Sunday, April 10, 2011

Square Pegs and Round Holes (Part II)

Now for questions 3 and 4 on the “Interview With Purpose” check list:

_3. What are the expected outcomes? How is success measured for this position?
_4. Will I have access to the resources required to be successful in this role?

Okay, I cheated and put two questions on number three. These are very closely related, but distinctly different. And the difference is critical. Let’s say you’re interviewing for a sales leadership role and the company says “We need to grow our top line revenue”. The obvious questions you must ask is how much and how fast? And if the answers you get are “As much as we can, as fast as we can”, start looking for the exits.

Let’s say the answers are more specific, 10% CAGR over the next 5 years. But, what they don’t say is that they expect the revenue growth will come from business that is more profitable than what they are currently doing and, oh by the way, their existing market has minimal growth potential. In fact, their core business is under competitive attack and their market share is likely to shrink and become less profitable.
How are you liking this job now? Always look closely at the expected outcomes, how are they measured and where is the starting point.

On to question 4, will you “have access to the resources required to be successful in this role?” Let’s stay with the example above. Perhaps you’re still interested and can see the potential for success. But, it will require hiring sales people with experience in other market segments and significant investment in new equipment and/or technology. Now this gets dicey. If you’re interviewing for a position, it is always risky to start asking questions about how much the company is willing to invest so you can be successful. I recommend that you don’t tackle this question head on. It’s better to ask open ended questions about the company’s resources (people, equipment, technology, access to capital, etc). Look for opportunities to connect their responses to a question such as, “So with the right person in this position, you feel that you’ve got all the other pieces in place to get to the next level?” A “yes” answer is a big red flag. While there are situations where there really is only one missing piece, those are few a far between. And the more aggressive the company’s expected outcomes, the more likely it is that they will need more than just you to achieve those outcomes.

Again, it’s all about interviewing with a purpose. If your purpose is just to get the job, then tell them what they want to hear and only lob softball questions that demonstrate you’ve done your homework and really want to work for these bozos. If your purpose is to get the right job, where you can be successful over the long run, then ask the tougher questions. The non-bozos will respect that approach.

Next time, questions 5 and 6.

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