Job Interview Question: Andy Lansing’s Favorite

What You Say When You Interview A Job Applicant
by Gene Griessman, Ph.D.

Andy Lansing, president and CEO of Levy Restaurants, has a favorite question that he asks whenever he interviews applicants.  According to a recent New York Times article, Lansing told Adam Bryant, “If you sit down with me, no matter how senior you are in the company or the position you’re applying for, my first question to you is going to be, “Are you nice?” likes Lansing’s  question very much.  In fact, we think it can be the basis for a follow-up question and action.

Here’s why we like the question.

Lansing is in a business that is absolutely dependent upon teamwork.  In the restaurant business, practically everything that can go wrong does go wrong: food spoils; key workers call in sick; reservations get cancelled at the last minute; equipment fails; demanding customers complain, make unreasonable requests, and threaten to sue; suppliers run short, etc. and etc.

So we completely understand why Lansing says it’s really important to be nice in his business. Lansing put it this way, “The most important thing to being successful in this company is to be nice. And if you’re not nice, this is the wrong company for you. If you get in this company and you’re not nice, I’m going to get you.”

Here’s what we recommend as a follow-up. Ask the applicant to describe a situation when he/she was “nice,” specifically what he/she did, and what was the result.  That way, you won’t rely on a simple yes or no answer.

Art Bauer, the legendary producer of  training films taught me to ask candidates action questions–to make them relate their answers to what they actually did in specific situations.

I also recommend to the people in my executive coaching program that they get feedback from former employers.  The biggest mistakes in my management career came from not doing that kind of  homework.  Lansing’s question is a great one to use for your investigation. Ask “How nice would you say Tom or Mary or Susan was?”  (Again, more than a simple yes or not answer is required.)

One further word. You will have to decide if “nice” is the most important quality in your organization. If I needed a brain surgeon or an investment advisor, I would not put “nice” at the very top of the list.   My first choice would be competence.  But if I could get competence and being nice, that would be a spectacular combination.

Learn more about Gene Griessman’s books, cds, and dvds.

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Gene Griessman is an internationally known keynote speaker, actor, and communication strategist. His book “TheWords Lincoln Lived By” is in its 23rd printing and “Time Tactics of Very Successful People” is in its 43rd printing. His training video “Lincoln on Communication” is owned by thousands of corporations, libraries, and government organizations. He has spoken at conventions and annual meetings all over the world. To learn more about his presentations, call 404-435-2225. Learn more at Atlanta Speakers Bureau or at his website. His latest book “Lincoln and Obama” has just been released by Audible.
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