Here’s a roundup of answers to four questions from readers.
1. I think a job candidate is lying about his work experience
Someone has applied for a position with me. In looking at his LinkedIn profile, he claims to have worked on a project with which I am intimately familiar (at a previous company), and I don’t recall his involvement. Should I interview this person? There is a possibility that I simply do not remember him, so should I reach out to people at the previous company and ask whether they remember him?
Start by asking the candidate about it when you interview her. Ask about his role and the work he did and see what he says. If it sounds off to you, then yeah, at that point I’d reach out your former colleagues to see if you can verify what the candidate is telling you — but it’ll be more effective to do that once you know exactly what he’s saying she did.
It’s also okay to be up-front with the candidate that you’re familiar with the project and explain whatever your own involvement was. Not in a “gotcha” way, but in the normal way you’d do it if it you didn’t have any suspicions. That may or may not lead to any further light being shed on the situation, but it can make it more likely.
2. How do I make thinking like a manager second nature?
I am a relatively new manager. Is there a way to make “thinking like a manager” second nature? I have a hard time responding to situations appropriately. I don’t have knee jerk reactions or curse people out, it just takes me a little time to respond in a meaningful and productive way. If I know I have to talk with someone and I have time to consider what to say, it’s not too much of a problem. It’s more the unexpected situations or reactions from others that I struggle with.
To some extent, it should come in time. You don’t say how new you are to managing, but the first year of managing is usually one long string of mistakes for most people. And you’re not exactly an expert in year two either. It takes a while. Part of that is getting used to the change in role, which is a really big one, and part of it is that the longer you manage, the more challenging management situations you’re exposed to … so the longer you do it, the better developed your instincts and judgment get. (Well, hopefully.)
Meanwhile, though, don’t put pressure on yourself to respond perfectly on the spot! Get comfortable with listening and saying, “Let me think about that and come back to you later today or tomorrow” or “That’s a good question and I’m not sure. Can I follow up with you later this week?” You can’t always do that, of course — sometimes managing well means saying something right in the moment — but much of the time, it’s okay to carve out some time to reflect before responding.
Also, be very deliberate about learning from each situation that comes up. If you feel like you didn’t handle something as well as you could have, think about how you want to handle it if it happens again. If you do mini-debriefings with yourself where you draw lessons learned from next time, you’ll be ahead of 80% of the managers out there.
3. How to screen for candidates who can put up with internal bureaucracy
I was recently promoted at work, and now have to hire a replacement for my previous role. Based on my experience and the experience of my colleagues, I’ve seen that people who are willing to put up with internal bureaucracy (lots of internal meetings, BS memos, etc.) and are comfortable with a top-down approach perform better than people who expect more autonomy. What is the best way to screen for this quality in interviews?
First, be transparent about this aspect of your culture, so that people who know they aren’t a fit for it can self-select out. Give a few examples of what you mean, so that they can picture the sort of thing you’re describing. If you use shorthand, there’s a risk that people will picture something different, so clear examples help.
As for interview questions, ask people to tell you about a time or two when internal bureaucracy was slowing down a project or process they were involved in, and how they handled it. Also ask them to tell you about a time when their boss wanted them to do something differently than how they would have chosen to approach it, and how they handled that. With these questions, be prepared to ask follow-ups to really dig in to how they operated in those circumstances (for example, “What was the hardest part of that?” or “that sounds tough — how did you respond to X?”). The idea here is to explore how they’ve done in situations in their past that are similar to what they’d encounter in your organization, and to listen to how they talk about it too. (Do they sound matter-of-fact, frustrated, jaded, etc.?)
4. Asking “general knowledge” questions in job interviews
I’m running an interview panel that is trying to hire someone for a role on our team. One other person on the panel has been asking “general awareness questions” during the interview. He will ask things like, “What is the square root of 16?” or “Who is the governor of the state?” I assume he learned this from interviews he went through before, but I have no idea what purpose it serves. General knowledge, while of course useful in nearly any job, is not a specific requirement for the role we are hiring for. Have you heard of this before and what are your thoughts on it?
Your coworker doesn’t know how to interview and you should tell him to cut it out — or at least ask him to explain to the rest of you what it is that he’s trying to assess with those questions and why.
Your panel should be asking questions based on the specific skills, experiences, and traits needed to do the work well.
It should also be thinking about the impression you’re giving candidates, and quizzing people on topics unrelated to the job is likely to turn off good candidates.
Take this as a sign that the panel needs more training on how to interview effectively!
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