I’ve often been asked when hiring, “what do you look for in an ideal candidate?” Of course, this answer may be somewhat dependent on the position you are trying to fill, but I believe the core of what I’m on the lookout for remains constant. Beyond having the right background and skillset, I look for individuals who are curious. In my experience, curiosity translates into pushing the status quo and results in greater professional and personal development .
In addition to curiosity, I look for candidates that come to their interview well prepared. This may sound obvious, but it can be illustrated in several ways. My favorite measure of being prepared comes from the questions they ask me. Someone who has researched the firm, me, the department, etc., should have lots of questions. Even if some of this information isn’t readily available online, there should be organic thoughts and questions a candidate wants answered. In many ways this is connected to my above point about being curious.
The questions someone asks can make or break an interview. I learned this lesson painfully many years ago when I was interviewing for full-time positions after coming out of business school. I had spent countless hours preparing for a final round interview with a senior vice president. I was ready to answer just about anything regarding my background and why I was a great fit for the position. The phone call began, and I was immediately thrown a curveball. It went something like this ... “Alex, I’ve heard a lot of great things about you from my colleagues. Instead of me asking you about you, let’s take the next hour to answer any and all questions you have for me.” My stomach dropped. I had prepared a few questions, but certainly wasn’t ready to carry the conversation for an hour. I did the best I could, but after about 20 minutes, I was out of questions and the phone call ended. I knew instantly I had lost the job. I also knew it had exposed a major weakness of mine -- not having really thought through the role of the interviewee .From then on, you better believe that I have rolled into every subsequent interview ready to carry the conversation if called upon and have at least a dozen well thought-out questions in my back pocket. And to be clear, when I say well thought-out questions, these are well -researched questions about the organization and the position in addition to the typical layup entry questions.
Be curious. Ask lots of well-researched questions about the company and the role. I think you’ll be surprised how far that carries you both in interviews and in life in general.