Rachel Cook

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Do you dread interviews more as the interviewer or the interviewee? If you’d rather provide the answers than pose the questions, you may be interviewing potential hires inefficiently—or simply not getting to the heart of what you’re after. Assessing top performers is easy when you ask these three questions.

In her recent New York Times interview, Marla Malcolm Beck, CEO of luxury beauty retailer Bluemercury, dishes out hiring tips, career advice, and lessons learned from her failures as an up-and-coming entrepreneur. While professional hurtles felt like major setbacks early in her career, Beck says they’ve given her valuable insight into how to hire great employees.

Beck knows exactly which characteristics she’s looking for and which questions to ask to identify performers – and it only takes her a few minutes.

“I’m the queen of the seven-minute interview,”  Beck says, explaining that in fewer than ten minutes she can assess the qualities she believes are essential to success: skill, will, and fit. Best of all, she’s developed three key questions to determine how a candidate stacks up against her criteria:

1. “What’s the biggest impact you had at your past organization?”

Beck asks this question to determine how a candidate leverages their skills in a meaningful way. “It’s important that someone takes ownership of a project that they did, and you can tell based on how they talk about it whether they did it or whether it was just something that was going on at the organization,” explains Beck.

2. “What do you want to do in five or ten years?”

Identifying a candidate’s aspirations is an easy way to determine their drive. “Will is about hunger,” says Beck, “If you’re hungry to get somewhere, that means you want to learn. And if you want to learn, you can do any job.”

3. “How big was your last company?”

To assess fit, Beck suggests looking for candidates with experience at smaller businesses. “At big companies, your job is really one little piece of the pie. I need someone who can make things happen and is comfortable with ambiguity.”  On the flip side, if you’re hiring at a larger company, you may consider enterprise experience a big plus.

What are your must-ask interview questions? Let us know in the comments.

Read the full New York Times article here.


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