Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 28, 2011 2:37 PM

Two Great Questions

Whether you're about to interview someone for a job or heading out to a networking dinner...

Here are two questions about business that will either take someone completely off guard or engage you - head on - in a deep and fascinating conversation. Personally, I'm not involved in the HR function at Twist Image. I have always struggled with the interview process. Being an entrepreneur, I have always struggled with the minutia of details that come with negotiating an employment package. Also, I'm often let down by how unprepared so many candidates are when they come in for an interview... and don't even get me started on things like writing skills, punctuation, grammar and general social skills.

Two great business questions:

  1. What is the coolest thing that you have seen in the past little while? It actually surprised me to see that Marissa Mayer (Vice President of Location and Local Services) from Google asks a very similar questions during her interviews for Googlers (more on that here: Marissa Mayer, Google's "De Niro," Reveals What She Asks Job Candidates). This question really demonstrates both how closely someone pays attention to what's going on around them, but it can also frame what their true passions are. If you're interviewing someone for a job at a marketing agency and suddenly they're talking about the recent reboot of DC Comics or the new Amazon Price Check app, you are looking at two very different candidates. It's also a great conversation starter at dinner parties. I've actually seen people whip out their smartphones and start taking intense notes as the conversation takes hold.
  2. What do you read to keep up to date on the industry? Education is everything. Reading is everything. I don't expect everyone to write, but you have to - at the very least - be following what's going on in your industry to really understand both your own place in it, and where everything is heading. This is also a leading question because if someone responds with, "I don't really have time to read..." or "I read a lot of newspapers" (without being more specific about which ones or which journalists), it is a major red flag. It's also a great questions because it can take you down a fascinating road of discovery that twists with the types of media they prefer to read (magazines, newspapers, books, websites, Blogs) and turns at how they prefer to read (e-reader, smartphones, paper, etc...) then twists again when asking about who their favorite content creators are (authors, journalists, Bloggers, etc...). It's another one of those questions that will have you looking for something to take notes on.

The truth.

I heard from a recruiter that over seventy percent of resumes and/or the people who go for interviews either embellish or lie. Even if you have decided on a candidate and ask them for some references, who do you think they're going to come back with? Someone who is going to say something negative about them? I prefer the questions above because you can't run and you can't hide from the answers. You also can't really prep for them. You have to be both sharp and ready for a conversation. Plus, if you can't answer them, what does it say about you and your abilities... not the abilities to do the work, but your own, personal development, abilities?

What are some of the best business questions you love to ask... or ones that you have heard?

By Mitch Joel