• Paul Rutherford


The best job interviewers make a candidate think. The interviewee has to press pause on their pre-programmed “then I did; then I did; then I did…” and come into the present moment. In the comfort zone, we see personality. In times of stress, we see character. Throwing a candidate a little off-balance enables you to get beneath the surface and find a little more of what the person is really like. The 5-Point PARKA Here's a simple technique to do that. Of course, using it rote fashion throughout an entire session would be rather predictable (not to say a boring), but once you've mastered the structure, you can play with the form. I call it the 5-Point PARKA drill: 1 What PROBLEM did you solve?

It might be a customer problem, a technical problem, a staffing problem. Any sort of problem relevant to the role and the skill set that it requires. But even at the first innocuous stage, this can give pause for thought - because many people haven't considered what they do in those terms. The usual frame of reference is outcomes or responsibilities. By asking about problems, you’re asking them to examine their activity from a new point of view. 2 What APPROACH did you take?

Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, there are many ways to solve a problem. Even doing nothing , chosen consciously, is a strategy. You're looking to see if the person considers more than one option - indeed you might ask the supplementary 'what choices did you have?’. No choices can mean that there was only one answer, or that the company's systems were very rigid, or perhaps a paucity of imagination. Which, depending on the role, might be just what you need or a warning signal about coping with change. 3 What were the RESULTS?

Here you're looking for a focus on tangible outcomes; or rather that the candidate thinks through to the end of the line. What impact did the results have on others involved in the project? Did it meet, exceed or miss expectations? Did you anticipate the outcome, and what did you do further to shape that? Outcomes are more than just numbers; as Robert Kennedy once pointed out, we can measure everything except the things really worth measuring. 4 What KNOWLEDGE did you gain?

In other words, what did you learn? For every 20 people who can do the job that you're looking to recruit, 19 will have a fixed set of strategies and tools with which they approach all problems. That may be enough for you, but in an increasingly changing environment, adaptability becomes a key behaviour. If a person isn't learning from their experiences, are they in danger of becoming a stationary shark? How did you APPLY that knowledge elsewhere?

This will take you a lot deeper into what makes the candidate tick. Not only asking what's been learned, but how it effected future behaviour. One of definition of learning that I especially like is “insight transformed into behaviour”. The lessons may have been about the outcome or the process or the individuals involved – but how did they use it again? The answer will tell you a lot about the way the person views and processes the world. There are no absolutes here – no right or wrong. Each answer must be viewed in the context of the role definition, the team, the company and the market. But when you’re running out of things to ask in a interview, and you realise that you still don’t know much about the person in front of you, PARKA can really open up the conversation.

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