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The #1 Interview Question You Should Ask to Find High-Performing Employees

If you’re one of the many leaders in the process of replacing staff in a highly competitive environment, you know it’s more important than ever to bring in employees who are the right fit.

Because like everything else, hiring was turned on its head during Covid. Post-pandemic, workers are leaving their current employers in droves. By some estimates, 1 in 4 workers is planning to look for opportunities with a new employer.

In my experience, I’ve discovered one interview question that could change the way you hire employees. This question is designed to bring to light a characteristic that is common among most high-performing employees.

The Importance of Self Awareness

That characteristic is self-awareness. Self-awareness is a crucial trait because it:

  • Improves our skills by recognizing what we do well and where we need to improve.
  • Drives our ability to engage and perform at peak levels.
  • Helps us understand how others perceive our behavior.

How to Uncover Self Awareness in Prospective Employees

So how do we uncover a candidate’s self-awareness during the interview process? Of course, there are a lot of personality tests you can implement and questions you can pose.

Typically in an interview, the candidate will regurgitate their resume and accomplishments. And it’s likely you or your hiring manager might ask questions such as, “What would your boss say are your strengths?”

One added question can make a difference.

Refer to one of the candidate’s workplace examples with a follow-up. “If I were to call this person (former/current boss, colleague, partner, etc.), I’m sure they’re going to tell me you do great things, but…. What will follow the ‘but’?”

Here is what will happen.

You might discover the candidate is self-aware, saying something such as, “but I can sometimes be a little bit aggressive in the way I come across with my ideas,” or “but I can talk too much in meetings.”

That’s a door opening, letting you know this person is self-aware and is likely to be a high-performing employee.

Conversely, you might be amazed by how many people will follow the “but…” with a blank stare, and a response such as, “You know, I don’t know what they would say.”

Consider that a red flag.

The ability of self-awareness and self-criticism is important in employees because, in an ever-adapting and ever-changing world, leaders need to know that their team members, when necessary, can raise a hand and say, “You’re asking me to do X. I don’t think I have strengths in that area. I’ll give it my best shot, but I may need some help.”

Managers can then adjust as needed, and the team will be best prepared to tackle the task at hand.

So think about self-awareness and “the but…” question the next time you are conducting an interview. You will see an immediate improvement in your hires.

For more leadership tips, get my eBook, How to Turn Disruption Into Opportunity.