This is part of the “Moving Forward” series offering advice to small business owners on technology, mentorship, productivity, and growth.
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A CEO of a small business is responsible for building a team that can compete with much larger companies. The best leaders dig deep in the interview to find employees who will help their businesses grow and thrive.
To find out how top CEOs discover talent, we asked five of the leaders that were named to Glassdoor’s list of the “25 Highest Rated CEOs at Small and Mid-Sized Companies” to share their favourite interview question.
Scroll down for their responses.
Intacct provides businesses with financial management and account services. Reid ranked first on Glassdoor's list, with a 100% employee approval rating.
His favourite interview question for potential hires is, 'Tell me about your past review, and what did your boss say were the areas you excelled and the areas you needed to improve?'
'The top trait I look for is curiosity,' Reid says. 'If (employees) ask a lot of relevant questions, (they) usually can develop an understanding of any issue or opportunity. Understanding what to attack is at least 50% of any business.'
APT provides business analytics software to large corporations like Starbucks, Kraft Foods, and the Royal Bank of Canada. Bruce ranked second on the list, with a 100% approval rating.
In a typical APT interview, candidates are presented with a case study question that simulates ways of thinking needed on the job.
'There are about four go-to interactive problems that I have asked hundreds of times each. I still enjoy the process of seeing how candidates react and enjoy seeing creativity come alive through discussion,' Bruce says. 'We are looking for outstanding problem solving even when the question is unclear and an infectious enthusiasm to solve problems and work collaboratively.'
An example on ATP's site is: 'How many dollars worth of hamburgers are sold in China daily?' Bruce looks for candidates that differentiate rural and urban markets, estimate a percentage of the population's diet that includes hamburgers, and then come up with an estimate. The logic used is more important than the actual answer.
Fusion-io is a computer hardware and software company that provides businesses with services like cloud computing and big data collection. Robison ranked No. 15 on Glassdoor's list, with an 89% approval rating.
Though a Fusion-io employee has to possess many technical skills, Robison's favourite interview question is about as non-technical as it gets: 'What do you like to do for fun?' He uses it to get a sense of what fuels the candidate's passion for their work.
DocuSign provides e-signature and digital transaction management software to over 95,000 companies of various sizes. Larger clients include HP, Red Bull, and Yahoo. Krach ranked No. 20 on the list, with an 82% approval rating.
Krach doesn't feel the need to get too creative when conducting an interview. 'The question I always ask is one of the most basic questions of all: 'What is your greatest strength, and what is your greatest weakness?' A lot of people don't ask it because it sounds so unsophisticated and basic,' he says.
'I find it's the best place to start so you can peel back the layers of the onion to really get into somebody's heart to see what makes them tick,' says Krach. 'What I look for are people who want to change the world.'
Campus Special partners with retailers and restaurants to provide college students with money-saving deals. Nguyen ranked No. 21 on the list, with an 81% approval rating.
He uses interviews to find candidates that will fit into his company's culture.
'After a few rounds of interviews I'll ask in the final interview, 'What do you think was missing in your last job, and based off what you've seen over the last few interviews, why do you think you'll find it here?'' Nguyen says.
'Employees usually move on because they were unhappy about something in their previous company,' he continues. 'Perhaps they didn't like the culture, the people, the hours, the role, etc. It's important to be transparent with candidates and disclose the good, the bad, and the ugly upfront to make sure there really is a good long-term fit.'
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