How to Interview for Interest and Passion (for the work) at S-I

From the Ask Tom mailbag-

Question:
You say in your book that there are four absolutes for success in a role, and that it doesn’t matter what discipline.

  • Capability for the level of work
  • Skill, both technical knowledge and practice
  • Interest, passion for the work
  • Required behaviors

How do you interview for interest and passion?

Response:
Interest, or passion (for the work) depends on the value we place on that work. If we place a high value on a type of work, we will likely be interested in or passionate about that work. If we place a low value on the work, it is likely we will NOT be interested or passionate about the work.

So, stratum by stratum level of work, let’s start with Stratum I (S-I).

Most S-I roles are production related, using real tools or machinery. The role could be clerical, mechanical or technical. Goals and objectives would be short term, one day, one week, one month, up to three months. Learning would mostly be learning-by-doing (kinesthetic). Problem solving would mostly be trial and error (and high S-I would be highly skilled at trial and error problem solving, rapid trial and error). Value-add to the organization is quality (product quality, service delivery).

I was talking to a finish carpenter. I asked him the difference between quality workmanship and shoddy workmanship?

“Do you see that piece of trim?” he asked. “Show me the nails that attach it to the wall.”

“I don’t see any nails,” I replied. “You’re the finish guy, where are they?”

“Exactly, you can’t see the nails because I made them invisible. We use a tiny nail with a tiny head. We tap in the nail almost flush, careful not to put hammer marks in the wood. Then we tap the nail head below the surface of the wood with this tap-it device. Smear a fingernail of plastic wood to cover the indention, brush a little stain or paint and you will never find the nail. I dare you to find a single nail in this entire room.”
This was just a casual conversation, but my carpenter friend was dead serious about the quality of his finish work. In an interview, this understanding would guide my questions.

  • I want to ask you about three projects. And, they have to be real projects. First project, you had a lot of time, there was plenty of budget and schedule to go slow and pay attention to detail. Second project, you had to keep up a reasonable pace with a firm deadline. Third project, you were under the gun to knock the project out and could take any reasonable shortcut you could muster.
  • First project, plenty of budget and schedule to go slow, take your time, pay attention to detail. What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the budget and schedule communicated to you for the project? How did you understand the schedule and detail required?
  • What details were most important on this project?
  • What additional preparation was required?
  • What special tools or techniques were involved?
  • How much extra time did it take?
  • What were the visible results, different from other projects?
  • How was this work inspected by your manager, or the customer?
  • On this project, what were you most proud of?

Note, these same questions could be asked about many different kinds of roles working on many different kinds of projects.

  • Second project, standard production pace, nothing special. What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the budget and schedule communicated to you for this project? How did you understand the schedule and detail required, different from the first project?
  • What details were required, what details were less important on this project?
  • What preparation was required, different from the preparation on the first project?
  • What special tools or techniques were involved, different from the first project?
  • How much time was saved by foregoing some of the detail?
  • What were the visible results, different from the first project?
  • How was this work inspected (reviewed) by your manager?
  • On this project, what decisions did you personally have to make related to pace and quality?

Decision making as S-I level of work typically revolves around pace and quality. As you ask about these decisions, you will see the candidate’s attitude about the work, the value the candidate places on the work.

  • Third project, one where time was of the essence. You still had to meet the quality spec, but you had to really hustle to meet the deadline. What was the project?
  • What was your role on the project?
  • How long was the project?
  • How was the budget and schedule communicated to you for this project? How did you understand the schedule and detail required, different from the first two projects?
  • What details were required to meet the minimum quality standard, what details were less important on this project?
  • What preparation was required, different from the preparation on the first two projects?
  • What special tools or techniques were involved, different from the first two projects?
  • How much time was saved by foregoing some of the detail?
  • What were the visible results of the allowed shortcuts, different from the first two projects?
  • How was this work inspected (reviewed) by your manager?
  • On this project, what decisions did you personally have to make related to pace and quality?

Each of these questions asks for a specific piece of data about the candidate. And though we are trying to find out about an attitude or feeling, the questions are still laser focused on the work.

Next time, we will take a look at interest and passion (value for the work) at S-II. -Tom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *