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Why You’ll Regret Not Asking This Interview Question

September 10, 2015

Interview Questions

They say you can determine if someone is the right fit for the job in the first 15 seconds of the interview, however this interview question will really seal the deal for you:

“What is your story?”

Really, that’s the question?! Yes. Think about it. A person’s story tells you who they are at their core, what makes them tick. Granted, you will not get to know the person you are interviewing as well as their mother during a five-minute answer. Instead, you’ll get a glimpse into the background, circumstances, and events that made this person who they are and what brought them to this point.

Here is a list of the potential that you can discover about your interviewee when they tell you their story. It’ll tell you:

If they can be ready for the unexpected.  Almost certainly, this is a question that your potential employee did not prepare for. Now you can see how they react under unexpected circumstances. Are they able to roll with the surprising situation? Or are they uncomfortable when something unscripted comes along? Needless to say, how they react will reveal a lot about who they are underneath that polished, prepared shell.

If they are transparent.  Some people will tell you only superficial facts in their stories, like where they grew up or where they went to school. Others may tell you stories of meaningful events in their life, like when they traveled abroad or how a mentor had a significant impact on their life. Still some may be bold enough to mention moments of strength or times of weakness. The question is open ended enough that people can go with it where they want. It is interesting to hear what people choose to include in their answer.  The choices alone can tell you a bit about how transparent they are with others.

If they can communicate.  Do they ramble? Is the story going in a direction or stalling out at a number of different places? Are you confused about what they are trying to tell you? Communication is key in life. Whether it be a marriage or working for a business, communication is the lifeblood of the institution. Thus, asking them their story lets you know if they can communicate well with you. Do they make things clear? Do they leave out unnecessary details? If they can communicate with you, it is likely they can communicate with coworkers and customers.

If they have people skills.  Do they laugh in awkward places? Are the highlights they chose to share appropriate? Do they just keep going on and on about their cat on YouTube? Allowing them to share their story gives you a good feel for their natural ability with people. If you get an awkward vibe, then it may be a red flag in hiring them. If you find yourself captivated by their story, then it may be a sign that they excel at connecting with people.

What their personality is. Do they talk loudly or softly? Are they funny? Could they go on and on or does it seem like you are pulling teeth to get them to talk about themselves? Everyone is different. The personalities of different people have different strengths and weaknesses. You have to decide what is best for the needs of your business. Who will they be working with? What clients will they be serving? Will their personality enhance or harm the working relationship with the team and the client?  All of these must be considered as you observe their personality when they tell their story.

What their character is. Do they just seem to be bragging as they highlight moments in their life? Are they explaining accomplishments with humility? Did they volunteer for a particular cause? Did they have previous issues at another place of employment? All of this can come to light as you observe both the content of their story and the way it is presented.

Stories are powerful. They communicate on so many levels. They are what spark change and often are the building blocks to friendships. Fill your company with people who have good stories. These people will inspire others to join you in your work and for your mission.

Hard to believe you can get all that from asking one simple question, huh?

You can learn so much more about potential hires through our vetted marketplace of high-quality talent. We do the legwork, so you know you’re hiring people who will be the perfect fit for your team, and your company.

Employer Find Talent Button

VP of Marketing at Digital Astronauts

Ronny Cheng is one of the Co-Founder’s of Digital Astronauts and has helped drive lead generation in the software industry for organizations of all sizes — from start-ups to Fortune 500’s. He helped build one of the first online software review websites, specializing in CRM, ERP, and HR software. He’s a nationally published author with extensive experience working with the HR/Recruiting industries largest brands. In his spare time, you can catch him on Instagram doing his best food blogger impersonation.

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