difficult in selecting which candidates to give final interviews to, and from that shorter list, who to make an offer to. I want it to be a hard decision for them, so I need to identify the highest caliber candidates.
The Best Interview Question
The final qualifying question I ask candidates is this: “We are speaking with several qualified, interested individuals like yourself to determine a final slate of five candidates we will present to the organization’s executive search team committee. Why should you be one of those five?”
It’s not by any means an earth shattering question, and it’s one that candidates should be able to easily answer. However, normally this question is met with a few seconds of silence. Responses run the gamut from “Because this is the next step on my professional career ladder,” to “Because I think outside the box more than most people you will interview,” to “This seems like a very forward-thinking successful organization I would like to be part of.”
These are all fine answers, but unlikely to earn you a spot on the slate of candidates I’m presenting. The best answers passionately address three key points. First, you summarize how your skills match. Second, why you’re enthusiastic about the position. Finally, describe how you’ll fit into the culture. What I’m ultimately looking for, and what catches my attention, is passion.
“This company is in my home town and I am very familiar with it and have always wanted to be a part of the team… here is how I can add value for them.” Or, “I’ve researched this hospital and the management team and feel I could make a very positive contribution to what they are doing in healthcare technology.” Or, “I don’t apply for many jobs, but promised myself if ever a challenging, professionally rewarding opportunity came open with them, I would go after it with everything I have. Here’s why.”
See the difference between these and the earlier answers? We don’t want to present candidates who are looking for a new job; we want to present candidates who see the position as their next professional adventure and also an opportunity to make a difference in the industry and add value for the organization.
If you are a hiring authority, try asking your next candidates why they should move forward in the process — it’s a highly effective question and commonly asked, because it works.
If you are a job seeker, be prepared to answer this question in a way that shows your passion and highlights why you really should be given the chance to compete for the position against a select group of outstanding professionals who also want it. Make sure you’ve done your homework so you can effectively answer why that position, why that organization, why that community, and why now, in a way that shows the value you’ll bring to the organization.
Steve Bennett is VP and Healthcare IT and Cybersecurity with Kirby Partners, an executive search firm in Orlando, Fla. specializing in healthcare IT senior management positions. To learn more about Kirby Partners and executive-level healthcare positions around the country, visit www.kirbypartners.com or connect with them on LinkedIn.