If you’ve had a child in your house under the age of 5 in recent years, then chances are you’ve stumbled across some of the PBS Kids shows (Dinosaur Train, Read Between the Lions, Word World, etc.). These shows have educational themes and are designed to help kids grow while also alleviating parent concerns about having their soon-to-be Rhodes Scholar wasting his/her brain in front of the likes of Spongebob Squarepants. A win for all.
One of the shows is called Super Why! and in this show kids have the power to change sentences in order to solve problems.
I was thinking of them today when I was listening in on an interview being conducted by senior leaders in a company that has over 3000 employees. It was a panel interview comprised of very talented, high-level people who do their jobs well, but they were butchering their interview with a candidate. Almost all of their interview questions featured the word: would.
- How would you tackle an issue like….
- How would you create xxx for our company?
- If you encountered a situation like zzzz, what would you do?
I wanted to call the super hero kids from Super Why! for their help; however, as they are fictional characters on a public broadcasting television show, they weren’t there to help. However, if they were there, they’d have been able to attack “would” and change the questions in order to make them more powerful. Here’s what their help would have yeilded:
- Can you give me an example where you’ve tackled a situation like…
- Have you ever created this type of program in your company? Please explain.
- Have you had any experience encountering challenges like xxx? What did you do?
The Super Why! kids would have been able to move the interview from hypothetical responses to concrete examples. The problem with hypothetical responses is that they can only tell you someone’s thoughts and opinions, they don’t give you an example of how someone applies those thoughts and opinions. Unless you work in talk radio, thoughts and opinions will not get you far in most jobs. Our hypothetical villains are words such as: feel, think, would and believe. The next time you are in an interview and you hear yourself using those words, stop for a moment and rephrase your question in a way that will get you an example, and then you’ll be heading down a road that will get you the information you need to make a great hire.