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5 interview questions that will help you hire better people

Source | | TED Guest Author

Most employers are approaching job interviews all wrong, says business consultant Anthony Tjan. To identify the candidates who have substance and not just smarts, here are better questions to ask.

While the number of questions that can be asked on a job interview are infinite, almost all of them fall into one of two categories: questions about competency or questions about character. Competency questions are aimed at establishing a person’s skills, abilities and qualifications; character questions are intended to illuminate their intrinsic values and personality. Even though both types of questions are important, “we’re biased to the competency side,” says Anthony Tjan, a business consultant and CEO of the Cue Ball Group, a Boston-based venture capital firm. “And we’re neglecting important attributes like truth, compassion and wisdom.”

“What are your greatest weaknesses?” is a commonly asked character question, but it’s a bust. The interviewer often feels obliged to ask because the answer, if honest, could be valuable. But in reality, the usual responses — “I’m too detail-oriented,” “I work too hard” and “I care too much” — are rehearsed, predictable and disingenuous. And while candidates are aware that they’re not being helpful or truthful when they make such statements, they’re also afraid to reveal their true flaws.

Companies need to figure out ways to evaluate the character of potential hires. Tjan, who is also the author of the book Good People: The Only Leadership Decision That Really Matters, believes screening for traits like integrity, humility, gratitude and self-awareness are the key to job satisfaction and success. “No elements matter more than people and values for long-term competitive advantage,” he explains. “And they’re critical towards developing the purpose and meaning behind any organization.” So employers should strive to ask questions that can’t be answered with generalities or cliches.

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