One of the most important things I do as a leader is choosing the people who will join our team. Finding the right person to lead a group, manage a project, or fill a key position is critical to the success of any organization. And it’s not easy.
Resumes are useful for showing the skills and qualifications of a candidate, but they don’t tell the whole story. Effective interviews are the real key to understanding if someone has the strategic thinking, leadership skills and collaborative approach that will deliver results.
When I interview prospective employees, I look for a proven track record and specific experiences that I believe indicate future success. At the same time, I also probe to see if the individual is aligned with our corporate values and will fit with our culture.
Here are the five interview questions I have found most useful—and what I look for in a candidate’s answers:
1. How did you spend the first 90 days of your previous job?
The best employees are those who bring real energy and initiative to the job. I like to know whether you’re the kind of person who can set priorities, take initiative and drive results right from the beginning.
This is why I like to ask how you approached your last job. I’m looking for specific examples of how you got to understand the organization and integrate with the team. I want to hear about your early wins, accomplishments and successes. Learning about how you tackled the early days of your last job gives me a good indication of how you will hit the ground running if you were to join my team.
2. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you handle it?
The actual challenge and solution aren’t so important. I’m more interested in how you worked through the problem. Candidates need to demonstrate strategic thinking and strong problem solving skills. And, just as importantly, they need to know when and how to ask for help.
Did you engage your teammates in implementing a solution? Did you work with your customer to make sure everyone was on board? Did you keep your leadership informed early so there were no surprises? These answers tell me how you deal with issues, address problems and manage stakeholders.
3. How would the people you’ve worked with describe you?
What would your boss, colleagues, and customers say if I asked them what it’s like to work with you? Are you a team player or a lone operator? Are you a big picture person or do you focus on the details? Do you have high standards of integrity or do you bend the rules to get things done faster?
I’m looking for answers that demonstrate the leadership qualities and personal values that we seek in our top performers. At Lockheed Martin, we call this Full Spectrum Leadership and it consists of five imperatives:
- We look for leaders who can shape the future by establishing goals and laying out a plan to achieve them;
- We also want our people to build effective relationships, whether they’re with colleagues, employees, or customers;
- We want leaders who can energize the team, engaging and inspiring others to do their best work;
- We need people that deliver results, understand our strategy and meet their commitments;
- And most importantly, we want people who model personal excellence, integrity and accountability in all that they do.
These qualities are especially important at Lockheed Martin, though they should serve you well in almost any role. No matter what field you’re in, it always pays to have a full spectrum leader on the team.
4. What is one area you’d like to improve and what are you doing about it?
Of course, no one is perfect – and I would never hire someone who thinks that they are. Yet a great employee goes beyond simply being aware of their shortcomings, they are actively working on them. Are you working with a coach or mentor? Have you taken a public speaking class? Do you engage in 360-degree feedback sessions? We all have things we’d like to work on, and I want to see that you have the drive to better yourself, grow professionally and continue to learn.
5. Why should I hire you?
I like to end an interview with this simple question. The best candidates make a strong case for themselves. They can clearly articulate why they are the best choice for the job – and they can tell me what unique qualities they bring that no one else can offer. I want to see confidence in one’s capabilities with awareness of one’s opportunities for growth. This is no time to be shy; it’s the time to be your own best advocate.
These are my favorite interview questions – what are yours? What questions have you found particularly useful or revealing, either as the interviewer or the interviewee?
Published in collaboration with LinkedIn.
Author: Marillyn A. Hewson is Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lockheed Martin Corporation.
Image: Unemployed Belgian Mohamed Sammar (R) answers questions during a simulated job interview, which is recorded to help him get feedback afterwards in Brussels July 2, 2013. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir.