Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Lorna Barrow

cover image for hiring talent for reliable results

Hiring Talent…

Is it just another  Human Resources (HR) buzz word or an approach to recruiting that can benefit your small business?

Is it only for big business or is it something that’s appropriate for your unique circumstances?

Well, let’s dive right in and answer these questions. I will also share 10 unusual questions you can ask at the job interview that will help you to select the candidates you want and your business deserves.


Definition of workplace talent

But first, let’s define “talent.”

There are many definitions of “talent”. But when HR talks about hiring talent, we’re really talking about workplace talent.

In my experience, that’s an individual who can consistently perform at an exceptional level, in several business areas, which will help you to rapidly scale your small business.

Among other things, these people are usually self-motivated, natural leaders, results-driven and creative thinkers. Their important characteristic is that as team players, they perform better on “athletic teams” than on “basketball teams”


Things to consider before hiring talent

  1. It seems obvious then, that talented people will need an appropriate workplace culture in which to thrive.

You know…one with the freedom that allows them to come up with the very ideas that you need to grow your business.

2.  Before you go hiring talent though, especially rebel talent, check your leadership approach first!

If you’re one of those leaders who kills good ideas in the workplace, who hires talent and then expect them to do as you say, then forget about hiring talent.

3. Check your self-esteem and self-confidence. Talented people will challenge you. And you need to be able to deal with that. 

4. If you have an approach to hiring, you’re already on the right track. But you can’t apply it in the same ho-hum (yawn) manner when you’re hiring talent.


1o interview questions for when you’re hiring talent

So to help you with your talent acquisition process here are the 10 questions you should ask at the interview.

Just remember…your hiring success is in just asking the questions but in how you interpret and analyse the answers.


1. Why do you want this job?

When you ask this question, what you’re trying to find out, at the very outset, is the extent to which a candidate think they are the right fit for the job.

When you ask this question, it is also smart to assume that the candidate has a good idea of what the job entails. After all, if the person you’re looking for is above average, this is what they would do.

So yes, you want to hear is the truth. And chances are, that’s what you will hear. But understand that it could be mixed with a good dose of what they think you want to hear. 

Your job is to be able to separate one from the other and evaluate each one individually.


2. If you get the job, how would you change it?

For me, this question lets me judge how good a candidate is at thinking on their feet.

In addition, depending how the “potential employee” answers, I also get a glimpse into their level of confidence and how much of a risk-taker they are.

How so?

First, most candidates confidently assume that they will get the job and just answer the second part.

Second, it also takes a great deal of confidence to tell a potential employer how you would change a job, knowing you risk your answer preventing you from getting that very job.

When you’re hiring talent, a candidate who answers this question clearly and confidently, should immediately make it onto your shortlist.


3. Can you describe the culture you know you will thrive best in?

This question came out of my own little research project.

I wanted to experience first hand, what passed for job interviews. 


Too many people were hinting that I should train “Big Up John Inc.” or “Susie Know Everything Ltd.” how to conduct job interviews.

So I started applying for jobs and in most cases, I made it to the interview.

However, whenever it looked like I would get the job, I always asked to be allowed to describe the culture that my creative approaches would work best in.

That’s when everything fell apart. They really weren’t ready for an employee like me, even at the level I was applying at. 

You see, any person who is “talented” should want to work in a culture that allows them to do the very work that your business wants them to do. And they should be able to clearly describe it for you.

So I don’t have to tell you to beware of answers like “I fit in any place!”


4. How did you learn what you know and what new things are you learning?

Recently I was reading about really useless degrees in these times (music was one of them) and nodding my head in agreement with some of the sentiments of the author.

That’s why, when I ask this question, I am looking to ensure that a candidate’s claim to specific knowledge is current and relevant.

If they have a degree that’s 10 years old and haven’t had an upgrade or two since, then you  have to probe some more. 

What you’re looking for is some evidence that the candidate is keeping themself up to date with the latest development in their industry.

The currency of their knowledge, or lack thereof, will have some desirable or unwanted impact on your business. 


