That’s my favorite question to open with at a job interview; “what do you believe? Candidates usually stare in disbelief or offer a copy of their resume. Obviously, reading, “The Tens Steps to a Great Interview” didn’t cover this one. After some stuttering, I’m usually asked what I mean. I just want to know about anything they have a belief in.
Why ask such a question? There are three reasons. The first is to find out whether they’ve actually made a conscious decision on what they believe. Beliefs drive attitude more than anything else, and attitude drives achievement. Unfortunately, in the modern world, you can live life without actually thinking out your beliefs, let alone being committed to them.
The second reason is to get a glimpse of how candidates will handle themselves under pressure. Being surprised and caught off guard is humbling. Observing how someone reacts to it is quite revealing. Surprises, good and bad, happen in the real world.
Finally, I ask the question because I do actually want to understand the person’s beliefs. Values are important. They are what a person has chosen as their foundation. Understanding who the person is and what they stand for is a far better predictor of future performance than skills or experience. We’re hiring for the future, not the past.
I’ve received a lot of interesting answers to my question. I’ve heard about religious beliefs, grandiose philosophies and “I don’t knows.” So, what was my favorite?
My favorite was when a young man thought for a moment, then looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t know Mr. Wenzke. I don’t know what I believe anymore. I had a good job and was advancing. Then I listened to a headhunter and jumped for more money and a big title. I found myself working for a sleaze ball and it didn’t last. Now I can’t provide for my children. I don’t know what I believe except that I don’t think I’ll ever let my ego get ahead of my responsibility again.”
From my perspective, that interview was over. I wanted this guy and fortunately, we got him. As expected, he became a great employee.
So, how would you answer the question, “what do you believe?”