What’s The One Interview Question You Should Be Asking?

A woman being interviewed by two recruiters

Does your resume show your entire work experience? Probably not. The general assumption is that no one wants to read your entire life story—and they certainly don’t want to hear it if it doesn’t apply to the role they’re trying to fill.

Today, I’m the Director of Employer Brand at Indeed. But before I moved into recruiting, I had a very different career: I was a florist for seven years. Now, you might not think that there’s much of a connection between ranunculus and reputation management, or snapdragons and social media. And you’re right — usually, I would leave that experience off my resume.

But recently, I’ve been wondering: what if we can use the things left unsaid on resumes to our advantage when making a hire? Sound impossible? I don’t think so. Today, I’m going to give you the one interview question you should be asking — one that will get your candidate thinking, and make you think twice, too.

Standard recruiting approaches are holding us back 
When your hiring has slowed down because of, say, a pandemic — the perceived and oftentimes real implications of not making the right decision can weigh heavy. And, there’s increased pressure to be successful with what few hires you do make.

We’re taught as recruiters and hiring managers to focus on the qualifications of the role we’re hiring for: Can they do this specific work? Have they done it recently, or are they doing it right now? That’s the safe bet when hiring is a risky proposition.

Job seekers have learned to focus on those same questions we ask as hiring professionals. When I think about my own experience as a job seeker, for example, I would use the listed requirements to reverse engineer my resume submission to match the job description. It was the easiest way to make it past that first eight-second recruiter screen.

But does anyone seriously think all that box-checking really gives us a full picture of what our candidates can do?

Thinking outside those boxes 
Back to my life amongst the calla lilies. I would never put “florist” on my current resume, because I know it would look strange to a box-checker. But I also know that the things I learned during those seven years will always have a profound impact on the way I think about transferable skills such as:

Patience. Birthdays, weddings, homecomings, funerals, and lots of other awkward moments taught me patience for people who are going through things they might not have expected to happen.

Multitasking. You learn how to keep the most important balls from dropping during a high-pressure event, like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.

Persistence. When you have to work from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. — from the time flowers arrive at the shop to being delivered at their final destination — you learn how to push past limitations that make it easy to give up. You stick with it because you know people are counting on you.

Resiliency. Even when you don’t think you can go on, you have the strength to pour some coffee, walk around the block and bounce back.

Appreciation. The little things every day add up to bigger memories over time. Celebrating those little things and appreciating your team makes the memories that much sweeter.

Self-control. Other humans have taught me that there are two kinds of people: those who plan ahead, and those who never will. Making peace with that truth is difficult, but it’s taught me that how you respond — instead of simply reacting — will dictate your own happiness.

We say we want our employees to bring their whole selves to work; it’s already a cliché, in fact. But it’s important to recognise that our working lives — that eight or so hours — only account for a third of our day. We’re actively neglecting 66%* of who we are, and what we bring to the table each day.

So as I celebrate another year in the business of people who hire, I’m reminded from my apron-wearing days that it’s important for us to consider the bigger picture of who someone actually is, and what makes up who they are as a human.

As promised — the one interview question you should be asking
Are you looking for someone who’s creative? Someone who can think outside the box? Someone who’s self-aware, and understands that there are parts of themselves they continually need to work on?

If you want a candidate who’s always learning, don’t ask them how many ping pong balls would fit in the Taj Mahal. Instead, stop giving people boxes to check, and try this in your next interview:

“What’s one experience that’s not on your resume or CV, that would help you be successful in this role?”

How they answer will likely help you see the position from a new perspective. That’s your competitive job seeker advantage over everyone else who has simply checked the boxes — and your hiring advantage, too.

*How much you sleep during that time may vary.

Bryan Chaney is Director of Employer Brand at Indeed.

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