What Emma Isaacs and 4 other female leaders ask job candidates in interviews

What Emma Isaacs and 4 other female leaders ask job candidates in interviews

And how to spot talent who will go on to become top performers.

BY Rebecca Bodman, 6 min READ

We sat down with the women in the Business Chicks community who are pros at spotting good people. We asked them to share the questions they ask in an interview to identify people that will go on to become top performers.

Emma Isaacs, Founder and Global CEO Business Chicks

“I love getting to know the potential candidate behind their CV and often ask the question in an interview ‘What book are you currently reading or what book was the last one you read?’ While it doesn’t tell me anything about the applicant’s experience or skill set, it lets me into their world and who they are as a person, and that to me is often as important as the talents they bring to the table.”

Nicole Morris, Founder & CEO Human Tribe

“Outside of Behavioural Based Interview techniques, there’s two key questions I love to ask candidates towards the end of the interview; firstly, I ask them to describe the best manager they’ve ever worked for and once I’ve got some good intel there I then ask them to share with me how they think that manager would describe them if I was to call them. Their answers to these two questions tell me about how this person likes to be managed and how they can perform when they are managed according to their preferences. And then the best part of these two questions is I follow up by asking for this manager’s contact details for a reference check, nothing like a bit a good due diligence when recruiting.”

part time work

Vic Stewart and Stephanie Reuss (R) of Beam Australia

Stephanie Reuss, Co-Founder Beam Australia

“The question I ask is, ‘why is this company the next chapter of your career?’

It’s becoming increasingly important for candidates to have an affinity with the company they work with – at Beam Australia we’re seeing that candidates are looking for a purpose beyond pay in their next role. So you really want to understand from them what they genuinely relate to about your organisation. This can help you to find a great culture and values fit. It might be that they are passionate about your mission. If so, why? When have they demonstrated a commitment to that mission in the past? It might be that they are passionate about facilitating change for your end customers. Ask why! We love these types of open conversations because it really gives you an insight into what drives the candidate and whether you can see that they’ll be passionate about your business. If you can align there, you’ll see more engagement, loyalty and better results. Win win!”

Sue-Ellen Watts, Founder wattsnext

“One of the mistakes I regularly see in interviews for any role but particularly high performers is getting stuck asking traditional interview questions that actually aren’t at all relevant to the role you are recruiting for!  Why ask about innovative thinking if no part of the role requires innovative thinking for example.  The best way to create interview questions is to break down the role into three areas and then weight those areas in percentage of time spent in the role.  Then when creating interview questions spend the same amount of time in the interview asking questions relating to that area.  If the role is 70% leadership then 70% of the interview questions should be related to the candidate displaying specifically examples of leadership in previous roles.”

Christine Khor, Managing Director Chorus Executive

I like to ask, “If it wasn’t for money, what would you do?” There are some people who would say “What I am doing now,” but most of us wouldn’t. If you asked me this question, my answer would be, “Working, maybe three to four days, not full time. I would not have to clock in and out, instead I could work where I want, when I want. I would have a lot of autonomy. I would be involved in some sort of charity work or business for good. I would be working to develop, train and empower of people. I would be learning new stuff and I would be able to travel.” So, guess what – this is my job, except I work six to seven days a week! My dream job is aligned to the job on offer, so I would hire me! If, on the other hand, my answer was “I would be in a house in Tuscany, quiet, away from everyone, writing poetry,” maybe a role where I talk to people all day every day is not the right thing? The point is, that just because someone can do something, it doesn’t mean that they want to. If they don’t want to, they will never be as good as someone who really wants to, no matter what their experience is.”

What’s your favourite question to ask new candidates? And why? And what usual questions have you been asked in interviews?  


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