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Ask Digiday Careers: The interview question that says a lot about a candidate

Welcome to Ask Digiday Careers, where we answer your most pressing questions about working in digital media and marketing today, from applying to positions to fielding offers to etiquette on the job. Have a question? Email Kevin Lee and we might answer it in future columns.

The Ask Digiday Careers advice column is back and ready to answer your questions about working in digital media and marketing today. To kick off 2017, senior management at Digiday Media shared how they approach hiring candidates. We asked management across events, marketing, finance and CUSTOM the same question:

Q: What’s the interview question that typically tells you a lot about a candidate?

Nick Friese, CEO
Sometimes it’s not a question that’s revealing – rather, it can be meeting in a different setting. Sometimes, I’ll take a candidate to breakfast or lunch to get to know them better. It’s always interesting to see how people are outside the office setting. Are they conversational, easy going, awkward, do they talk about business or more personal things? Also, how they treat the wait staff during the meal can be quite revealing. It’s an opportunity to watch how people interact and treat people who are serving them. At Digiday, we are always looking for people who get along well with others, treat people with kindness and respect no matter who they are, are strong communicators inside and outside the office, and they and are generous with their time and spirit. The way people treat waiters and the restaurant staff can often give you a look at who they really are. Not always, but you can get a different look.

Megan Knapp, general manager, events
During every interview that I conduct, I always ask “Why are you looking to make a change?” Approximately 80 percent to 90 percent of the responses include some variation of “There are no growth opportunities in my current role.” It’s a great spring board to have an open conversation about what ‘growth’ means to the candidate and what opportunities might be available at Digiday. The conversation gives me the opportunity to learn a lot about the candidate’s character, ambition and cultural fit at the company.

Mike Madarasz, marketing director
The questions the candidate asks often say the most about them. It’s a chance to show you’ve done your research and have legitimate interest in not only the position, but the company. If they rattle off a few generic questions they found on the internet the night before, it’s an opportunity missed. Specific questions show you’ve done your research and have a genuine interest.

Deanna Zammit, executive producer, CUSTOM
I like to ask candidates about what music they listen to, books they read, televisions shows they watch and movies they love. Their answers tell me a lot about their sense of humor, creative sensibilities, literacy level and how intellectually curious they are. I had one candidate once tell me that she just reads Jane Eyre over and over again. I mean, it’s a good book, but I want to see that someone has branched out beyond their high school summer reading list.

John Sol, CFO
The question I like to ask is why did you choose this major/profession and what do you like most about it? In addition to the technical questions that I commonly refer to, asking about what they like most about their profession helps me to gain insight into how they got into this industry and helps me understand how passionate or ambitious they are about this particular career path. There are a lot of people who can do the job, but are not passionate about what they do. I would prefer to have a teammate who loves what he/she does and cares about growth rather than just working to pay the bills. I sometimes follow up with questions like “what are your career goals for the next five years?” to see if the position fits well with their career goals and also to see if they are a good fit for our team.