The Critical Missing Question Hiring Managers Are Forgetting To Ask In An Interview

Imagine it… You’re sitting in an interview and the hiring manager asks you not about your past experience or your qualifications, but instead, they ask you to describe how you think. Imagine you could use a graphic like the one above to simplify such a complex question.

Here’s the thing. If you’re talking to the hiring manager, you can assume they already know you’re qualified. Your goal isn’t to regurgitate your qualifications but to teach the hiring manager how you think and who you are. Because what they’re trying to figure out is who is the Future You.

I talk about this concept with clients (both those looking for jobs and looking for promotions) all-the-time. It creates a fundamental shift in how they think about themselves, talk about themselves, and how others react to their potential. Just this week, I was speaking to an executive who’s preparing herself for board inquiries. As we talked, I reminded her that every candidate is vetted in the board recruiting process before they get the phone call. “It’s like an Oscar nomination,” I said, “You don’t get the phone call unless your name is on the list.”

I could go on about this topic. Today, however, I think it’s time I turned the tables to those of you interviewing candidates. If you’re not asking about the candidate’s Future You, I think you’re missing out on the most critical question.

Let’s get on the same page around this idea first.

  1. You’re hiring someone to solve problems for you and your team in the future. It doesn’t matter what the role is or the job description. “Solve problems in the future” is what humans do in the workplace. We’ve got this nifty thing called a brain that makes us uniquely good at this particular task.
  2. The problems you need to solve are unique to you. You being the organization, the team, what you’re doing – all of it. Every problem is unique to a situation, and the combination of situations is infinite. 
  3. While experience dealing with similar problems in the past is helpful, the person you need will likely need to come up with a new solution unique to the circumstances.

So the real question you need to answer in your head is not “Has she DONE the job?” but “Do I believe she has the potential?”

Take a moment and think about the last person you hired or the last person that was added to your team.

Did you, and do you still believe in what they can do tomorrow?

By asking someone questions about their past, I understand that you should be able to discern how someone might think tomorrow. But let’s be honest with ourselves, we’re filling in the blanks based on our own experiences. We’re guessing. If that isn’t bad enough, here’s the other truth bomb I’d like you to ponder.



Then what is the question you should be asking? One that gives you insight into how they think and not what they do.

How do you approach solving problems?

A simple prompt can lead you to the answer to the real question you’re pondering in your head, “Who will this person be in the future?”

PS. If you’re on a job hunt and thinking, “OMG, how will I answer this question?” I have some ideas for you too. Just click here.


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