Interview Like an Expert

The interview process can be daunting—and not just for the interviewee! Hiring managers often feel at sea when figuring out how to assess a slate of candidates for an open position. To help provide a little guidance around some smart interview tactics, we put together our “short list” of advice from top-level execs interviewed in the NYT Corner Office.

Tap into their passion… A candidate is more than just the sum of their skills. You’re assessing for someone who will, hopefully, become an important contributing member of your team. Therefore, it’s important to know what excites them, what makes them tick. Dottie Mattison, CEO of Gracious Home, asks potential employees questions like, “What do you do on the weekends?” and “What do you do in your spare time?” to get a better sense of what matters to them.

…and their purpose. Go beyond what’s written on the resume. Learn about your potential team member’s thought process. By understanding why someone made a certain decision you can get a sense of motivation. Joshua Reeves, Co-Founder and CEO of Gusto, feels that if you continue to dig deeper into a person’s “why”, you’ll reach a point where the candidate “leaves behind trying to think about the right answer, and you get to questions about purpose, and what motivates you.”

Photo by PeopleImages/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by PeopleImages/iStock / Getty Images

See things from their perspective... Understanding how an individual views the world around them can be a good predictor of how they’ll perceive their workplace. But, obviously, that’s no easy task. To get better insight into someone’s perspective on life, Tobi Lütke, CEO of Shopify, asks about a candidate’s views on opportunity. Do they “see opportunity as something to compete for, or do they see opportunity as essentially everywhere and unlimited?” This question can act as “a rough proxy for pessimism and optimism.”

...and get an outside perspective. You can learn a lot about a person based on how they interact with others (beyond those seemingly responsible for their next job). It’s important to hire individuals who treat everyone with respect, regardless of status. There are many ways to do this; two easy ones include enlisting the feedback from your office manager or front desk (as Soledad O’Brien, award winning journalist and founder of Starfish Media Group, does) or—our personal favorite!—taking the interview offsite (go to a restaurant or café) to watch how they interact with the waitstaff, like Bracken P. Darrell, CEO of Logitech does.

CFW provides consulting on hiring best practices. For more information, email Stephanie Kronenberg at