Insights

Posted on November 13, 2018

Red Flags & Green Lights: Analyzing Interview Answers

Written by JoDee Klinker

The beginning of 2019 is a mere 48 days away. As the weeks dwindle down and December 31 inches closer, the promise of a New Year can provide much-needed excitement and rejuvenation to advisory firms. Perhaps you have already started mapping out what next year will bring – new processes, new clients, new partnerships, etc.

The first quarter of the year also happens to be a popular time to hire new stakeholders. All your amazing initiatives need equally amazing implementers, not to mention the annual budget is a lot less strained come January. Before you jump to get a warm body into an empty seat, however, it’s important to realize that “anyone” can sometimes be much more harmful than “no one.”

The costs of a bad hire are numerous. Recruiting firms estimate turnover as a result of bad hires can set you back anywhere from 16% to an astounding 213% of the employee’s salary, depending on their position. The price tag of replacing a team member who shouldn’t have been hired in the first place adds up quickly when you consider the advertising, screening, interviewing, training and management oversight that goes into finding a better candidate. This financial impact can be eye opening to employers who are more eager than meticulous in their hiring process.

Worse yet, a 2016 article from Forbes says CFOs “actually rank a bad hire’s morale and productivity impacts ahead of monetary losses.” When someone doesn’t pull their weight or doesn’t fit in with the established culture, everyone suffers. Good employees get burned out or frustrated, nasty habits spread and, in some extreme cases, key players feel compelled to leave. An Entrepreneur article from earlier this year echoes this sentiment and adds that bad hires can significantly damage relationships with clients, which are difficult to rebuild.

This cautionary tale isn’t an attempt to discourage you from hiring in 2019. Rather, it’s a reminder to hire hard and manage easy. To aid you in this process, I’ve compiled six of our favorite interview questions and analyzed their answers for potential red flags and green lights. Doing your due diligence in this same way could help you find “the one” that completes your team.

Question 1: Walk me through your work history.

Red Flags: Pay attention to the candidate’s tenure in their previous positions. Does it appear they have been job-hopping and may be unable to commit? Hiring someone who subscribes to a “grass is always greener” mentality may ultimately create strain on your existing team and resources.

Green Lights: Of course, there could be very good reasons a potential hire didn’t last long in a position. It’s possible the company went through a period of layoffs, the business was sold or closed, the candidate worked as a temporary or contracted laborer, the candidate left to take care of an ailing family member or a multitude of other causes. If concerned about longevity, hear the person out before making assumptions. A resume tells a very condensed version of their story.

Question 2: What do you know about (insert your company’s name here)?

Red Flags: This question is meant to gauge an applicant’s interest. After all, your business is one of your top priorities, and ideally, it would be high on that person’s list, as well. If it doesn’t appear they have done any research into your firm or the role they would play, their engagement is likely very low. I have literally had a job candidate tell me they didn’t remember applying for the position, indicating to me that Carson Group was just one of many fish in their sea.

Green Lights: You can’t expect a candidate to have in-depth knowledge on the inner workings of your firm. It’s unrealistic and sets you up for disappointing interviews. I consider the person a potential hire if they demonstrate they’ve done some research on our website or if they have obviously prepped with a mutual connection, like a current worker or client. Occasionally, I’ll also look to see if they are following us on social media or have engaged with us in the past.

Question 3: Why are you looking for a change?

Red Flags: A large part of having happy, successful stakeholders is understanding what makes them want to get out of bed and come to work. This question can get right to the heart of those intrinsic motivators. It may then be a warning sign if their main reason for seeking new employment is because they are running from where they are currently working. Not only is it unsettling to hear them bash their boss, it also doesn’t give you any insight into whether you can provide the kind of environment they want to give their all to each day.

Green Lights: There are several great answers to this question. One of my favorites, however, is when we hear people expressing the desire to grow in their careers. It shows they are viewing our company as a place where they can make an impact and where they can access opportunities to advance. More to the point, it highlights motivators like increased responsibility or enthusiasm to spearhead new/challenging projects. These are certainly things Carson Group can deliver time and again.

Question 4: What type of company culture are you looking for?

Red Flags: Before you ask this question, have a solid idea of what your company culture is and isn’t. Your ability to define these criteria will determine how easy it will be to find a cultural fit. For example, our #CarsonCulture is based around the slogan “Work Hard. Play Hard. Make a Difference. Have Fun.” Considering this, a person who states they want to be part of an uber-competitive, compensation-driven culture isn’t exactly what we are looking for.

Green Lights: Again, the clear sign to move a candidate along in the interview process will be influenced by your unique culture. At Carson Group, we love to hear answers that align with that aforementioned slogan. We actively pursue candidates who are equally as passionate about their volunteer work and family life as they are about financial services. In expressing their want for work/life integration, a candidate makes it clear that their values are similar to ours.

Question 5: Tell me about a time when you faced a major conflict at work. How did you remedy this?

Red Flags: In any workplace, there are challenges to overcome and personality differences to navigate. That’s just life. This question examines how the candidate reacts to these stressors. Pointed fingers, unwillingness to admit their faults, difficulty coming to a resolution or signs that the situation was completely avoided should signal you to turn back while you still can.

Green Lights: Self reflection! That’s the key. Is your candidate honest about what they could have done better? Do they seem like they can come to a compromise? Can they take that bad situation and turn it into a positive? If the answer is “yes,” they have a wonderful combination of humility and resilience.

Question 6: Describe a time when you had more on your plate than you could handle. What did you do?

Red Flags: You’ve been overwhelmed at work. I’ve been overwhelmed, too. Since it’s bound to happen at some point, it’s good to know how your candidate may approach a mounting workload. Answers like “Something had to give” or “I just did what I had to do” don’t reveal the kind of coping skills you should expect. Sure, they may have stayed up all night working to meet a deadline, but ultimately, there are better ways to address this problem.

Green Lights: Ideally, your candidate would exhibit the abilities to reprioritize, ask for help and delegate less important tasks. These are behaviors of a mature employee, who will, as they say, remain calm and carry on. As an added bonus, it’s definitely easier to repeat these actions than pull constant all-nighters.

One Final Warning…

While I encourage you to pay close attention to the answers you are receiving, please remember candidates are often nervous. Don’t let just one red flag or green light seal their fate. Examine the whole of how they presented themselves, gain feedback from other interviewers and then see who checks the most boxes. It’s not about finding the world’s most perfect stakeholder, it’s about finding the one that’s perfect for your firm.


Share: