We all want the best people for our team. There are many effective ways to interview, and I’m not here to tell you the best way, but to add some perspective in and share some of my experience.
What I’ve been doing for the past few years is incorporating questions about human dynamics as well as technical and leadership prowess. What do I mean? Specifically, I ask about:
- Safety – how does this person work in a safe/unsafe environment, as well as does this person create safety for others?
- Respect – does this person respect others on their team?
- Ownership – does this person take responsibility for his decisions and for his teams decisions or does he act from obligation/blame/justification?
- Agreement management – What is this person’s ability to make/keep/renegotiate agreements?
I rarely ever ask direct questions. And in this blog I’ll share some examples of how I check for safety and what clues I look for.
So, safety – psychological safety – is very important for a team to share (especially sharing mistakes early) and learn together. To get clues how a person reacts to safety and/or creates it I usually ask them to tell me about their past projects (even school projects if this is a fresh grad). And then I ask them to tell me about a few instances where something went wrong and how they dealt with it. And then I listen carefully. Here are a few scenarios:
- If they have a hard time coming up with examples, then I have to question their ability to feel safe in stressful situations. This is a big red flag. When things go wrong – and they always do – we need to be able to face the mistakes early and deal with them as a team.
- If they tell me how something went wrong but it wasn’t their fault, then a little warning light comes on. They don’t feel safe around mistakes and the way they protect themselves is to blame others. That won’t make for a good team dynamic.
- If they tell me the details of the problem and are comfortable talking about their part in helping cause the problem and solve the problem, then this person is a good candidate.
- If they tell me the details of a problem and their part of it AND how they went to the team for help then I really start to get excited. Not only do they feel safe making mistakes and fixing them, they also feel safe going to others for help.
Well, that’s it for exploring safety in an interview (at least for now).