The Key Interview Questions CEOs Ask Job Candidates

Asking prospects about their weaknesses during an interview can shed light on who they are.

Probing potential staffers’ strengths and weaknesses is a fairly common feature of most job interviews. The weaknesses part is indeed something that Duolingo CEO Luis Von Ahn likes to investigate, though with an enlightening twist.

“What would someone who doesn’t like you tell us about you?” the language-learning app’s founder always asks candidates, according to Business Insider.

Not only does the question prompt them to perhaps reveal their weaknesses, but it also shows how open they are to taking others peoples’ criticism.

The ability to accept your mistakes is an important characteristic of any employee, not least the CEO. Hiding weaknesses makes it difficult for staff to identify genuine business problems and can engender a culture of fear and mistrust, where nobody is quite sure what people are really thinking.

“If people can’t name a single thing about how to make a product better that they use a lot, then that’s probably not a good indication that they’ll be a good product manager.”

Respondents to Von Ahn’s question claiming there’s no criticisms to convey because “everybody likes me” are obviously providing a bad answer. But there’s an even worse response.

Candidates, he said, will really be sticking their foot it in if they try to blame the person who doesn’t like them.

“I think the responses that are concerning are like, ‘People who don’t like me just don’t understand me, and they’re usually just wrong,'” he said. “They’re not taking responsibility for anything.”

Here’s a few other leaders’ favorite interview questions:

— Youtube’s Susan Wojcicki likes to ask how candidates would improve a particular product, be it one of YouTube’s or another commonly-used offering. “If people can’t name a single thing about how to make a product better that they use a lot, then that’s probably not a good indication that they’ll be a good product manager,” she told a recent conference. She also likes to ask how people they manage their email.

— Virgin’s Richard Branson once wrote that there’s little point talking about a candidate’s achievements if they’re already visible on a CV. That’s why the billionaire CEO likes to ask: “What didn’t you get a chance to include on your résumé?”

— Facebook’s Miranda Kalinowski, the company’s global head of recruiting, likes to discover a candidate’s passion and how it fits with the company by asking: “On your very best day at work — the day you come home and think you have the best job in the world — what did you do that day?”

— HootSuite’s Ryan Holmes’ favorite takes the cake for originality: “What’s your superpower … or spirit animal,” he once asked an executive assistant candidate, according to a LinkedIn post by Jeff Haden. “She told me it was a duck, because ducks are calm on the surface and hustling like crazy getting things done under the surface,” Holmes said. “I think this was an amazing response and a perfect description for the role of an EA.”

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