The Two Questions Only the Best Job Candidates Can Answer

March 26, 2016, 5:00 PM UTC
Businessman Getting Interviewed
Photo by Neustockimages—Getty Images

The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “How do you avoid hiring the wrong people?” is written by Stephen Lake, cofounder and CEO of Thalmic Labs.

You can have the right ideas and the right resources to run a company, but if you don’t hire the right people, you’re going to run it off the rails. From a managerial perspective, nothing is more important, and you need to think beyond simply finding the most qualified candidates for the job.

Ever since Thalmic Labs was founded in 2012, we’ve held tight to the ideal of only bringing on high performers. But finding those people isn’t enough.You also need to hire them, give them the tools they need to flourish and help drive your company forward, and retain them over time.

The wrong people aren’t always the ones with toxic negativity or a lack of regard for their work. More often, they’re simply the ones who don’t push themselves hard enoughthe ones who are content to meet the expectations you’ve set but don’t consider performing above them. The effect this has on the rest of your team is gradual and insidious, but the cliché about a chain only being as strong as its weakest link remains in our vernacular for a reason.

See also: 5 Ways to Avoid a Really Bad Hire

The best way to avoid hiring the wrong people is to learn to recognize the right ones.

You can whittle down your search by identifying the candidates who have the correct technical requirements to fulfill the role you have in mind, but you absolutely need people who are going to go beyond those requirements. You need to make sure they’re going to exceed your expectations, so you should identify two things:

  1. Do they have a proven track record of exceeding expectations?
  2. Do they plan on exceeding your expectations if they join your team?


Ask variations of these two questions during every interview. Have them quantify the ways in which they have gone beyond set expectations in the past. Give them a challenging scenario they may encounter under your employ to determine whether they’re likely to impress you in the future. Past behavior as a predictor of future success has a lot of merit, and any candidate you could consider a top performer will be able to demonstrate that.

Of course, there will be times when you make a mistake and hire someone who doesn’t excel. Each of these mistakes is an opportunity to learn where you went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. Hiring the right candidate takes precedence over hiring the most readily available candidate. If issues do arise, you’ll want to tackle them head-on and avoid letting anything fester so that you can continue to foster a hard-working environment where the rest of your team can thrive.

When you hire people—the right people—you’re going to give them the tools they need to succeed and the freedom they need to thrive, and they’re going to come back to you with ideas you wouldn’t have dreamt of on your own. It’s worth the effort to identify those with that potential, and I can tell you from experience that one of your greatest corporate successes will be knowing you’ve helped put together a world-class team.

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