5. Who are you currently following that I should follow? And why?

This is a check and an expansion on number 4 above.

Talented and smart people are “plugged in” and follow other talented and smart people. They should be able to quickly recommend a list of relevant people and explain why you should follow them.

Let’s be clear. This is not a “Facebook” question.

There are several ways you can follow a person: read their books and articles, listen to their podcasts, watch their videos, etc.

Not only is this a good insight into how your applicant is keeping current in their field, it should also provide you with a guide for your own professional development as well.


6. Which business tactics in your field do you think are working/not working?

Why is this question important?

It gives you an insight into a candidate’s capacity to think beyond the narrow confines of a specific job.

If a person is to grow quickly and also help you to turn failure into success,  they need to be plugged into the industry as a whole.

For example, if you were to ask me that question, here’s how I would answer.

In the small business industry, what’s not working is this perennial habit of taking strategies and tactics designed for big businesses, scaling them down and trying to apply them to small businesses.

Small businesses are unique in many ways. This means they are usually crying out for solutions, designed to respond to their special circumstances. Here are some examples…


7. Which is the one problem you would research and fix in my business?

On the surface this question seems a bit unreasonable.

But what you’re looking for here is the candidate’s understanding of the interplay between systems and subsystems. 

In other words, you are checking to see how fully they understand that your business is a subsystem of a wider system (your wider business environment) and events taking place there will almost always show up in your business.

Why is this important?

If you hire a person who understands this, here’s what will happen.

That employee will constantly scan your business environment and determine which impending issues are likely to impact you.

They can then work with you to prepare the business to respond to them, even before they impact the business.


8. How will your presence in my business change me after 6 months?

Remember you’re running a small business. Therefore, it’s highly likely that if you’re hiring talent, that person will be working closely with you.

This creates the conditions for a business mentorship relationship to develop.

By now you are aware that effective mentorship is a two-way process – one in which the mentor learns from the person being mentored as well. 

In addition, you expect a talented person to be a “conscious” influencer, aware of his or her capacity to make a difference and or bring about change.

So asking this question is really your check on if you’re hiring a talented influencer who will help you move from good to outstanding or, a regular employee, who will rock no boats.


9. Will you arrange a meeting with your current (last) boss for me?

Why do I recommend this question?

You see, I’m not big on references. I don’t know about you but I have never seen a bad one yet. And seriously, if I did, I would have the head of the person who presented it examined immediately.

So I ask this question instead.

When you ask this question, make sure you’re looking at the candidate and you are deliberately cued into their body language.

If they are uncomfortable and everything about them says “not on your life!” pay close attention to what they say next…

An outright “No” is usually an indication of existing poor relations, which should be further explored.

On the other hand, if they ask to wait until at least you’re fairly sure they have the job, that’s reasonable.

A too quick “yes!” is not good either. It might be followed by “problems” making the arrangements afterwards…

So use your judgement here.

Do you really want the meeting? Well, that’s up to you…


10. What did I NOT ask you that you wish I had?

With this question, you can get a variety of answers but pay attention to 3 of them.

1.  Sometimes a candidate will believe this is an opportunity to really cinch the job. They will launch into a long irrelevant story that make you wish you hadn’t asked the question at all. 

 2. The amusing answer is when the person compliments your interviewing and looks really smug. You should look smug too, because you are not about to hire a smart-ass and the accompanying stress.

 3. The answer I like best is the when the candidate tells you they wished you had asked them a specific question about your business or its environment. Then they go on to answer the question in such a way that leads you to ask your final question:

How soon are you available to begin working?


Your next “Talent Hiring” Step…

Now that you have studied all 10 questions, are you ready to hire talent for your business?

I hope you are because I have given you 10 questions that if you ask them and follow the instructions carefully, you will find the talented employee you’re looking for.

If you believe that you still won’t get it right or you don’t have the time, contact me now.

We can help you with your hiring process from start to finish. Moreover, you will be delighted to discover we actually do this in a way you can afford.

To your success with hiring talent…

Hiring Talent? 10 Unusual Questions to Ask For Reliable Results

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!