What questions are you asking your candidates to make sure they are the best hire? Do their answers align with your company values and purpose? Annelle Barnett and Josh Sweeney go over the importance of asking the right questions!

EP 71 – Qualifying Questions – What and Why

Welcome to the epic company culture Podcast, where your host, Josh Sweeney will give you the business leaders, HR professionals and company culture aficionados, the knowledge you need to take your company culture to the next level.

JOSH [0:16] Hello, my name is Josh Sweeney, and welcome to the epic company culture podcast. Before I get started, I would like to thank Prototype Prime for this amazing podcast space. This is season two, all about hiring. I am joined by my co host Annelle Barnett.

ANNELE [0:32] Good morning, how are you?

Qualifying Questions ask in Interview

JOSH [0:34] Doing well, thank you. So, the topic of today is qualifying questions. Now, let’s talk a little bit about qualifying questions. What kind of questions are we asking during the interview process? And why?


ANNELLE [0:47] Well, I’ll start with the why. Part of why you want to do an interview is obviously qualify candidates based on several different characteristics.

One of the things that I really focus on is the skills. To make sure that they know what they say that they know. Also that their definition of a term is the same as my definition of a term and to make sure that those things align.

As an example, with digital marketing candidates, I very often ask all of them if they have any experience with marketing automation platforms. The reason I asked that is not necessarily because that’s part of every digital marketing job. But if they don’t even know what marketing automation is, or any of the marketing automation platforms then they likely are not at the top of their game as far as digital marketing is concerned. It very quickly weeds people out. And I asked an additional question because sometimes the answer is “sure I automate marketing all the time”. That is also very telling of their ability to be a good digital marketer, I guess.

Skills, Culture and Personality Questions

JOSH [2:14] Gotcha. And you have skills questions, we have culture and personality questions. What we try to do is overlap the skills questions that you have about marketing automation and the things that you find in the marketing space with the culture questions, and then personality assessment. Questions around their personality and whether they’re a match.

For the culture questions, we’ve gone over those pretty extensively in season one. But just to highlight the culture questions are a question that will filter a candidate based on whether they match your company culture. An example would be, let’s take chick fil a. Chick fil a is known for servant leadership. So, how do you find out if somebody interviewing shows signs of servant leadership that they give back?

One way we can do that, during the interview process is ask a culture question like, do you volunteer your time? And if they say no well, then they’re not giving back at least in that way. That may be the first points off from that interview process. If they say yes, we have to dig deeper, right? We have to qualify, just like you said, on the marketing automation. We have to go a little further and say where do you volunteer? How much time do you spend there? Tell me a little bit about it.

Now from that were kind of extrapolating out whether or not we think this person or chick fil a, in this case, would be qualifying for a servant leader to be in their organization. So that’s an example of a culture question, something that is built into that person.  How they work, how they operate, and does it match the culture of the organization, right.

Then, the second one we have that we add in is the personality assessment. A lot of times we have, we actually have all this data out there around personalities to know if the person’s personality actually matches the role that they’re in.

Like in the marketing space. We know that these are usually engaged, outs, expressive people. Those frontline marketers that are bringing all these awesome campaigns and content together, they like interacting with people. There’s a certain profile around that is either a good fit for the role in the organization or is not necessarily a match. We can look at the personality and the data. Also the benchmarks that are out there to say this person’s a good fit as a social marketer.  Or are they more of an analytical marketer that are diving down to the details of those campaigns?

Questions Relating to Other Team or Department

ANNELLE [4:38] Yeah, and to take take all of this a step further. We’ve talked about skills culture and personality.

You can also use some of these qualifying questions to understand the relationships with other team members and other departments. For example, sales and marketing are either very strongly aligned, or very strongly opposed a lot of organizations. So, if you ask basic questions like what is your relationship band with sales, that’s a totally open ended question. And then allows someone to give you their real feelings about how they perceive sales.

It’s going to go in one or another direction. It’s either going to be like, sales and marketing are fantastic, they align perfectly. We’re in sync on everything, we have established our sales qualified leads, and our marketing qualifying qualified leads. We agree on what those are, etc. Or it’s going to be sales is the thorn in my side and we do not work well together. It’s always a struggle.

That’s very telling for an organization and very telling for our marketing team. Especially, if sales and marketing are going to work very closely together, which is often the case. That’s actually how you’re going to have a really successful sales and marketing program, if those two teams align.  Having the opportunity to ask that one question can really tell you about this person and if they’re if they’re going to be a good fit in your organization.

JOSH [6:23] Yeah, I love that question. When you think about it, you or either the company is like account based marketing. They have it all together, they’re very aligned, they know which target audience they’re going after. It’s that thorn in the side. And you wouldn’t want to take somebody who has this kind of opposing view and put them in the alternate organization as a new hire. Immediately that belief system is probably going to cause a lot of cultural tension,right?  

ANNELLE [6:47] And they’re gonna bring that belief system with them, which is not not gonna turn out well, I guess.

JOSH [6:58] Yeah, definitely.

Well, we always talk about it’s not that one or the other is really wrong. It’s not that one is bad or good is, at least as far as we’re concerned, from culture and personality matching you may have other stronger opinions about account based marketing organizations versus sales and marketing or alignment.  But overall, neither is right or wrong from a cultural basis. It’s more of how does the person match the company culture and fit in along with their skills, their personality, and any of the other attributes that you want to put into place to make sure that they’re going to be successful in the organization?

What type

ANNELLE [7:31] Yeah, yeah, definitely.

[7:34] To add some other filtering questions, another question that you can add is what type of marketer are you.  Because there are obviously digital marketers. Then, there’s more traditional marketers. And there’s more of the marketing communications or just straight communications types of roles. So sometimes, people’s definitions of things are different. If you leave it open ended and ask them what type they are, then they will often tell you whether they really are the fit for this particular position or not by their answers. So,

JOSH [8:20] Yeah, I think that’s probably a great topic that we haven’t really covered as much on the show.  Understanding what somebody’s definition is during the process and making sure that it’s aligned.  

I know I’ve the same thing with my past experience with developers.  I get a developer in and there they say, “Well, I’m a senior developer”  Okay, well, what does that mean? How do you quantify senior and what I sat down and wrote up as what I consider a senior developer and what I see out there. There’s generally a big mismatch.

My expectations are fundamentally different in very different ways than that of somebody who says they’re a senior developer. A lot of times, I find those senior roles come with some sort of years of experience. More years in an industry doesn’t necessarily mean results, right? I mean, it’s somebody who’s really good at it, or better than somebody else, right? There’s lots of other factors that come into play there.

ANNELLE [9:13] Interestingly, I’ll see it on resumes and cover letters and things like that. Where someone says that they’re a senior marketer, but they’re two years out of college.

[9:24]I mean, it as suppose that it can happen because they could gain experience in college as well. But it’s often a person two years out of college is often not going to be senior,

JOSH [9:37] Not quite the senior marketer you would expect?

Yeah, awesome. Well, I think this has been amazing talking about some qualifying questions. So, we would like you to think about the qualifying questions that you’re going through on three different levels. First level is culture match. Second is skills. And lastly is the personality assessment and making sure that their personality aligns with your organization.Thank you.

ANNELLE [10:03] Thank you.

JOSH [10:03] Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode of the epic company culture podcast with Josh Sweeney.

If you enjoyed this content, please subscribe on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Stitcher. For additional content and transcripts visit epicculture.co. If you have questions or topics you would like us to address or expand on, tweet us @epicculture1 or email us at podcast@epicculture.co.