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?”
Whatyousay.com 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.
The Words Lincoln Lived By is a stirring, inspirational treasury of quotations from our greatest and most admired president. Composed of Lincoln’s profound observations—one for every week of the year, each followed by a short commentary that provides historical context—the book offers rich material for interpretation, reflection, and spiritual guidance. In these pages, Lincoln, famed as an orator, shares his wisdom on courage and determination, compassion and compromise, tolerance and tact—the essential traits that define character. The timeless impact of his words is as powerful as the achievements that have helped to make him an American hero.
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