The Best Interview Question of All Time

What is the best interview question ever?  Let me tell you a story.

In the late 90’s, I took over as President and CEO of a company named CTX.  A small $6M technology services company.  As an outsider, I went on a bit of a listening tour and sat down with every manager in the company.  When I met with our head of Human Resources and began talking about my view on the importance of company culture and some of the ideas I had around engagement and empowerment, the response was very negative.  She made it very clear that my kinds of ideas would never work in this company.

All of us have to learn to challenge the status quo. How many times have you tried to roll out a change of some sort, only to hear “That will never work here” or “That’s not how we do it around here”?  As a leader, you have to be comfortable standing up to that attitude. Moreover, you should always be looking for opportunities to change things up, experiment, and take some risks. That’s how your business will improve.

Possessing and developing certain innate strengths helps you become an effective leader. But you also need to use specific leadership practices that have been proven over time to increase your ability to lead people.   Challenging the status-quo is one of those practices.

You may be wondering what happened to my subsequent conversations with the Director of HR.  Turns out they were very short.  She came in the day after we met and offered her resignation – I was happy to oblige.

We went on to interview twelve candidates for the job.  For each candidate, I asked them if they received the Society of Human Resources (SHRM) magazine – the periodical of their profession.  Each did.  I then went on to say that my expectations for this position was that within two years, “they would be on the cover of the SHRM magazine with a tagline of “how to attract and retain in the high tech industry.””  “Can you embrace that challenge”?

Of the twelve candidates, eleven figuratively crawled under the table – the twelfth embraced it.  We hired number twelve and never looked back!

Challenge the status quo.

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