Job-interview-part-1 For 18 years, I owned an advertising agency. (I still get to work there and love it more now that I don't own it.)

"Gosh, People Come And Go So Quickly Here."
Like Dorothy observed in Oz, there was too much turnover for my taste. Most of the employees left for ordinary reasons. People said "That's the way things are these days."

I always found it depressing to see people come and go so quickly. My father had worked his entire career with some of the same people — and I found that endearing and inspiring. I just wasn't any good at making that happen.

So We Hired A Lot Of People
During the 18 years, we paid approximately $14 million in salary. So we were always hiring new folks to join Young Isaac.

We hired such wonderful people. Smart. Ethical. Passionate. Talented.

Sometimes — but, really, very rarely — we hired the wrong people. Phonies. Liars. Belligerents.

Over the years, we developed a pretty good process for picking the winners. The process had a step: The Interview With Artie.

An earlier stage in the process determined technical competence. I was supposed to discover anything and everything else: collaborative nature, self-confidence, intellectual energy, and anything else I could reveal.

I was supposed to be thinking like a business person, but — like in much of my career — it seemed like a game. What can I get this person to confess?

I became good at the game.
Within 60 minutes I could come back from the conference room and tell the hiring manager at least one surprising and helpful detail or revelation. 

I developed a list of questions that worked for me. Here they are.

You'll note I don't have the usual questions. I dropped "What's your greatest weakness?" when someone once smiled and answered "Kryptonite."

Here's my list of questions, with some comments that help explain them…

Welcome to Your Interview.
You made it this far. Obviously people here like you and think you can do the job.

Our time together is just to probe into all sorts of aspects: so we have a better picture of who you are.

So, welcome to Young Isaac. Do you have any questions for me?
I was always amazed when people had absolutely no questions for me. Nothing? You have no questions for me? The worst answer is also worded inarticulately: "Naw, I'm good."

What’s the farthest from home you’ve been?
I'm interested in people who know something of the world. I can understand how someone doesn't have the money to cruise the seven seas, but I do wonder why a person lacks the curiosity and get-up-and-go to see the birthplace of their ancestors or Michelangelo's David.

If you had enough time, money and courage, where would you go?
What's on your list? Where do you want to go? I prefer to work with people who have a list of destinations they want to see, or see again.

If I gave you a $25 Barnes & Noble gift certificate, what section of the store would you go to?
This helps to reveal at least one intellectual interest. Or not.

What’s the most charitable thing you’ve done?
In my book, "people persons" are generous.

What’s the closest you’ve been to being a teacher?
Managers are teachers.

Who are your heroes?
There must be someone. Most popular answer: a parent. Weakest answer: no one.

When have you handled conflict? Please be very specific.

What was the family business growing up?
How did they pay for your food?

Are you funny?
Immediate follow-up: "What evidence supports that?"

Are you smart?
Immediate follow-up: "What evidence supports that?"

Do you have any further questions for me?
I was constantly surprised when the interviewee did not turn the tables and ask me some of my own questions. "Naw, I'm good."

You are driving through the desert. Your front right wheel flies off. You stop and retrieve the wheel but the lug nuts are lost in the sand. What do you do to get to the nearest service station, which is 10 miles away? No cell phone. Figure this out or you die.

A friend — who owns a technology company — refuses to hire anyone who cannot answer this question. Since we were seeking highly creative, intuitive people, I often thought that we would hire only people who could not answer this.
There's a very simple answer to this. Often, the interviewee would pass — and I'd say, "Let me know later." Some did.

If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about yourself, what would it be?
By this time in the interview, I'm hearing very interesting details.

If you were to pursue an(other) advanced degree what would it be in?
Again, like the bookstore question, I want to learn: what do you want to learn?

What accounts would you not work on?
There must be some client that you would refuse to work on. Weakest answer: "I'd work on anything that is legal." Really? You'd sell cigarettes to 14-year-olds? (That's not legal, but that's what the client will want you to do on the first day.)

Do you have any siblings? Pick one. How is he or she different from you?
This is immediately very revealing.

Are you organized? Do you carry a planner or PDA?
If yes, I ask to see the calendar — and our appointment, with my phone number attached. Some people are very, very visibly organized. Some others have nothing written in their calendars.

Please describe a time when you were a teacher. I’m most interested in when you were in a formal teaching role.
Again, we are all teachers.

Who was your best teacher?

Who is your most recent teacher?
Weakest answer: "I haven't had a teacher since school."

Please describe a time when you substantially changed your life because you came to a large, surprising decision.
Everyone has an aha! moment. In advertising (especially the advertising of important, life changing products and services), we're in the business of leading people — ethically — through those moments. What's yours?

Please describe a time when you lied.

Every resume has a lie. What’s the biggest lie on your resume?

Do you ever get mad?
Immediate follow-up: "What's that look like?" The person must confirm that he or she doesn't hit others. We once hired someone who, six months later, took a swing at a co-worker. He was fired on the spot, of course. I said, "There are two ways to quit here. One is to write a resignation letter. You chose the second way. I can't allow hitting here. You have to leave right now."

When was your last cigarette?
I always argued against the hiring of smokers. (They are not a legally protected class of worker.) The few smokers we hired were addicts, always fidgeting for the door.

Do you have any further questions for me?
"Naw, I'm good." I know you're good. Do you have any questions for me?

Are you a nice person? How nice?

Tell me about a time when things didn't go your way. What did you learn?
Bad answer: "Those people were jerks. I blame them."
Good answer: "You know, in retrospect, I could have done something else. That might have worked."

If you came to work here, what would we learn about you after a year that we couldn't possibly know today?

You've changed jobs. What should an employer do to retain you for life?

When would your goals and aspirations conflict with the goals and aspirations of Young Isaac?
This always reveals the answers to some questions that I'm not allowed to ask. Like: do you have children? I don't ask those illegal questions. But this questions gets to the heart of why I need to know the answers.

What should we fire people for doing?
Really? If you do this, should we presume that is your notice of resignation?

What should we fire people for not doing?
Really? If you don't do this, should we presume that is your notice of resignation?

Thanks for your candor. I really appreciate it.
Really, I do.

I've always been amazed at what people will tell me.