What question would you ask? Interviewing for POTUS

Not all of us have the opportunity to interview candidates in our workplace, but when we do, we want to get it right. We want pose the question that elicits a response providing a hint to how this individual will perform if selected.

Tonight, in California, the  candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president will participate in a debate. In reality, they will be answering interview questions posed by journalists. What question would you ask?

If you don’t know where to begin, Adam Bryant’s weekly executive interviews column in The New York Times is a good place to start. In an interview last month, Greg Schott of software company, MuleSoft shared his hiring philosophy.

“First off, we’re looking for someone who’s a good human. That is defined by high integrity, being a great team player, and they want to win as a company first, team second, individually third. The next thing we look for is people who are whip-smart. The third thing we look for is a clear track record of achievement.

And I also work hard to understand the decisions they’ve made along the way, like why they left a certain job to take the next one. You learn all kinds of things from why they made those job transitions. I’ll also ask what they’ve done that changed things for their organization as opposed to just doing the job that they were asked to do. What did they do that nobody asked them to do?”

We definitely want someone who’s a good human to be president. I would like to know why they left their current job to take the next one. Why have some not left their current job yet? What have they done above and beyond the job description? Integrity, smarts, record of achievement all good.

Maybe I’d add a question about flexibility, dealing with ambiguity. Describe a belief you held for a long time that with some education and experience you changed? Being president requires leading the folks you don’t agree with along with those who voted for you.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shared his opinion on the election process and the responsibility of those elected to represent us to act differently, and posed his questions for the candidates.

“Every one of the candidates offers grand promises about new leadership and new solutions. But where do they stand on working with their rivals? Regardless of who wins the presidency, the odds of the same party controlling a filibuster-proof Senate are slim. If we want to turn the nation around, we have to act differently. Save for the most rabid partisans, most people don’t want one-party rule. They want Democrats and Republicans to work together.

Americans who are tired of politics as usual should demand a clear answer to a simple question from every candidate: What will you do to unite all of us?”

Stewart Butterfield of communications service company Slack discussed his interview process with Adam Bryant.

“I used to always ask three short questions — one math, one geography and one history. I didn’t expect people to get the answers right, but I just want them to be curious about the world. The first is what’s three times seventeen. Then name three countries in Africa. You’d be astonished by the number of people who can’t do that. And what century was the French Revolution in, give or take 200 years.

I don’t do that anymore, but I do ask everyone what they want to be when they grow up. Good answers are usually about areas in which they want to grow, things they want to learn, things that they feel like they haven’t had a chance to accomplish yet but want to accomplish.”

This is what I want to know. What did these folks on the stage at the Reagan Library want to be when they grew up? Ok, they wanted to be president. But it’s not enough to want. What do they still wish to learn, to accomplish? What does their world look like at the end of a successful presidency? The answers will give me the information I need to make a decision.

And, I would like them to name three countries in Africa.

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