(Last Updated On: March 10, 2023)


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“Hiring Talent!”


It’s one of those buzz terms that is to Human Resources (HR) what fake news is to journalism.


But to small business people like me and you, and my friend Amy, it had better mean:

The process by which you identify and select high-level employees who have unique skills and attributes, which help them to consistently bring exceptional quality and unusual approaches to their work, that help you to grow your business fast.


Read that definition 3 times.


This will give you the opportunity to realise that you cannot continue to take the same ho-hum (yawn) approach to recruiting and expect to find talent.


WARNING: before you go hiring talent, 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 and who has little self-confidence and self-esteem, then forget about hiring talent.


You see, talented people share 5 common traits: novelty, curiosity, perspective, diversity, and authenticity.


It seems obvious then, that talented people will need an appropriate workplace culture in which to thrive. One with the freedom that allows them to come up with the very ideas that you need to grow your business.


Furthermore, they will challenge you. And you had better be ready for that.


So to help you with your talent acquisition process here are the 10 questions you should ask at the interview. Your hiring success lies in how you interpret and analyse the answers.


So if you’re ready…


1. Why do you want this job?

When you ask this question, you really want to hear the truth. Chances are that’s what you will hear but it will be packaged with what candidates think you want to hear as well.


What you’re ultimately looking for, is how well they understand the job you want done and the extent to which they think they are the right fit for that job.


That’s why I begin every hiring process by giving the candidate the job description to read and an application form to fill out. You do have a job description for every job…do you?


This process also gives the applicant the chance to be very clear about the job, and properly apply for it.


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, should immediately make it onto your shortlist.


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

Just as a research project for myself, I once applied for a number of jobs and in most cases I made it to the interview.


I was very surprised at what passed for interviews in many relatively big businesses, but that’s another story…


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


That’s when everything fell apart. They really weren’t ready for people like me.


Any person who is “talented” should want to work in a culture that allows them to do the very work that the business wants them to do. And if you’re an employer committed to working with talent, you should want to create and maintain such a culture.


When you ask this question, answers should give you a good idea of the quality of  the potential employee as well as the “talent readiness” of your existing culture. 


So I don’t have to tell you, 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 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 she or he has a degree that’s 10 years old and hasn’t had an upgrade or two since, then I have to probe some more. 


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


After all, you are hiring talent…


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

This is a check 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.


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 a guide for your own 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 rapidly scale your business, 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.


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 if they understand that characteristics, events and problems in a system (your wider business enviroment) will almost always show up in its sub-systems (the businesses in that environment).  Leadership & Organisational Development Professional Jennifer Campbell calls this isomorphy.


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. He or she can then work with you to prepare the business to address them, even before they impact the business.


You’re hiring talent…after all! 


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.


For mentorship to be effective, it should be a two-way process.


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 outtanding and rapidly scale your business. 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 ask 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. 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 after…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 three of them.


  1. Sometimes a candidate will believe this is an opportunity to really cinch the job. They will launch into a long story that make you wish you hadn’t asked and wonder why they choose to tell.


2.  The amusing answer is when the person just share the question and look 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 me they wished I had asked them a specific question about my business or its environment. Then they go on to answer the question in such a way that leads me to ask my 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 answer 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!

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