I just grabbed this from an interview with Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline Novogratz that appeared in the New York Times today.
Q. Let’s shift to hiring. What questions do you ask job candidates?
A. By the time someone gets to me, I assume that they have the skills for the job, so I’m looking for fit. I ask people to tell me their story. How did you grow up? Who are the influences in your life? Tell me about a time when you really failed. And if you give me a really silly answer to that question, I’m going to know it and I’m going to ask you to leave. I have been known for the five-minute interview, which the team does not like.
Q. And what will prompt the five-minute cutoff?
A. If somebody says, “My biggest weakness is that I work too hard” or “I’m a perfectionist.”
I want to know the essence of who you are, what makes you tick, why you are coming here. If somebody just sees this as a steppingstone to somewhere else, I’m not interested.
Show me when you’ve taken leaps because you were so excited about the work that it was the only thing you could do. When did you feel like you really let yourself down, and what did you learn from it? What are you most proud of, and what are you doing when you feel most beautiful? People get a little confused by that last question, and they’ll ask, “What do you mean by beautiful?” What the world needs are people who are unafraid to build things of beauty from the inside out. And when I use that word, if people are honest with themselves, they know what I’m talking about: What are you doing when you are shining, when you’re in the zone, when you’re on fire? What are you doing when you feel that way? I think you learn a lot about someone when they answer that question.
What we’re really looking for are the hungry, curious seekers, but it has to be undergirded with hard-core analytical skills, so that people are unafraid to say, “This will work” or “This is never going to work.” So there’s got to be a tough, gritty core in them and an idealistic excitement about what’s possible to build in the world.
They have to have character. Are they self-aware? Are they ready to think about what and who and how they want to be in the world? Are they givers, because we don’t need takers. Are they fierce? Do they have an intellect that can kind of dance with you?
Are they doing this because they want to work on the toughest issues of the world, and not because they want to feel good about themselves? I think that’s probably a real differentiator with us. There are a lot of hard issues, and they have to want to help figure them out. It’s that alchemy I’m looking for, and not just the skills and the personality.