Q. What questions do you find are helpful for getting to the candidate's motivation and cultural fit?
One question that I believe addresses these issues is centered around understanding the candidate's drive or initiative. Granted there are others, but I think this particular one deals with both.
Just about all jobs require some level of initiative. Most managers want a person that is willing to take initiative in their job. It is a lot easier to hold someone back than it is to try and push them forward. We believe all top talent is self-motivated and will take initiative.
The question I like to ask candidates is, “Can you give me an example in your current or last position where you demonstrated high initiative?” or “Can you give me an example in your current or last position where you did something you weren't required or asked to do, but you did it because you believed it needed to be done?” These are excellent phone interviewing questions.
Depending on the level of the person the answer will vary. I wouldn't expect that same initiative from a truck driver as I would a VP level person. It also deals with the speed of one's culture. After hearing the answer you might think this is high initiative or you might think, “If that is high initiative in their organization, in ours that would be considered standing still.” Regardless of the answer, you'll know whether or not they demonstrate this trait at the right level for your position and your organization.
Finally, I find this to be one of the best phone interviewing questions. If the candidate can't provide an example of initiative or doesn't meet the standard you are seeking, do you really need to bring them in for an interview?
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I welcome your thoughts and comments.